Your kids might have passed their exams, or perhaps you have an upcoming special anniversary. Or you could be celebrating a promotion or just want to cook a great meal to show how much you love someone.
Either way, celebration cooking doesn’t need to be tricky. And our first recipe in this series of celebration cookery is salmon en croute.
Don’t panic: it’s easier than you think and never fails to impress!
So, get the oven preheated, and let’s go!
What is salmon en croute?
There’s always something a little special about salmon — traditionally one of the more expensive fishes in the supermarket, but the prices have come down over the years. Nonetheless, salmon still holds a place in the celebration cookbook!
Salmon en croute is a loin of salmon wrapped in delicious, crispy puff pastry with a super-tasty spinach & cream cheese filling and a herb sauce.
And while the top chefs might consider whipping up a puff from scratch, we mere mortals can rely on the ready-made, pre-rolled variety available in most supermarket chillers.
Is a salmon en croute difficult to make?
Long answer: no. Short answer: no.
Sure, there are several stages to follow, but if you’re methodical about it, you can make a delightful celebration en croute that will mark the occasion with middling effort levels.
I mean, you’re not going to boil an egg and throw a bag of chips on the table for a celebration meal, are you?
What are the constituent parts of a salmon en croute?
Well, obviously, there’s the salmon — go for a large, generous piece (around 2.5 lbs) and make sure it’s filleted, skinned, and boned. You don’t want the skin on in an en croute — it’ll never crisp up. So, always remove the skin with a sharp fish knife to avoid flabby salmon inside your crispy pastry!
Then there’s the spinach filling — this is super easy, made by mixing 8oz of baby leaf spinach and 6.25oz full-fat cream cheese with an egg yolk. Save the egg white for glazing.
The herb sauce is a mix of scallions, chives, parsley, dill, lemon juice, and creme fraiche.
What to prepare when
When you see the list of ingredients, you’re likely to feel a little intimidated, but actually, if you make the spinach filling and the herb sauce in advance, this is super easy.
The spinach filling
So, start with the spinach filling. You’ll need:
- 8 oz/225 g baby leaf spinach (or defrosted frozen spinach with the moisture strained out!)
- 6 ¼ oz/180 g full-fat cream cheese
- 1 egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash later)
- Salt and pepper
The most complex stage of this process is wilting and draining the spinach, and that’s really easy. Simply tip the spinach into a bowl, add boiling water until the leaves wilt, then drain well. Squeeze out as much excess water as possible and set it aside to cool down before mixing.
Alternatively, if you’re using frozen or tinned spinach, squeeze all the water out before adding it to the mix; otherwise, it’ll be too wet.
And then, bung all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well until the cream cheese and egg are well incorporated.
Super simple! Stick the mixture in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble.
The herb sauce
Would it be boring to say that you basically add all the herb ingredients into a bowl and mix? Well, I’m unashamedly boring, then — because that’s precisely what you do!
Let’s embrace the simple, people!
So, your herb sauce requires:
- 3 scallions, chopped finely
- 1 tbsp castor sugar/baker’s sugar
- 1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
- 2 tbsp flatleaf parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp dill, chopped
- 7 oz/200 g full-fat creme fraiche
- The juice of half a lemon
The most complicated thing here is the chopping. Then, bung all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well until everything’s smooth and incorporated.
Stick the mix in the fridge until you’re ready to put the dish together.
Again, this stage is simple. Mix the spinach and herb sauces first, then prepare the salmon.
- 2lb 4oz/1 kg salmon fillet
- Fresh dill, a large bunch, chopped
- 10 oz/280 g jar chargrilled mixed peppers, drained (optional)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp milk
- 14 oz/375 g ready-rolled puff pastry
- Flour for dusting
How to put the dish together
There are a couple of easy stages:
- Lay your salmon fillet on a chopping board and season with salt & pepper before covering it with the chopped dill.
- Place the peppers over the top, then add the spinach mix — spreading it evenly.
- Whisk the whole egg and the remaining egg white from the spinach mix with the milk. This is the egg wash.
Now, unroll your pastry sheet. Make sure it’s long and wide enough to wrap around the fillet.
- Put the pastry sheet onto baking paper and place the salmon into the center of the pastry.
- Brush the pastry with the egg wash.
- Fold the pastry ends over the ends of the salmon, and egg wash the upper-facing pastry.
- Fold the sides of the pastry to meet in the center, at the top. Crimp the crust with a fork and egg wash.
- Chill the whole thing in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Now, preheat the oven to 430℉/220℃ with a baking sheet or tray inside.
- Transfer the salmon onto the hot baking sheet, and bake for 30-35 minutes. You’re looking for golden pastry with a crispy base.
- Remove the salmon en croute from the oven and rest for 15 minutes.
Carve the en croute into thick slices, and serve it with the herb sauce on the side. And you could serve it with potatoes or green beans for a bit of balance.
Which wine should I serve with salmon en croute?
Well, traditionally, you’d choose a white wine to go with salmon, but this dish is rich and indulgent, so it could also work beautifully with a red or a rose.
Go for a full-bodied white, like a Sauvignon Blanc, which will complement the herbs and citrus elements of the dish. However, an un-oaked chardonnay, like a Chablis, will also work to highlight the fish.
Alternatively, go off-piste and choose a medium-bodied red with balanced acidity, like a Burgundy Pinot Noir. This will pair perfectly with the elegant richness of the dish!
What about dessert after a salmon en croute?
This is quite a rich, filling dish, so I’d go light with a dessert choice. Think lemon posset, key lime pie, or a citrus sorbet.
Avoid heavy pudding-like desserts like sticky toffee pudding or chocolate torte. Those are recipes for heartburn!
Celebration Cooking: Salmon en Croute
So, there you have it. An easy salmon en croute for those moments you’d like to mark as special.
That was fresh!