Cured Finger Lakes Salmon, Ramps, and White Asparagus

Posted by Florian in Seafood, tagged with , , , , , ,

A few weeks ago, I was back on Cayuga Lake with Fisherman John, this time targeting landlocked salmon and brown trout. Despite a dreadful forecast, we got pretty lucky with the weather: it felt warmer than it really was, we only got hit by a few brief showers, and we almost didn’t need our rain gear at all. And the fish were there too! Throughout the day, I slowly but steadily connected with salmon in the 50 cm range, plus a smaller brown trout, and ultimately came back home with a substantial catch.

I might sound like a broken record, but taste-wise, the fish from Cayuga Lake have always been among the very best I’ve caught. The salmon and the brown trout actually look and taste almost the same, their identical origin and diet carrying more importance than the difference in species. Their flesh is a pale but bright orange, and it’s leaner and slightly milder than commercial salmon.

I don’t like fantasizing about recipes before the fish is actually in my cooler, so the trip back home saw me furiously searching for last-minute inspiration. And, as all the salmonid posts I’ve previously published might attest, it’s getting harder and harder to come up with something original…

Cayuga Lake - Landlocked Salmon

Luckily, I take notes of all the interesting salmon recipes I come across in cookbooks and magazines, which is what led me to dig out the Summer 2014 issue of Culinaire Saisonnier. Page 42, if you must know — a recipe by Olivier Samin, chef at Le Carré d’Alethius. I kept the beautiful presentation (which is what had drawn my attention in the first place) and the main ingredients: cured salmon, pickled onion, and asparagus. Then I changed the remaining elements, partly to add Central European twists: the creamy goat cheese has become a ramp sauce (inspired by my recent ramp cream soup), potato dice replace the croutons, I’ve substituted the micro-greens with dill, and the fava beans take the place of… oh, I don’t know, I just love fava beans. Even the asparagus went from green to white. I skipped the salmon roe only because I tend to use it in every other one of my salmon recipes, but you can certainly add it back (recipe here, in case you want to prepare your own).

Cured Finger Lakes Salmon

Cured salmon
Yields 4 servings

400 g light olive oil
30 g chives
30 g dill
340 g boned, cleaned salmon fillet (thickest part)
about 200 g kosher salt

  • In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil with the chives and dill to 60 C / 140 F over low heat. Remove from the heat, and let infuse for 4 hours.
  • In a dish, cover the salmon with kosher salt, and marinate for 3 hours in the refrigerator.
  • Rinse the salmon under cold water for about 2 minutes, and pat dry.
  • Note that the exact lengths of time you need to marinate and rinse the fish depend on the thickness on the fillet. The times I’m giving here work for a 50 cm long salmon. A store-bought salmon will most likely be larger, and its fillets thicker, so it should be marinated longer (up to twice as long). After rinsing the fish, taste it: it should be quite salty but not inedible. If it’s too salty, rinse it a bit longer, or soak it in cold water for a few minutes, changing the water and tasting the fish regularly.
  • Strain the oil through a colander. Reserve the oil, discard the herbs.
  • Place the salmon and the oil into a dish so that the fish is completely submerged, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours (up to a couple of days).

Pickled red onion
Yields about 4 servings

1 quarter of a peeled red onion (see below)
50 g red wine vinegar
25 g water
25 g sugar

  • Discard the core of the onion, and separate the layers. Cut each piece lengthwise into 1 cm wide slivers. Measure 30 g, and place in a bowl. Reserve the rest for another recipe.
  • Combine the vinegar, water, and sugar in a plastic container, and bring to a boil in the microwave (approximately 30 seconds). Pour over the onion, and marinate for 2 hours at room temperature, stirring once or twice. Strain and reserve the onion.

Cured Finger Lakes Salmon

Ramp purée
Yields 4 servings

55 g peeled shallot, small dice
30 ramp whites, small dice
30 g butter
salt
black pepper, ground
80 g ramp greens
135 g chicken stock
7 g chives

  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the shallots and ramp whites in the butter. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft.
  • Add the ramp greens, and cook until wilted.
  • Add the stock, then simmer for a couple minutes until reduced by about half.
  • Transfer to a blender, add the chives, and process until smooth. Pass the purée through a chinois, let cool, and reserve.

Blanched fava beans
Yields over 4 servings

about 200 g fava beans in their pods
salt

  • Take the beans out of their pods (I was left with about 100 g at this stage).
  • Cook the beans in salted boiling water for a couple minutes, until the skin can be removed easily.
  • Transfer the beans to a bath of ice water, and peel.
  • Reserve the peeled beans (you should have about 65 g).

Cured Finger Lakes Salmon

Potato dice
Yields about 4 servings

canola oil, for deep-frying
165 g peeled Idaho potato, medium dice
salt

  • In a deep-fryer or large pot, heat the canola oil to 150 C / 300 F.
  • Blanch the potato dice for a couple minutes until they look dry and slightly colored. Drain on paper towels.
  • Bring the oil to 190 C / 375 F.
  • Fry the potato dice until just golden, and drain on paper towels.

White asparagus
Yields 4 servings

3,000 g water
35 g salt
60 g fresh lemon juice
12 large white asparagus, peeled

  • In a large pot, combine the water, salt, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil.
  • Add the asparagus and simmer until tender, 5-10 minutes depending on the size. If you don’t plan to use them immediately, keep the asparagus very slightly undercooked.
  • Take out the asparagus, and drain on paper towels. Reserve both the asparagus and the water.

Assembly
Yields 4 servings

cured salmon
blanched fava beans
10 g butter
5 g water
salt
ramp purée
white asparagus (with cooking liquid)
potato dice (with deep-frying oil)
pickled red onion
pea shoots, about 3 or 4 per plate
4 dill sprigs, 1 spring per plate

  • Take the cured salmon out of the oil, and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 12 thick slices.
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the fava beans with the butter and water, and season with salt. Cook until the beans are soft.
  • Reheat the ramp purée in a small saucepan over low heat.
  • Reheat the asparagus in their cooking liquid for a few seconds, and drain on paper towels.
  • Fry the potato dice one more time for a few seconds (with the oil still at 190 C / 375 F), drain on paper towels, and season with salt.
  • On each plate, pour enough ramp purée to coat the bottom of the plate. Arrange three white asparagus in parallel, trimming them so they don’t overlap with the plate rim. Place three pieces of cured salmon across the asparagus. Fill the gaps with a few fava beans and potato dice, and decorate with pickled red onion, 3 or 4 pea shoots, and a dill sprig.

Cured Finger Lakes Salmon