Monday, December 14, 2009

My First Daring Cooks Challenge: Salmon en Croute

This should have been easier 

I've been really excited about joining the Daring Cooks.  I was happy with this recipe being my first because it is a pretty simple concept.  Honestly, compared to some of the other recent challenges I've seen the Daring Cooks create (pho noodles, sushi, etc.), salmon en croute seemed like a good one to get my feet wet with.  For whatever reason, however, I completely struggled with this recipe.  We'll get to that in a minute.  Here is the recipe, posted by Simone from Junglefrog Cooking (a really gorgeous blog):

Salmon en Croute

5.2 ounces mascarpone cheese
4.2 ounces watercress, arugula, and spinach *I used equal parts of these greens*
17.6 ounces shortcrust pastry 
17.6 ounce skinless salmon filet
1 medium sized egg

For pastry:
3.2 cups all-purpose flour
7 ounces cold butter
pinch of salt

Heat oven to 390 degrees F. Blend the mascarpone cheese with the greens in the food processor until you have a creamy green puree.
A seemingly straightforward step.  This is where I hit my first problem. I don't have a food processor, so I usually try to blend things in my blender.  

This stuff did NOT want to come together.

The mixture was really dry (and rather bland), so I added some good olive oil, lemon juice, a little tarragon vinegar, salt and pepper.  FINALLY, it came together. We're talking like 30 minutes later, minimum.

It was actually really pretty when it finally came together.

For the pastry, sift the flour into a large bowl.  Add the butter and rub with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. You can do this with food processor. Hmm.  Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tablespoons cold water and mix a firm dough.  Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface.  Wrap in cling wrap and chill.

Okay, problem number 2.  This dough would NOT come together.  It was extremely crumbly.  I was finally (after a lot of struggle) able to get it into a ball to chill it.

dough ball

Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it.   

Once I started trying to roll this out, it completely fell apart. I'm talking like, I'm about to have a meltdown.  I'm grabbing my jacket and my keys to go buy puff pastry, and Brandon intervenes. (He was hungry).

Knight in shining armor. Note the glass of wine.

Brandon, who has never baked a thing in his life, would not let me give up on this crust. So he *laboriously* rolled it out for me, until we finally had something that would work as an *albeit overworked* crust.

Lay the salmon on the pastry.  If it has a thinner tail, tuck it under. Season with salt and pepper.

gorgeous piece of salnon

Spoon half of the watercress mixture on top of the salmon.

pretty colors

Fold the pastry over in neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don't have any thick lumps of pastry as these won't cook properly.  Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts if you like. Brush with beaten egg. 

Bake on oiled baking sheet for 30 minutes or until pastry is crisp and browned.  To test whether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds, then touch it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked.  Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.

Not as beautiful as I imagined it, but it had a lot of love put into it.

nice cross-section

If I were to do it again, I would have just used my favorite pie crust recipe.  It tasted pretty good, but for all the work, I would just as soon have seared that gorgeous piece of fish and served it with some simple veggies. Who needs all that pastry?

Not trying to sound bitter. In the end, we enjoyed a nice meal with a good bottle of Pinot Noir and laughed about it.  Maybe I'll have better luck on the next challenge! 


Wic said...

congratulations on your first challenge. great work from both of you.
I too had problems with the pastry, but with a little work on it this should maybe be worth another try.

cuppy said...

"If I were to do it again, I would have just used my favorite pie crust recipe. "
^^ I didn't even bother to try the shortcut pastry, as my pie crust recipe is SUPER fast and easy. ;)

Your fish and filling look GORGEOUS, though, and it looks super tasty from over here. Food with love and labor.. I dig it.

Simon said...

Glad to hear that it worked out in the end, despite your trials. I see your point about doing without the pastry but I presume once in a while would make for a change :)

Linda said...

I feel your pain - but that salmon does look good enough to eat!

Margaret said...

Awww Brando. Good boy. Also YAY for your first Daring Cooks! I'm sososo excited for you! Turned out lookin' pretty good despite all the trouble. What do you serve with something like that? Does it need anything?

Dani said...

I just served a nice leafy green salad- it really didn't need anything else. We were completely stuffed!

syrupandhoney said...

Haha my shortcrust was overworked too and I'm pretty confident in my pastry skills! Great job on your first challenge and welcome to the group!

Karine said...

Fortunately it worked out at the end.

I believe Brandon and you did a great job! :)

Anonymous said...

Congrats on a first challenge well done! Your salmon en croute loks amazing, and your guy IS heaven sent in the kitchen! LOL

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that you even attempted this one...nice job. Salmon is a great source of Omega 3- which is good for the heart!