A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
I had so much fun doing November Daring Cooks that I can't wait to know what we would be cooking for December. And I wasn't disappointed at all!
The this month's Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking who chosed Salmon en Croute from Good Food Online. This is a delicious fillet of salmon topped with a creamy vegetable spread and baked in shortcrust pastry.
(from Good Food Online)
The delicious aroma of salmon and butter pastry filled my kitchen making us even hungrier (I was late in dinner preparation, as usual). The creamy sauce not only compliments the salmon very well, it also leaves, what I would describe as a refreshing aftertaste. Because of the crust, it is quite a filling dish. The sauce can be consumed cold or warm (warm it up in a microwave oven) together with the dish.
Everyone loved it and it's definitely a dish that I would make again and again for my family.
You can cook an extra set, wrap it up in aluminum foil when cooled and freeze it for later consumption. The sauce can be frozen too. And I would highly recommend to make this in individual portion, that way everyone has their own Salmon en Croute on their plate and nicer presentation.
You may replace salmon with another type of fish fillet if you wish. If you find that your crust browns too fast, cover it lightly with a baking paper or aluminum foil.
Fish is a common sight during meal time in my home (well, at my mom's), something that I took for granted for many years until I started living in France. There, I started to miss having fish, not that France doesn't have fish at all, but because I don't know how to cook fish - steamed, pan-fried or oven baked. Luckily my in-laws came to my rescue. They love fish so I get my fix whenever we dine at their place. On the other hand poor hubby hates fish (too many bones he says!) and is a true red meat eater. However, he has since come a long way living with me - now he doesn't mind eating salmon once a week. Now that's a rare treat for me. If I want to eat any other fish, I will just have to cook it for myself and he will cook himself some other stuff. At least now I have Little One, it's nicer to cook for 2 than 1. Frankly speaking, I don't know how to cook for one.
My craving for this fish dish droved me to calling my mom from France for her recipe. As usual with all traditionnal Asian cooks (from grandmothers to mothers), there aren't any exact measurements - just a bit of this & that, no exact timing either. Like they say, once we have wok a few times in the kitchen, we'll do the same like our mothers & grandmothers. I know I did with some dishes, I stopped weighing and just know the approximate amount by eye.
So when my friend Emilie (was my classmate at Nantes' University) came and spent a week with us in May, she wanted to sample some of these delicious Singapore food that she heard me bragging all the time at the university. I thought this dish would be a wonderful representation of what home-cooked Singapore food is all about, besides the Char Kway Teow, Satay and my Mutton Curry.
The aroma of this dish is enough to make your stomach go growling - the mix of tomato, ginger & seasoning giving off a sourish sweet fragrant smell that fills the air. The fish is very tender and fragrantly immersed with the spices. Do not waste the sauce - it's full of flavour and goes very well with rice. My friend Emilie loved it very much.
Normally this dish is usually steamed with the above ingredients plus 1 or 2 sour/pickled plums, sprinkled with a tiny pinch of sugar. However if you don't have sour plums in your kitchen like me, it will taste as good sans it. If you like to have some spicy kick for your taste buds, put a few freshly sliced chili over the fish before putting it to steam. It tastes excellent.
For a prettier presentation, remove the steamed coriander and spring onion from the dish and just sprinkle some fresh ones on top right before serving. Some would even remove the fish, put it on a new platter, prepare fresh seasoning and pour it all over the fish and decorate it with fresh coriander and spring onions. As far as I'm concerned, I like it the way it comes out of the steamer.
Craving ... a wonderful feeling to have when you can satisfy that but a torture when you can't. I have had this huge craving for Assam fish for quite a long time now which I had been trying to put out of my mind, without much success (like me trying to lose weight - I only ended gaining more instead of losing ). Fish is not my specialty - as you all remember the last time when I tried cooking fish, it didn't turned out quite right. So I try to avoid cooking anything that has scales and swim...but darn it, this Assam Fish soon started to even haunt me in my sleep - yes, I dreamt that I was happily slurping up the sauce and relishing on the fish! So I said to myself "come on, are you going to let a dead fish intimidate you for the rest of your life. A cooking ninja would never cower from a challenge." So I got 3 lovely fish the next day for dinner. First I gave my fishes a royal treatment - frontal and back massage with salt, then I had a little pep talk with them. I looked at them right into their eyes (not easy when they have one on each side) and said "Ok fish, I'm going to give you a nice aromatic spa treatment of lemon grass, galangal & other spices right now and you are going to come out smelling so good and tasting so sweet."
I was so darn excited that I managed to get my assam fish right and it tastes just like my mom's version (well, I still think mom's cook the best Assam fish). The sauce is very aromatic - the mackerel heightens the flavour of the sauce - great tasting of the spices mix with a spicy tint and a slight sourness - taste just right and it really opens up one's appetite. I love topping my rice with the sauce. My sister-in-law loves it, Pierre was less enthusiastic as he is not a big fan of fish to begin with.
I usually can make a big bowl of the paste, fry them till fragrant and then keep them in the refrigerator for later use. It comes in very handy when I have to do a last minute dinner entertainment. All I need to do is just defrost and the paste is ready.
I recently learned another new trick from my local Asian store lady - you can actually store the unused portion of galangal by slicing them into pieces, freeze them, then put them all in a plastic bag in the freezer. When in need, just take out the number of pieces you need for cooking.
I have been wanting to try out some fish dishes for ages ... you see, I have never cooked any other fish in my life besides salmon - it's hard to go wrong cooking this fish. Pierre isn't willing to be the sacrificed guinea pig for my fish adventure ... he isn't, shall we say, a fish person. So when he finally agreed to it, I went out and got everything before he changed his mind. This is what we had for dinner last night:
(taken from Papillotes - Sandra Mahut)
Preparation : 15 minutes
Cooking : 15 minutes
Makes : 4
I didn't find this dish extraordinary. It was OK to my taste. Pierre seems to like it better. Both of us find that it didn't really have much of the mint-lime flavour in it. Perhaps I didn't put enough mint or lime zests in it. Pierre suggested adding some lime juice to the dish before baking.
Overall, I was rather disappointed. Maybe it's just me who didn't follow the recipe well. If any of you ever try this recipe, please let me know how yours turned out.
Now I just need to convince Pierre to be my guinea pig again in my fish adventure to cultiver my 'fishy fingers' ... hmm, what bait shall I use?
Crème fraîche can be made at home by adding a small amount of cultured buttermilk or sour cream to normal heavy cream, and allowing to stand for several hours at room temperature until the bacterial cultures act on the cream.