Salmon stands up to everything cooks have to offer

September 04, 1994|By Joyce Gemperlein | Joyce Gemperlein,Knight-Ridder News Service

Chefs love salmon because it takes to so many forms of cooking. It can be grilled, broiled, baked, planked, poached, even eaten raw. It stands up to a wide range of both subtle and strong flavors. Here are a few recipes from West Coast chefs, as well as several tried-and-true ones from cookbooks.

Steve Chan, executive chef-partner of Martha's Restaurant & Cafe in the Pruneyard in Campbell, Calif., recently served this elegant and delicious salmon dish as a first course. This recipe appears challenging, but actually is easy and the results impressive.

Mousse-Stuffed Salmon in Phyllo

Serves 4

MOUSSE:

1 tablespoon milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 pound fresh sea scallops (not bay scallops)

1 egg white

1 tablespoon heavy cream

2 teaspoons fresh chives

pinch of salt and white pepper

SALMON:

4 fresh salmon fillets, about 4 ounces each, skinned and boned

5 sheets phyllo dough (see note)

melted clarified butter (see note)

SAUCE:

1 small sweet red pepper

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons white wine, vermouth or sherry

1 teaspoon sweet (not hot) paprika

1 teaspoon chopped shallots

1 cup heavy cream

4 ounces (1 stick) butter

salt and pepper to taste

Make the mousse by placing the milk and butter in a small saucepan and bringing to a boil. Add the flour and mix well. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring until it thickens. Set aside to cool.

Place the scallops in a food processor and add the cooled flour mixture. Puree until smooth. Add the egg white, pulsing until incorporated. Blend in the cream, then fold in the chives and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Up to 1 day ahead, prepare the dish for baking.

Spread scallop mousse evenly on top of each salmon fillet. Set aside. Place a sheet of phyllo on a clean, dry, work surface and, working quickly, brush lightly with clarified butter. Repeat 4 times, creating 5 layers. Using a sharp knife, cut this layered phyllo into 4 equal pieces.

Put a salmon fillet, mousse side down, in the center of each square of phyllo. Trim around the fish, leaving about 1 1/2 inches around the edges. You want just enough to tuck under the fillet, leaving the center of the bottom uncovered. Place each fillet that you have wrapped this way onto a buttered pan with the mousse side up and the phyllo edges tucked underneath. Brush top lightly with clarified butter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Shortly before serving time, make the beurre blanc by roasting the red pepper over an open flame until the skin is black. Cool in a brown paper bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap to "steam" the skin, then peel and seed the pepper. Place the pepper with the vinegar and wine in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour the puree into a heavy saucepan. Add the paprika and shallots and reduce over medium-high heat by one-third. Add the cream and reduce again by a third or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the butter, a few small chunks at a time. Salt and pepper to taste.

This sauce will break down if it is reheated; use immediately or pour into a thermos. Or put it into a glass container or crock, cover it and keep it warm by placing the container on a plate and in a warm area on or near the stove, but never over a direct flame.

To serve: Bake the salmon fillet parcels in a 425-degree oven for 12 to 14 minutes. Coat a heated plate with warm red pepper beurre blanc and top with baked salmon. Garnish with parsley; ** serve immediately.

Note: Phyllo dough is available in the freezer case of most supermarkets. It is very thin and dries out very quickly, so keep it covered with plastic wrap and work quickly. Defrost according to instructions on the package. To clarify butter, melt it slowly in a saucepan, skim off the foam and pour off the golden, clear liquid -- this is the clarified butter. Discard the solids at the bottom.

Get this salmon in foil (en papillote) ready to go up to a day ahead and pop it in the oven when guests arrive.

Salmon en Papillote

Serves 4

2 green onions, trimmed and sliced

1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (reserve 4 for final presentation)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup sake (see note)

1/8 cup tamari or soy sauce

1 pound salmon fillet, cut into 4-ounce portions

1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 large fennel bulbs, quartered, cored and thinly sliced

1 large ear of fresh corn, husk and silk removed, cut into 1/2 -inch-thick coins

4 plum tomatoes, cored and quartered

4 fresh jalapeno peppers, cut in half, deveined and seeded

Combine green onions, ginger, sugar, sake and soy sauce in a shallow glass dish and stir to dissolve sugar. Toss the salmon fillets in marinade and allow them to sit in it at room temperature for 30 minutes. Turn occasionally. Remove salmon and reserve 1/4 cup marinade.

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