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Thursday, May 23

Gapers Block

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I work for a wonderful woman who shares my passion for everything kitchen related and exchanges recipes and cooking tips with me during our weekly meetings. When I mentioned one week that I was planning a dinner party for some new friends, she immediately told me she had the perfect recipe, Salmon en Croute with Lemon Chive Sauce. I trusted her, did the shopping and prepared the dish, holding my breath while my dinner guests and I tried it for the first time. It was a hit. I have since altered, and I believe perfected, the recipe, and I want to share it with the world because it is now one of my favorites in my recipe rotation.

It might look a little bit complicated at first, but as long as you have your ingredients ready and have read through the recipe thoroughly at least once, itís really not hard at all. And the finished product is gorgeous and impressive: a golden brown crust sliced open to reveal the beautiful pink salmon and green spinach. Allow for about 30 minutes of prep time and 30-40 minutes for baking and youíll have a delicious main course to serve four to six people.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • A pre-heated 400 degree oven
  • Two skillets
  • 1 greased half-sized baking sheet
  • 10-ounce bag of fresh spinach (or one 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and cooked according to the directions on the package and drained thoroughly)
  • Half of a large sweet onion, diced
  • Pinch of brown sugar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp butter or margarine, separated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 beaten egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill (or 2 tsp dried)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lb skinless salmon filet (3/4 to 1 inch thick)
  • 1/2 of a 17 1/2 ounce package frozen puff pastry (thawed) (1 sheet)
  • 1 beaten egg, with 1 tbsp water

First we caramelize the onions for the filling. Heat a skillet over medium-low heat and add the olive oil and one tablespoon of the butter. When the butter is melted, add the diced onion and the sprinkle of brown sugar. Cook over medium-low heat until they reach a caramel color, between 10 and 15 minutes. Be sure to stir regularly so the onion doesnít burn. Once the onion is caramelized add the minced garlic. Cook for one to two minutes and then add the spinach. For fresh spinach, cook for about three minutes until it wilts, then remove from heat. For frozen cooked spinach, remove from heat first before adding.

Add breadcrumbs, egg yolk, dill, pepper and salt. Stir to thoroughly combine and set aside. You can make this filling for almost anything. Iím eager to try it as ravioli filling, but it can also be used in lasagna, stuffed chicken breasts or pork chops, and you can even just make a double batch to prepare a vegetarian version of this meal by eliminating the salmon. You can substitute the dill with basil, oregano, tarragon, rosemary or any other herb to suit your fancy. I just love dill with salmon, so thatís what I use.

Now for the salmon. I use two pieces of fish, only because it can be difficult to flip a two-pound filet in a pan. It all gets wrapped up in the pastry in the end anyway, so nobody will know it was cut into two pieces before hand. Lightly salt and pepper your salmon and heat a skillet big enough to fit both pieces to medium-high heat. (If you donít have a skillet big enough, donít worry. You can just sear one piece at a time.) When it is good and hot, add the other tablespoon of butter. When the butter is completely melted, add the salmon and donít touch it for 60-90 seconds. This will not cook it all the way through, but it will sear it adding a nice yummy brown crust. Flip it over carefully and donít touch it for another 60-90 seconds. Remove from heat.

To assemble your delicious dish, roll out the thawed pastry on a lightly floured surface so that it is a little more than twice the width and three inches longer than your salmon filet (or your pieces placed end to end.) Carefully place the pastry on a greased (or no-stick) half-size baking sheet. Add half of the spinach-onion filling to half of the pastry, leaving an inch on the top, bottom, and closest side. Place your seared salmon filet pieces end-to-end and top with the remaining filling making a spinach-salmon sandwich. Fold the top and bottom edges in, then the side edge and brush with the egg and water mixture. Fold over the other half of the pastry, sealing it to the edges to create a loaf shape. Brush the top with the egg and water mixture and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is a gorgeous golden brown.

While your delicious salmon-spinach-onion-loaf is baking, prepare the sauce. You will need:

A small saucepan

  • 2 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • In a small saucepan melt two tablespoons of butter. Stir in the flour and mix well so there are no lumps. Add the milk all at once, and cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and add lemon zest, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice slowly, stirring constantly.

    When your salmon pastry is finished baking, let it stand for five minutes, then slice into one to 1 1/2 inch slices and drizzle with sauce. I serve it with a side vegetable, (mashed butternut squash, cooked greens, carrots, Brussels sprouts etc.), a side salad and a crisp white wine.

    I absolutely love my boss. For hiring me, for letting me go home early every now and then, and most importantly for not keeping delicious recipes like these to herself.

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