Monday, December 17, 2007

Salmon en croûte with tarragon butter and wilted spinach

Salmon en croûte with tarragon butter and wilted spinach

Not everyone has a yearning for turkey or goose at Christmas, but everyone wants to be served something delicious for that special meal. This hearty salmon feast looks spectacular when brought to the table and tastes fabulous.

Serves 8

Preparation time 1-2 hours
Cooking time 35-40 minutes

For the tarragon butter
100g/4oz unsalted butter, softened
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
½ tsp salt
4 turns of the black pepper mill
2 tbsp lemon juice
For the salmon en croûte
2 x 550g/1lb 4oz pieces thick salmon fillet, skin removed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g/1lb 2oz fresh spinach, large stalks removed, washed and dried well
2 x 500g/1lb 2oz packets ready-made puff pastry
plain flour, for dusting
1 free-range egg, beaten

1. For the tarragon butter, beat the ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Trim the salmon fillets so that they're both the same size. Season each piece with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Heat one tablespoon of the tarragon butter in a large pan. Add a large handful of the spinach and, as soon as it starts to wilt, add more spinach, until it is all in the pan.
4. Cook for one minute over a high heat, then tip into a colander and press out all the excess liquid. Transfer to a board and coarsely chop. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and leave to cool.
5. For the salmon en croûte, cut a 350g/12oz piece from one block of pastry (save the rest for another dish) and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 4cm/1½in bigger all round than the salmon fillets. Roll out all of the second block of pastry into a rectangle 5cm/2in larger than the first one.
6. Lay the smaller rectangle of pastry on to a well-greased baking sheet and spread half of the spinach mixture in the centre to form a rectangle the same size as the salmon. Put one of the salmon fillets on top, skinned-side down, and spread with the rest of the tarragon butter. Cover with the second fillet, skinned-side up this time, and cover with the rest of the spinach. Make sure that the spinach covers the salmon in an even layer.
7. Brush a wide band of beaten egg around the salmon and cover with the second piece of pastry, taking care not to stretch it or to trap in too much air. Tuck the pastry in well around the salmon, press the edges together to seal and trim away the excess to leave a 2.5cm/1in band all the way around. Using the tines of a fork, gently press together the edges of the pastry to seal. Chill in the fridge for one hour.
8. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
9. Brush the salmon parcel with beaten egg and chill for another five minutes, then remove and brush once more with egg - this will give it a nice deeply golden glaze.
10. Score the surface of the pastry into a tight diamond pattern with the tip of a small, sharp knife. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
11. Remove the salmon parcel from the oven and leave it to rest for five minutes. Cut it across into 2.5cm/1in slices to serve.

Recommended wines: top-quality white Burgundy or light New Zealand Pinot Noir

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