Irish poached salmon with tarragon-leek-butter sauce

One week from today, the Christian world begins its observation of Lent, and for those who observe it, Ash Wednesday means fast and abstinence (no need for explanation I trust)! For my part, I like to “suggest” some meatless ideas that are good for Ash Wednesday or Lenten Fridays, and for that matter, any other day as well. I’ve used the salmon roulade recipe for more than a decade and find it suits for both lunch and dinner. It originated at a small country house in West Cork where seafood is plentiful and popular; serve it with Guinness and Malt Brown Bread. For a more substantial meal, you’ll find the poached salmon with tarragon-leek-butter sauce totally guilt-free; serve it with boiled new potatoes and steamed Savoy cabbage.

SMOKED SALMON AND CRAB ROULADES WITH WALNUT VINAIGRETTE

SERVES 4

Walnut Vinaigrette 

3 tablespoons roasted walnut oil 

1 tablespoon canola oil 

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Roulades 

3/4 cup mayonnaise 

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey 

1 pound fresh crabmeat 

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds 

8 slices smoked salmon

3 cups mixed greens 

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 8 slices 

1/2 cup chopped walnuts 

  1. Make vinaigrette. Combine oils, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a sealable jar; cover, and shake until blended. Set aside.
  2. Make roulades. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and whiskey. Stir in crabmeat and fennel seeds. Spread crabmeat mixture onto slices of salmon, roll up into cylinder shapes, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. To serve, divide mixed greens among four salad plates. Place two roulades and two slices of avocado on each and sprinkle with walnuts. Drizzle vinaigrette over greens and serve with soda bread.

GUINNESS AND MALT BROWN BREAD

MAKES 1 LOAF

1 cup fine whole wheat flour, plus additional for sprinkling

1 cup coarse whole wheat flour or

1 cup each quick-cooking Irish oatmeal or oat bran

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon barley malt extract (see Note)

3/4 cups buttermilk

3/4 cups Guinness stout

Softened butter for spreading

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 7-inch loaf pan and sprinkle with whole wheat flour.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, oatmeal, oat or wheat bran, sugar, baking soda, and salt. With a pastry cutter or 2 forks, work in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Make a well in center, add malt, buttermilk, and Guinness, and mix with a wooden spoon to a porridge consistency. Do not overbeat. Transfer to prepared pan, sprinkle additional flour on top, and bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Reduce temperature to 325°F and bake for 30 minutes longer, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Turn oven off and let bread cool with door open for 30 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Serve slices spread with butter.

Note: Malt extract, also called barley malt, is available in health foods stores.

POACHED SALMON WITH TARRAGON-LEEK-BUTTER SAUCE

SERVES 6

Salmon

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup fish stock or clam broth

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

1 celery stalk with leaves, cut into 4 pieces

2 tbsp. minced fresh dill

6 (6-ounce) center-cut salmon fillets with skin

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Lemon slices, fresh dill, and fresh tarragon for garnish

Sauce

1 shallot, minced

1 leek, white part only, washed and sliced

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons dry white wine

12 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried

Salt and white pepper to taste

  1. Make salmon. In a large skillet over medium heat, combine wine, stock or broth, carrot, celery stalk and leaves, and dill. Place salmon fillets, skin side down, in skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover skillet tightly and simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or until salmon is barely opaque in center.
  2. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Transfer salmon to platter; discard poaching liquid. Cover salmon with plastic wrap and keep warm while preparing sauce, or chill at least 4 hours and serve cold.
  3. Make sauce. In a small saucepan, bring shallot, leek, vinegar, and wine to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Whisk in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and then add the tarragon, salt, and pepper. Keep warm in a double boiler over hot water, or reheat over gentle heat. Serve salmon with sauce, potatoes, and cabbage.

 Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, visit www.irishcook.com

This story first appeared in the Irish Echo. For more, visit their website here