Sunday, August 9, 2015

3. Champagne-Poached Salmon Tacos with Baby Arugula and Dill Hollandaise


For this latest adventure, I decided to try a brunch taco.  I was thinking about seafood Benedicts, for some reason, so I came up with the idea of using salmon and Hollandaise.  Since my last two recipes have used corn tortillas as a shell, I wanted to try something different for this one.  It is a weekend, after all, so I figured I had time to experiment!  I decided on a mashed potato pancake.  I also wanted a fresh element to contrast the richness of the Hollandaise, so I added some lightly dressed baby arugula leaves.  I ran into a few hiccups along the way, but the results were outstanding!  Here's the recipe:

Champagne-Poached Salmon Tacos with Baby Arugula and Dill Hollandaise

Makes about 12 small tacos, or 4 servings


For the potato-chive pancakes:

½ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 small Yukon gold potatoes, about 8 oz., peeled and quartered
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk
I egg
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. minced chives

For the poached salmon:

2 medium wild salmon fillets, about ¾ to 1 lb.
½ cup dry champagne (or sparkling wine, prosecco, cava, etc.)
½ cup bottled clam juice (or fish stock, if you’re lucky enough to have it)
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 small to medium shallots, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
A couple of large fresh Italian parsley sprigs

For the dressed arugula:

2 cups baby arugula leaves
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the dill Hollandaise:

3 egg yolks, at room temperature
½ tsp. kosher salt
Dash cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

1.  Place the potatoes in a small pot and cover with water.  Add a couple of pinches of kosher salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.  Drain and coarsely mash; set aside to cool.

2.  In a small skillet, combine the champagne, clam juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, shallots, celery, and parsley.  Bring to a low boil and add the salmon fillets, skin side down.  Season the top of the fillets with salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer gently until the salmon is barely done, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Watch it closely; when it just begins to flake, it is done.  Remove from the heat and set aside (Leave the pan uncovered or partially covered so the salmon does not continue to cook.)

3.  Combine the potatoes and all pancake ingredients except the chives in a blender.  Blend on medium speed until fairly smooth.  Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the chives.  Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-low heat.  Cook the pancakes, 3 at a time, using about 3 tablespoons of the batter for each one.  They should spread out to about the size of a street-taco tortilla.

When the top is mostly set and the bottom is lightly golden, flip and cook the other side.  Do not attempt to flip until the top is set!  They have a tendency to stick at first, so be patient!  I had to throw my first batch away because I flipped them too soon and they fell apart.  As the pancakes are finished, stack them on a sheet of foil.  When they are all done, carefully wrap them up and keep warm in a 250 degree oven.

4.  Take the salmon out of the poaching liquid.  Remove the skin and break the fillets into large flakes.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste if desired.  Set aside in a small bowl and spoon a small amount of the poaching liquid over the salmon to keep it moist.

5.  Place the arugula in a small bowl.  Drizzle with the olive oil and sherry vinegar and toss.  Add salt and pepper to taste and toss again.

6.  Make the Hollandaise:  Heat the butter in a small saucepan until bubbling.  Place the egg yolks, salt, cayenne, and cream in a 2-cup glass liquid measuring cup.  Blend with a hand blender until well blended and foamy.  I was not able to get the bottom of my hand blender completely submerged at this point, but the end result turned out fine!  Slowly add half of the butter while blending with the hand blender.  Add the lemon juice, then continue to blend and slowly add the rest of the butter.  Stir in the dill.  By the way, if you don't have a hand blender, you could just make the Hollandaise in a regular blender.

7.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a potato pancake on a plate and top it with a small amount of the salmon.  Top with the arugula and spoon some Hollandaise over all.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.  And a big pile of bacon.  It is brunch, after all.  :)

So, that's that.  The verdict?  Wow.  Really.  In the end, everything came together just as I had hoped.  The salmon had a nice flavor from the poaching liquid.  The bitterness of the arugula (and the tangy sherry vinegar) mellowed the decadence of the Hollandaise.  The potato pancakes proved to be a great "taco shell".  I was able to stack them up without them sticking together and they were sturdy enough to hold the filling so we could pick up the tacos without them falling apart.  I will definitely be using this pancake recipe as a base for other "shell" concoctions.

This is my favorite recipe so far.  My husband said it was one of the best things I have ever made.  Trust me, he would tell me if they were awful.  Ha ha.

AND . . . Did anyone notice that, with this recipe, there is most of a bottle of champagne left over?  Mimosas!!!  Doesn't that work out just perfectly?  :)

Now, I need to disclose a few things about this recipe.  I'm not going to lie.  It was a lot of work!  There are a lot of steps, and a lot of things that need to be done simultaneously, especially at the end.  If you were thinking this might be a great recipe to triple so you can invite 11 of your friends over . . . ummm . . . no.  Don't do it.  If you want to seriously impress one to three other people that just want to chill and drink mimosas while you make a pretty big mess in the kitchen, then yes.  Make it.  You won't be sorry!

The most difficult part was dealing with the pancakes, because they did not behave like regular breakfast pancakes.  I made the mistake of starting with olive oil in the pan instead of cooking spray.  I would not recommend that.  They stuck terribly, and I had to scrape them out, wash the pan, and try again.  Here's a picture of that mess.

Here's a picture of Frida and Diego, who thought the mess was delicious.  (I gave them a little bite.)

Frida is so excited about getting to try it that her whole body is vibrating.  I could not get a good picture.  I tried several times and this is the best one.  So the first batch wasn't a total loss!

Once I figured out that I needed cooking spray and that the batter really needed to set before I even thought about flipping it, the rest of the pancake-making was fairly smooth sailing.

The other challenge to this recipe was plating the dish.  The hand blender Hollandaise, which I adapted from an recipe, does not stay very warm.  The salmon will probably get cool as well while you flake it.  If you're not picky about food temperature, it might not be a big deal.  We're kind of weird about that, so I gently heated both the salmon and the Hollandaise in the microwave before I plated the tacos.

Once we sat down and tasted the tacos, it was all worth it.  We had a great brunch and I was smiling for the next hour as I cleaned up my messy kitchen!

Next time?  I'm not sure yet.  Something with vegetables, maybe . . . Thanks for reading!  :)

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