The last week of November was quite hectic. I was travelling soon after and there were so many bakes to finish before I could take leave of my oven. As it also happened to be the Thanksgiving week, the time pressure was more. Amidst the dinners and entertaining, I had to find time to complete the month's challenge for Daring Cooks!! Fortunately, this month's challenge was easy enough to put together and completely stress-free, so, I just about managed it! :)
The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.
You will notice that my title says trout and not salmon. Well, I just took some creative liberties with the protein element. You see, when I went to the fish stall, the trout looked way more appealing and fresher than the salmon. Besides, salmon to me is best eaten raw in sushi form. Butter poached salmon from steak houses have just put me off the cooked fish. Also, trout is a softer fish than the salmon and I think that worked really nicely with the sauce in this dish.
Anyway, happy as a beaver, I set off on making lunch. I had the pastry dough ready. I used store bought dough (I know that is blasphemous to all you conservatives out there but when is time is short... :)). I made the cream sauce with cream cheese, arugula, basil and spinach flavored lightly with lemon zest.
Packed and trimmed, with those neat little bows (cute, aren't they?!), the fish in pastry looked really pretty and ready for the oven. Thirty minutes later, I took it out, in heavy anticipation. Simone's sample photos of the challenge looked so beautiful, so true to the adage of eating with your eyes first. Unfortunately, I was in for a disappointment. My cooked pastry looked nothing like Simone's!! For some reason, it was neither glamorous looking nor young and taut as hers.
Nevertheless, I put my disappointment at the back of my mind and set about photographing, so we could get on with the eating. My heart was heavy but it lightened quite a bit once I took a bite of the dish! It was awesome! Light and flaky, the trout had absorbed the flavors, from the sauce, well. I had been generous with packing the sauce in the pastry, so we did not even need more on the side.
All the while, there was the nagging question in my subconscious mind about the lackadaisical appearance of the pastry. It was only later in the evening that the answer came to me. You see, as I was reading the recipe for the short crust pastry, it somehow stuck in my mind that it was like puff pastry. So, I had wrapped the fish in puff pastry. Only later, as I was mulling over the recipe, did it strike me that it was like tart crust, not puff pastry!! So there, mystery solved. Next time, I will be sure to use the right pastry. LOL!
Interestingly, the dish reminded me very much of a Parsi dish that my MIL makes, Chutney Fish. It is of similar concept; the chutney is made with coriander, green chillies and a hint of tamarind, the fish (usually pomfret) is generously coated with it and then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. It's incredibly delicious!
Btw, if you would like a complete en croute meal, check out my Curried Egg Pastry Cups for appetizer and Brie en Croute for dessert.
Salmon en Croute
5.2 ounces/150 gr Mascarpone or creamcheese
0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach
17.6 ounces, 500 gr Shortcrust pastry
17.6 ounce/500 gr Salmon/trout fillet (skinless)
Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.
Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon.
Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don’t have any thick lumps of pastry as these won’t cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test wether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.
While this is not mandatory to do, I highly recommend making your own shortcrust pastry as it is very simple to do! As mentioned in the notes; please make sure to not add too much water as that is the key to having a successful shortcrust pastry.
450 gr (15.8 ounces or 3.2 cups ) of plain all purpose flour
200 gr ( 7 ounce) cold butter
pinch of salt
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor you can use that as shown in the above video.
Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.
For best results make sure the butter is very cold.