A memorable salmon dish

salmon en crouteMemories have started to flood back of my “temps passé”, the time a dozen years ago when I travelled through France, and of the people my partner and I encountered in that country; I remember a short stay in St Brieuc in Brittany. We stopped at a little café overlooking a canal, with barges moored along its sides, and watched the people on board going about their daily work. We entered the café and ordered a light lunch. I had stuffed mushrooms while my partner had Salmon en croûte.

I remember well the flavors of that dish as I endeavor to recreate it for you here.

Salmon en croûte is a traditional French dish. It’s easy and you can prepare the salmon packets up to two hours before baking and storing them, covered, in the fridge. The puff pastry keeps the salmon moist; and the cream oozes out to add flavor.

In this version, I pair the traditional salmon en croûte with dill, chives and fennel, whose hearty light flavors perfectly complement the salmon. Spinach becomes the vegetable since it also works beautifully with the herbs. Sour cream binds everything together in a light, lemony sauce, and it is all contained in the perfectly golden puffed pastry parcels that come out of your oven.

2 large skinless and boneless salmon fillets, around half a pound
1 packet store-purchased puff pastry
1 egg
2 tbsp sour cream
Juice of 2 lemons
Extra virgin olive oil
1 fennel bulb (finely chopped)
1 small onion (diced)
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 big handful of spinach leaves
small bunch of dill and chives,
rind of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 F (or according to the instructions for the puff pastry). Prepare the puff pastry as per the directions on the side of the packet.

The duxelle. On a medium hot burner, fry the onion and garlic with the olive oil for around 3 minutes. Add the fennel and continue cooking for a further 3 minutes. Add the juice of 1 lemon and continue cooking until the fennel is soft.

Remove from the heat and add the spinach to the fennel mixture in the hot pan. Mix well to wilt the spinach in the heat.  Let stand for a couple of minutes.

When the vegetables are sufficiently cool to be handled easily, add the herbs and lemon. Transfer to a food processor and blitz until the mixture is coarsely chopped.  Add the cream to finish the duxelle.

Sprinkle some all-purpose flour on a pastry board or the counter and roll out the puff pastry; cut 2 rectangles from the pastry that are large enough to go around the pieces of salmon. (I usually cut a slightly bigger size and trim off the unnecessary portions.)

Place one piece of salmon on the rectangle, keeping the longer side large enough to fold over the salmon. Spoon a generous scoop of the duxelle onto the salmon. Spread it evenly on top of the fish and fold the pastry over it. Seal the edges with egg mixture, trimming off excess pastry with a knife. Repeat with the other piece of salmon. Brush the top of the pastry with egg mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

For serving,  I had family style, fresh boiled new potatoes, and carrots, presenting the en croûte on a plate with a little fresh dill and baby spinach, and a little hollandaise sauce as an added treat.

Originally  written by Ian Leatt for Lifestyes55 paper (http://lifestyles55.ca)

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