Georgia Strait Coho Salmon: Crab-Stuffed Salmon Paupiette and Salmon Brandade

Vancouver Coho Salmon Fishing - Crab-Stuffed Salmon Paupiette and Salmon Brandade

No, this is not a post about some remote arm of the Black Sea in the Republic of Georgia. The strait I’m referring to is the Strait of Georgia near Vancouver, BC! We took a family trip to Hollywood North last month, and I used the opportunity to book my first saltwater fishing trip with Captain Guy at Bonnie Lee Charters.

The area offers outstanding fishing opportunities, both saltwater and freshwater. In addition to Coho and Chinook salmons in the Straight that range in size from respectable to spectacular, you can target Dungeness crab (although at the peak of crab season, there are thousands and thousands of traps at the bottom of the ocean, so your chances are somewhat slim), and the rivers nearby are home to impressive sturgeon (catch and release only) and trout.

If you’re imagining our little boat pushing forward through open seas, tilting up and down with every furious wave of the Pacific, think again: the Straight is 150 miles long, the waves are under control, and the shore’s never very far. Neither are the boats of the other fishing guides and solo fishermen, and you can see a small flotilla in my picture above. Land proximity has its benefits, though. You get cell phone coverage, which allows you to stay in touch and share your reports with other fishermen. Granted, you could presumably do the same with the boat’s radio! More importantly, it makes it much easier to find hot spots. The salmon hang out near this lighthouse for some particular reason (unbeknownst to me, but particular nonetheless), and you can reasonably expect them to be there today if you’ve spotted them consistently for the past 10 years.

Vancouver Coho Salmon Fishing - Crab-Stuffed Salmon Paupiette and Salmon Brandade

From this first experience, I would say that saltwater fishing is to fishing what deer hunting is to hunting. You don’t have to cast and reel in to attract fish like a hunter calling a turkey, you basically sit and wait (Guy does all the work). All day. And the last hour can very well be the most productive. Instead of freezing your butt waiting for antlers, you get a sunburn watching for the tip of one of your rods to bend. But you can score big, and the anticipation is what makes the wait worthwhile. We caught and landed 4 “legal” Cohos that day, which was enough for my little family to eat salmon for a week. We also got two large herrings as a bycatch. Guy was going to let them go, but I figured there’s at least half a dozen Russian recipes I could I use them for.

This is a long recipe, not something you can easily do for dinner just after coming back from your fishing trip. The crab-stuffed salmon paupiette is constructed like chicken Kiev: a chunk of butter mixture (the crab and red pepper butter) is wrapped in pounded protein (the salmon), then coated in what Russian cookbooks call “a flour product” (the blini). The chive beurre blanc replaces the Kiev’s melted butter explosion. The idea for combining the crab and salmon came from the diet of the Cohos we caught — we found tiny crabs in their stomachs. The salmon brandade is vaguely yoinked from Brasserie Pushkin, and theirs is in turn only vaguely inspired by the original brandade, which is made with cod and wherein adding potatoes is heresy. But with salmon, potatoes, and scallions, it makes a very Russian side that lacks a better name (suggestions welcome).

Vancouver Coho Salmon Fishing - Crab-Stuffed Salmon Paupiette and Salmon Brandade

Potato purée
Yields 4 servings

1 lb peeled Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1″ slices
salt
2 oz milk
4 oz butter
1 pinch black pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg

  • Bring a pot of unsalted water to 175 F. Add the potatoes, and cook for 30 minutes, maintaining the water temperature at 160 F (if you use a lot of water and cover the pot with a lid, the temperature should remain almost constant without you doing anything). Transfer the potatoes to a bowl of ice water, and let cool completely.
  • Bring the pot of water up to a boil and salt the water. Add the potatoes and simmer until cooked.
  • Pass the potatoes through a food mill fit with the finest disk; if necessary, use some of the milk to get the grinding going. Mix the potatoes with the milk, butter, black pepper, and nutmeg, then push the mixture through a conical or drum sieve. Reserve.

Salmon brandade
Yields 4 servings

6 oz salmon trimmings
4 g smoked salt
potato purée
0.7 oz sliced scallions
0.5 oz butter

  • Cut the salmon into large dice, toss with the smoked salt in small oven-safe bowl, then cover with plastic wrap and let cure for 24 hours. (If you hadn’t read the recipe in advance and just found out that this step takes a whole day, just give it an hour and remember to be better prepared next time :D).
  • If you refrigerated the potato purée, take it out of the fridge.
  • Cook the salmon in the bowl in a 200 F oven until rare — this takes about 25 min. Drain on paper towels and reserve.
  • Sauté the scallions in the butter until soft.
  • In a bowl, mix the potato purée, salmon, and scallions. Transfer to four 3″ diameter ramekins.
  • Before serving, bake in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes.

Vancouver Coho Salmon Fishing - Crab-Stuffed Salmon Paupiette and Salmon Brandade

Crab-stuffed salmon paupiettes
Yields 4 servings

1 red pepper
1.5 oz shallots
1.5 oz butter
salt
4 oz king crab flesh (requires about 8 oz of king crab legs with shell)
piment d’espelelette
four 4 oz salmon pieces, about 3″ x 4″ x 1/2″ each
transglutaminase (optional)

  • Char the red pepper on a gas burner or with a blowtorch until black on all sides, then let cool in a closed plastic container for 10 minutes. Brush the pepper with a paper towel to peel off the skin, then remove the core and seeds, and rinse under cold water. Measure 1.5 oz and cut into a brunoise; reserve the rest for another recipe.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the shallots in 1/3 of the butter until translucent. Add the red pepper brunoise, season with salt, and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft. Let cool.
  • Transfer to a food processor or a blender, add the crab flesh, the rest of the butter, and the piment d’espelette, and purée on high speed for a few seconds, until almost smooth.
  • Place each salmon piece between two sheets of plastic film, and pound to 6″ x 4″. Remove the plastic wrap, season one side with salt, and sprinkle some transglutaminase. Add some of the crab mixture in the center, and roll into a cylinder. Tightly wrap each paupiette into two layers of plastic film. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Blini batter
Yields about 4 servings (4 blini)

3 oz flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3.3 oz milk
1 egg
3 oz water
0.7 oz butter, melted

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, milk, and egg with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth. Add the water and melted butter and mix again. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Chive beurre blanc
Yields 4 servings

0.4 oz chives
0.4 oz sherry vinegar
3 oz dry white wine
0.8 oz orange juice
2.3 oz heavy cream
3.8 oz butter, large dice
salt

  • Blanch the chives in salted boiling water, then cool in an ice water bath and drain on paper towels. Reserve.
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, reduce the vinegar, white wine, and orange juice by half .
  • Add the heavy cream, then use a flat whisk to mix in the butter a couple dice at a time. Reserve.
  • Before serving, transfer the beurre blanc and chives to a blender, season with salt, and process until smooth. Pass through a chinois, and reheat for a 2-3 minutes over medium heat.

Assembly
Yields 4 servings

0.5 oz butter
blini batter
crab-stuffed salmon paupiettes

  • Heat an 8″ non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  • Place a tiny piece of butter in the pan, and spread it with a paper towel. Ladle in a spoonful of batter, and swirl the pan to spread it. Cook until golden brown, then transfer to a plate. Unwrap a salmon paupiette and wrap it into the blini, uncooked side up. Wrap the whole thing in plastic film again.
  • Make three more paupiettes the same way.
  • Steam the salmon paupiettes for 8 minutes — I use a macgyvered rice cooker contraption (a steamer insert, a metal trivet, a ramekin upside down with a plate on top…) to keep the paupiettes out of the water. Let rest for 1 minute, then unwrap and dress the plates.

Vancouver Coho Salmon Fishing - Crab-Stuffed Salmon Paupiette and Salmon Brandade

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One thought on “Georgia Strait Coho Salmon: Crab-Stuffed Salmon Paupiette and Salmon Brandade

  1. Pingback: Lake Trout and Crawfish Ballotine | Food Perestroika

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