Monday, February 20, 2006

Slow-Cooked Salmon with Shallot-Mushroom & Peppercorn Burnt Butter Cream ... Phew!

Act One, Scene I -
Steph walks blithely down a busy street. Suddenly she stops short, causing a minor collision behind her, as a stunned mullet expression paints a wide swath across her face.

From the glazed sheen in her eyes, it is clear that either inspiration or dementia had struck. With warning, she digs into her bag, pulls out a ballpoint pen and notebook and begins scribbling furiously. The jury is still out.

I usually have a small notebook with me. People look askance at me when I stop in mid-conversation or action (there are some funny stories there but if I wrote them here I might get arrested) to frantically record a sudden thought, inspiration or just something I think is interesting. A journalist friend used to scoff at my manic scribbling during interviews even though I brought my tape recorder. He stopped laughing one day when half his tape was ruined and he had to beg for my notes. To my credit, I read it out to him in exchange for a round of drinks at the local. Note: can be bribed with food and drinks.

Somehow, I always remember things better if I write them down even if I never refer to them ever again. It’s become a comforting habit keeping anarchy and chaos at bay.

I’ve never been described as slow except by all the show-offs during sports days. Sure, I like to take my time eating … to savour every bite, every texture, every luscious drop. However, in the kitchen, I try to be fairly time efficient – the result of being my grandmother’s kitchen serf for so many years.

But for past week, I have been languorously gestating on the concept of slow cooking. Utterly intrigued by the descriptions of “slow-cooked salmon” posted in outstanding blogs like Kuidoare and She Who Eats, I’d jotted this down in my ever-present notebook and have been pondering it. While I have slow cooked meats, it had never occurred to me that this could also apply to fish and that the result can be such a visual delight. I did a little research on this cooking technique but was stymied by contradicting accounts.

Some chefs and bloggers simply coated the salmon with olive oil overnight before seasoning and cooking it in a very low oven for an average of 20-30 minutes. Others skipped the curing and just rubbed the fish with the oil before leaving it to the tender mercies of the oven. However, one adamant chef stressed the submersion of the entire fish in olive oil in a 59 to 100 deg Celsius oven for about 45 minutes.

It’s all terribly confusing so I compromised and poured a 1cm-layer of olive oil over the seasoned fish and cooked it at around 70 deg Celsius for about 40 minutes.

The result was a moist, tender fish that tasted lovely but which I thought a little overdone. Also, I could not capture the bright, vivid orange which slow cooking is supposed to intensify. Next time I will only cook it for 30 minutes.

Another interesting notation describes a reduced sauce of shallots, mushrooms, whole peppercorns and cream. While shallots and mushrooms and cream are not an unusual combination, I thought the addition of whole peppercorns was. I had a hunch it might be a perfect counterfoil to the slow-cooked salmon. But of course, I can never leave a recipe alone so I decided to make it with burnt butter.

Having finalised the storyboard in my head, I started getting to work.

Slow-Cooked Salmon with Shallot-Mushroom & Peppercorn Burnt Butter Cream
1 salmon fillet or steak
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Shallot-Mushroom & Peppercorn Burnt Butter Cream:

- 3-4 shallots, cut in half

- 1 packet enoki mushrooms (that’s one entire clump), trimmed of the woody end
- About ½ tbsp of whole, black peppercorns
- About 1/2 tbsp of butter
- About 1 tbsp of olive oil
- About 2-3 tbsp of cream
- About ¼ cup of prawn stock (I make this from the heads of prawns which I cook in water, crushing the heads to release all the lovely juices, draining and then reducing)

1. Preheat the oven to about 70 deg Celsius

2. Season the salmon with salt & pepper

3. Lightly oil a baking dish and place the salmon on top

4. Pour olive oil over the fish up to almost 1cm

5. Slow cook the salmon for about 30-40 minutes. I cooked mine for 40 minutes but I think it was overdone so I will try for 30 minutes next time.

6. Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan till the butter is slight burnt and very fragrant. Do not panic. Just lift the pan from the flames, gently swirl and replace on the stove again, to manage the degree of singeing.

7. Add the shallot and sauté gently till soft and transparent

8. Add the enoki mushrooms and peppercorns and sauté gently for about 1-2 minutes

9. Add the prawn stock and simmer gently to reduce

10. Pour in the cream and turn up the heat a little to simmer and reduce the sauce till well mixed and thickened

11. You may wish to adjust your seasoning now but my sauce was just perfect so I didn’t have to add anything else

12. Turn off the heat and start plating

13. Mound the Sweet Leeks on a corner of your platter and place the salmon over it, centering the fish

14. Trail the enoki mushrooms over the salmon and spoon the sauce over these

15. Serve hot and devour immediately with a nice glass of white wine

Initially, I wanted to make creamy mash as a side dish but some prescience warned me that it may be overkill. I had been dying to try Jamie Oliver’s Mussels and Sweet Leeks and today, I was in the mood for leeks. With a Stephie twist, of course. I was still worried that the entire dish may prove too rich and cloying so I decided to use a combination of sour cream and single cream to balance it. And what’s a dish from me without spice? I added black mustard seeds to lend texture and depth to this side dish.

Sweet Leeks
2 stalks of leeks, trimmed, cleaned and chopped
1 clove of garlic, sliced
Olive oil
About 1 tbsp of white wine
1 tsp of black mustard seeds
1 ½ tsp sour cream
1 – 1 ½ tbsp of single cream
Pinch of sugar

1. Heat the butter and oil and add the garlic and leeks and sauté till soft and fragrant

2. Pour in the wine and simmer on low for about 1 minute

3. Add the creams, sugar, salt & mustard seeds and stir. Taste to see if any adjustment should be made. If too sour, add a little more sugar. If too sweet, add a little more single cream and salt. If too salty, add more single cream and a little more sugar.

4. Simmer on low till reduced

5. Serve hot

OK, here is where I gloat. While the salmon may have been slightly overdone, the sauce and the sweet leeks were to die for. The sauce was so rich, tasty and divine that I was making orgasmic noises as I slurped the glossy strands of cream-coated enoki down my grateful palate. Surprisingly, the natural creaminess of the salmon was not intimidated by the assertive sauce and every bite of the saucey fish was just sheer heaven. Smooth, thick cream slipped so easy across the taste buds that the sudden crunch of a robust peppercorn released a heady burst of heat right at the back of the throat that was just … well … sexy.

The sweet leeks deserved their moniker but the inclusion of the sour cream gave it a slight piquancy that elevated it from bubblegum status. The nubby little mustard seeds definitely gave depth to the silky leeks and an exotic twist to an old classic.

The only drawback to this dish is that it is very rich. I was hard pressed to finish my dinner and was relieved that I had not succumbed to mashed potatoes in the end. It was just way too much for a small grazer like me. When I next make this, I will use a smaller salmon fillet and halve the sauce.

This dish is truly manna from heaven. I was completely sated at the end of it, with a blissful grin and the urge to smoke something. Taste wise, it scores a 9/10, with demerit points for getting the cooking time of the fish wrong. Health wise, it is a bust, garnering a measley 5/10. There is so much butter and cream in this meal, I am glad I am helping 3A Gurl move tomorrow. I need the exercise.

P/S. If anyone would like to share their method of slow cooking salmon, please do let me know. I am ever curious and willing to experiment.

Categories - Fish Tales, VeggieMight


Anonymous sha said...

MM I saw these enoki mushrooms at Joycelyn page. never seen this kind before I was much in surprise to see the beauty of it..

I carry a black notebook
my writings and posts seem to be more informative if i take notes.
even in restaurants I do bring my little notebook.

i agree with you with that!

anyway i cooked my salmon with feta, cashew and thai sauce topping.

or spinach and cream in the oven.

4:09 am  
Anonymous joey said...

That sounds amazing! I am a big fan of slow cooking but have done mostly meats...this is interesting! And your sauce and siding did sounds absolutely yummy :)

I also have a little notebook I carry around...I like the Jordi Labanda ones :)

8:37 am  
Anonymous ces said...

i too have a little black notebook i tag along..just in case..i have tried sha's feta-cashew-thai sauce combo and it's really great! olive oil and cilatro on salmon is also simple and superb!

11:51 am  
Blogger J said...

hi mm, i too am a compulsive note-book owner - people are always having a giggle at my primitive tools (everyone, with the exception of me, seems to use a pocket pc). salmon looks totally awesome!

3:18 pm  
Blogger Anna said...

I have been looking for enoki mushroom ideas and what you cooked looks scrumptious! Must try soon.

6:50 am  
Blogger karina said...

Lovely photographs. Yummy sounding recipe. Wit. Charm. What's not to love?

7:36 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL! I carry a notepad around and index cards. I always write stuff down.

Love your salmon recipe. I haven't tried anything slow-cooked. I'm usually too hungry to wait that only. Maybe one of these days, I can try it.


11:54 am  
Blogger MM said...

Isn't it strange how many of us still prefer the old-fashioned method of scribing? I like the feel of the bed and the scrap and glide of the pen across paper. At meetings, conferences etc, there are always the ones with their handhelds looking very important but I still like my notebook. I don't even know where my handheld is now!

Sha - I love the silken texture of the enoki mushrooms. Their taste is a lot more delicate than other mushrooms like shiitake or shimeiji but I still think they are lovely.

Mmmm ... salmon with spinach and cream ...

Joey - yeah, I never thought of it till I read it at Kuidoare & She Who Eats! Give it a try!

Ces - mmmmm ... drool.

J - Thanks so much! As said, you were the inspiration! And maybe we should form a notebook support group ... LOL.

Anna - please do and let me know how it turns out.

Karina - Awwww, man ... now I'm blushing .. and it's not pretty.

Paz - wow! Index cards? And I thought I was bad! LOL.

5:56 pm  

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