Dish of the Week:

Smoked Salmon Salad

Smoked salmon has been a staple in Russian and Scandinavian diets for centuries, long before the world learned how good Omega 3s are for us.  Like preserving, curing relies upon traditional techniques that extend our enjoyment of nature’s bounty, which is always a good thing.

Chef Ryan’s Cold Smoked Salmon is a dish of unusual color for the middle of winter: radish, mandarins, avocado, sunchoke chips, pickled onions, rapini, chervil, chives. As a delicious nod to the dish’s Russian tradition, Chef included perfect cubes of cooked potato and a luxurious caviar crème fraîche dressing.

There are two stages to preserving salmon, which go hand in hand: brining and smoking.  Brining draws water and moisture out of the fish, but care must be taken so the salt used in the brining process does not overwhelm the taste of the sea. By the same token, spices want to enhance, not interfere, with salmon’s hallmark flavor profile, which is sweet and rich.

Ryan prefers cold smoking to hot because as the temp never exceeds 90 degrees F, the fish cooks while retaining the translucent pliant texture it had raw.  Cold smoked salmon is also easier to slice.

Chef made two dressings for the salad which ingeniously played off one another: a sharp citrus vinaigrette (fresh squeezed lemon, orange, grapefruit and lime juice, virgin olive oil, apple vinegar, salt) followed by a languorous trail of caviar crème fraîche.  The combination of the two brought out disparate but savory elements ~ from the sharpness of the pickled onion, through the green notes of chervil and chive, to the sweet citrus of mandarin.  As for the meeting of caviar, crème fraîche and potato, it would have brought a smile to any Czar’s face.  Or serfs like us.

I love salmon. But the truth is, we’re coming to the end of it.  These days sustainably harvested salmon is a very rare treat.  Alaskan troll-caught and California rod and reel, when you can find them, are the gold standard ‘wild’ alternatives to Loch Duart farmed.  Next week we begin a discussion about sourcing fish mindfully.  It’s a conversation all Chefs who are passionate about food needs to participate in, sooner rather than later.