Sunday, 2 March 2014

Salmon en croûte

So much of the time my dinner ideas are just inspired by what I have around. Trying to think of something to make from scratch, then having to go out and grab all the ingredients is a lot harder than it sounds!

We didn't manage to finish the side of salmon yesterday as sashimi (barely had any, really) and it was sitting in the fridge taking up a lot of room, so I decided we'd better finish it. There was no way we could eat up all of it raw (as good as it had been), so it was a matter of how to cook it.

Salmon en croûte | Svelte Salivations

My usual salmon dish is to flake it up with some pasta, or just to bake it in the oven. But with a whole slab, I could try something else! Also sitting in my fridge was a ready-rolled piece of puff pastry and a bag of spinach. A quick google search of these three items told me to make salmon en croûte - a beef wellington without the beef and with salmon instead!

I think I've only tried salmon en croûte once, and it was deliciously moist and succulent salmon wrapped with a light airy and crispy pastry. I was salivating already!

Fresh baby spinach leaves | Svelte Salivations

 Fresh baby spinach leaves (the whole 200g pack - washed and ready to go) went into the pan.

Fresh side of salmon | Svelte Salivations

While I waited for the spinach to wilt, I tended to the bulk of salmon (minus the chunk we ate for sashimi the night before!) Now the salmon I bought still had skin and bones, so you'll need to take it off if that's the same as yours, then you can clean it off and wipe it dry.

After browsing various recipes,  I decided I liked the look of this one from Gordon Ramsay (when do I not like the look of GR recipes?) and this other one from Woman and Home. They both sandwich a layer of green things between two pieces of salmon, so I cut up my salmon so that I would have a bottom bit and a some top bits. It doesn't matter do you like to do it, as long as its fits together neatly like a puzzle.

Wilted baby spinach leaves with lemon zest | Svelte Salivations

Back to the spinach! When it was all wilting, I zested in the zest of a lemon, and seasoned it lightly with some salt and pepper. Then you can remove it from the heat, and set aside to drain.

Or better, put all the spinach into a sieve and squeeze all the life water out of it with the back of a spoon. This is why you need the zest, because if you used the juice, it would all be squeezed out. The more effort you spend on wringing dry your spinach, the better the pastry will turn out, because there won't be all that excess water creating problems.

Squeezing all the water out from spinach | Svelte Salivations

There is supposed to be 200g of spinach there. What happened to all of it???

Spinach filling for salmon en croute | Svelte Salivations

Once your happy with your spinach, you can roughly chop it up, although it's probably not necessary (it's just so that it's not one massive clump) and stir in a small knob of butter, enough to make it form a pastey consistency. Crème fraîche could also be used but I find it a little too rich.

Seasoned salmon ready for salmon en croute | Svelte Salivations

Now we're ready to build our parcel. Start by seasoning the salmon. We're going to bone side to the face the middle of the parcel, so leave that side up and season it with some salt and pepper.

Salmon with the fillings for salmon en croute | Svelte Salivations

Now decide which bit(s) you want for the top and which you want to be on the bottom. I recommend that the thicker piece be for the bottom and the thinner pieces for the top (if there's a difference). Smear the top with some wholegrain mustard and the bottom with the spinach paste.

The salmon of the salmon en croute | Svelte Salivations

Then put the top salmon on the bottom salmon, so that the sides smeared with mustard and spinach meet! Time to wrap it up!

Salmon en croute pastry wrapping | Svelte Salivations

Place the salmon onto the rolled out pastry sheet. If yours isn't pre-rolled, aim for the thickness of a £1 coin.

I made a mistake here - I directly transferred mine parcel on, so the bottom piece is still on the bottom here, but this meant that once it was wrapped up, the bottom became the top (because you'll want the seam to be on the bottom!) if you get what I mean. SO in order for you not to make this mistake, please flip your salmon sandwich upside down (i.e. salmon with mustard on the bottom and salmon with spinach on the top) so its the right way up. Although it's only really important if you've got a thick and thin bit of salmon like me, because as you'll see later, the thin side doesn't support the filling as well.

Brush the pastry around the salmon with some egg wash (beaten egg) and season with salt and peppers lightly. Then wrap it like a pressie. A very yummy pressie. The egg wash will help stick the pastry down.

Folding up a salmon en croute parcel | Svelte Salivations

When you've wrapped it, place it in a baking tray (lined if you want) with the seams tucked underneath. Score the top with the back of a knife in a criss cross pattern, taking care not the cut through it (just drag it along lightly - you don't need to use any strength at all!) and score portions if you wish as well. Brush some more egg wash over the top so it bakes with a beautiful golden colour.

Cover and chill for 15-30 minutes or so while you preheat your oven. Yep you gotta wait! I know you're looking forward to tucking in, but chilling it helps it hold its shape that bit better, so it's worth it in the end.

Then when you've baked it for 20-25 minutes at 180˚C in a fan oven (200˚C normal oven), it should look like this.

Salmon en croute baked beautifully golden | Svelte Salivations

Beautifully golden!

Leave it to rest 5 minutes (more waiting I know, sorry!) before you cut into it, so set your table, tidy up your kitchen, pour some drinks, stare and drool, and then you can dig in!

Salmon en croute | Svelte Salivations

The salmon was just perfect (it probably finished cooking while I rested it), so flavoursome and succulent. It was just flaking away and complemented so well by the crispy pastry, and lemony spinach.

Slice of salmon en croute | Svelte Salivations

The only thing about this was that it had a soggy bottom. This could've been due to various things, which I'll have to change for next time to see if it makes a difference:

  • not dehydrating the spinach well enough
  • too much spinach? or butter?
  • the salmon on the bottom not thick enough (see above about flipping the salmon over)
  • not patting dry the salmon well enough
But it was delicious all the same. Try it for yourself! This side of salmon had a chunk missing and still easily fed 4 grown starving students, so it's a great for families and friends!

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