16 Feb 2012

Salmon "en papillote" with Caramelized Lemons, Fresh Herbs and Beurre Blanc


"On Mondays there is fish for dinner!" - That's what mom says at least. This is a rule that my loving mother implemented in our household when I was growing up. We sometimes responded begrudgingly to this ritual (which usually consisted of haddock) but my mother made her best effort to cook the fish in a myriad of original and exciting ways. 

Sea farmed Norwegian Salmon

Although, on Mondays seafood is rather difficult to get your hands on. In Scania for example most of the higher quality fish mongers are simply closed on Mondays. And they probably should be - maybe for the simple reason that fresh fish is not so easily found on the continent right after the weekend. 

The TV chef and author, Anthony Bourdain, in his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures from the Culinary Underbelly claims precisely for the same reason that "I never order fish on a Monday ... I know it's about four to five days old!". I am not sure how well Bourdain's piece of food wisdom translates over to the status of fish mongers in Iceland, but it doesn't sound all that appetizing. Since I moved to Sweden I have mostly cooked salmon mostly because it is affordable and fresh, ocean farmed straight from Norway and of very good quality.

My friend, colleague and neighbor, Jon Thorkell, suggested this recipe to me. It is extracted from Gordon Ramsey's Saturday Lunches which is a superb concept cook book based on the idea of reawakening the British tradition where friends and family gather around for a cheery Sunday feast and enjoy each others company. I altered the recipe from the book only slightly in relation to the salmon but the sides and sauce where entirely my creations. Gordon advised a pink grapefruit hollandaise, but I made a Beurre blanc instead - which I will get to in due time.

Salmon "en papillote" with Caramelized Lemons, Fresh Herbs and Beurre Blanc

I bought a whole Norwegian ocean farmed salmon in my favorite super market here in Lund! First I made an envelope out of aluminium foil, double layers on both sides - make sure there is enough room inside the envelope so the steam will be able to exit. In that way the package will bloat up and look impressive when you present it at the dinner table. This is one of the most beautiful dishes I have cooked for a long time - I will describe it step by step.

Lemons sizziling on the pan

First fry sliced lemons in a little oil until they are golden brown - I suppose I used around 3-4 lemons for the dish.

Herbs resting on some foil

I distributed a generous amount of flat leaf parsley, rosemary, lemon thyme, chives, basil and thyme in the bottom of the foil.

The salmon being stuffed

Next the salmon - stuffed it full of lemons, pepper and herby goodness.

A final layers of herbs & lemons
Then another layer of the fresh herbs, along with star anise, and to finish I poured a little oil and added a rich amount of Maldon sea salt and peppercorns.

The package

The envelope is then sealed and grilled on a fiery hot bbq for 15-17 minutes on each side.

To accompany the fish I made beurre blanc - which translates into white butter - and is a sauce that originates from a French chef called Clémence Lefeuvre in the beginning of the 20th century. Mr. Lefeuvre had interned to concoct a hollandaise but neglected to add the egg yolks. And so beurre blanc came into being by way of an happy accident (like so many great recipes)!

There are a number of ways to make buerre blanc, but cream is never an ingredient. Anthony Bourdain, in Bone in the Throat, has the following uncompromising remark on the production of beurre blanc: "there is no, I repeat, no, cream in a real beurre blanc ... You see any mention of cream in there? No ... you put cream in there, it ain't a beurre blanc". Pour 50 ml of white wine into a pan along with some finely diced shallot onion and 50 ml of fish stock. Allow it to reduce by a third. Then you add 100 gr of quality butter and whisk everything together. Season after taste.

haloumi salad
Simple salad: romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, normal plump tomatoes, grilled courgette, grilled haloumi cheese, finely chopped red onion. Decorated with chopped parsley.

Now potatoes with dill

With the salmon we also served some new Swedish potatoes which were washed, rigorously boiled in salted water, and then tossed with oil, salt, pepper and fresh dill.
Fleur du Cap Viogner

We enjoyed a nice bottle of a particularly delicious white wine from South-Africa - Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Voignier, Chardonnay, Semilion, Sauvignion blanc 2008. Beautifully golden color - sparkled in the glass, aromatic - flowery. The taste was full of fruit - a hint of sweet even. Mild and even aftertaste.

All in all this dish was absolutely wonderful - one of the best I have cooked for ages - and I highly recommend it - I just wonder how this would taste with a freshly caught Icelandic salmon - I dare not even pursue the idea to its logical conclusion!

A truly delicious Salmon feast
Bon appetit!

Don't hesitate to spread the word!

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