Salmon en croûte

  • Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: medium
Salmon en croute are brilliant - part pie, part pastie, part Salmon Wellington - what's not to like?

What you need

For the salmon en croûte

110g – 150g salmon fillets x 4

500g ready-made puff pastry

520g fresh spinach

50g unsalted butter

1 egg, beaten

For the sauce

55g shallot

1 large clove garlic

25g butter

1 tsp light olive oil

2 tsp plain flour

250ml chicken stock

125ml reduced fat creme fraiche

1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

1 tsp chopped fresh basil

3 tbs chopped fresh parsley

2 tbs lemon juice

Dad's Recipe Tales

Salmon en croute

Recently while waiting at a supermarket fish counter, I witnessed a craze happening before my eyes. A stack of pre-packaged, uncooked salmon en croûte parcels were selling like ‘hot cakes’. Customers were queuing to get their order in, ‘Two salmon en croute please!’, ‘I’ll have four of the salmon en croute, thank you…’

The en croûte looked neat and tidy in their cellophane case. The lattice work on the top layer of pastry was obviously key to the overall proposition as it allowed the contents to be revealed: a generous pool of parsley butter as well as a fair amount of pink salmon. I suppose the real draw was that they were perfectly-sized individual ready-meals and would make an enjoyable and quick lunch or supper. I resisted the temptation to buy an en croute myself, but I could not resist the lingering thought that there must be something about salmon en croute. So a few days later I had a go at making my own. They were very good and judging by how popular they were in this house, I can now see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps I should try selling them!

How Dad Cooked It

Anything en croûte is prone to the proverbial ‘soggy bottom’. The classic way to avoid this is to wrap whatever is being encased in a very thin crepe or omelette before covering in pastry. I tried Parma ham and although very effective at repelling sogginess, it made my parcels altogether too rich. (The idea would be good for smaller parcels or a cold canapé.) Encasing the salmon can be done by several methods, including a single piece of pastry and rolling as a pastie or overlapping the ends under the parcel. Lattice techniques are fine for a commercial operation but may be too fiddly in a domestic kitchen. I find using two pieces of pastry and joining at the sides the easiest. An en croute should be served with a sauce. An Hollandaise-based mouselline sauce is de rigour in fine restaurants. My cream sauce cuts back on the fat and although less rich than a mouselline, is no less interesting.

  1. Cook the spinach. Wash and drain the spinach and cook in a large wok. Use the lid to wilt the spinach at the start, then stir until all the spinach is cooked – only about 2 – 3 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Use what every method suits to squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach. You will find that squeezing in the hands is probably the the most effective. Put on a plate and put into the fridge to cool. When cool melt the butter and pour over the spinach and mix in. Season the spinach and divide into four.
  2. Make the en croûte. Wash and pat the fillets dry. Divide the pastry in half, roll one half out to about 2mm-3mm thick using a dusting of flour to stop the pastry sticking. Place a fillet on a corner of the pastry. Cut the pastry alongside the fillet leaving about 1 cm around each side of the fillet. Using a pastry brush, brush a little beaten egg over the exposed bottom pastry edge. Take one quarter of the spinach and pat evenly over the top of the salmon. Place the other piece of pastry over the salmon allowing plenty of overlap on all sides. Push the top down neatly over the top and sides and along the bottom, trim the edges leaving 5-7mm. Roll up the excess pastry. Using the prongs of a fork press down on the pastry edge to firmly join the pastry and to create a neat pattern. Using a small sharp knife, make cuts about 1cm long with a gap of 5mm between cuts along the length of the en croute. Make similar cuts next to each line of cuts overlapping the cuts and gaps, until the whole top of the en croute is covered in cuts. Choose a different pattern if you like – fish scales? Cover the entire en croute with beaten egg wash and place in the fridge to rest for 15 minutes. Repeat with the other salmon fillets, rolling out pastry for each one.
  3. Preheat the oven. 220C, Gas 7. Put a thick bottomed baking tray in the oven.
  4. Cook the en croûte. Take the en croutes from the fridge and lightly cover again with egg wash. Quickly transfer each en croute onto the hot tray and place immediately in the oven. Turn the heat down to 190C, Gas 5. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is browned and the salmon cooked through. (A temperature probe should read 60C.) Do not overcook or the salmon will be tough. Remove from the oven and allow to rest and keep warm.
  5. Make the sauce. Chop the shallots and garlic and fry in the butter and oil on medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add the flour and continue to cook stirring for a minute, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer very gently for 8 minutes. Add the herbs and crème fraîche, bring back up to a gentle simmer and cook for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. Add the lemon juice and stir.
  6. Assemble. Serve the en croutes with the sauce and a green salad.

Other french recipes from Dad: A Classic French Salad Niçoise RecipeCôte De Boeuf with Béarnaise and ChipsBavette Open Steak Sandwich Au Jus or Steak Haché, Sauce au Poivre et Frites.

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