Recipes: A light spring supper starring salmon
Oven-poached salmon, and two fancy sides to impress your guests.
These recipes are part of a new partnership between Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street and the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column.
For those spring get-togethers when you can’t avoid feeding crowds at inconvenient times, we wanted an impressive main course that’s as good at room temperature as it is hot from the oven. A whole side of salmon proved an excellent choice. For sides, we start with a celery root frisée salad, an update to céléri rémoulade, a classic French slaw-like salad of celery root with a mayonnaise-based dressing. To finish, we top asparagus with sauce gribiche, a French classic that is similar to mayonnaise but made with cooked, not raw, egg yolks, and seasoned with capers and herbs.
Oven-Poached Salmon With Thyme, Dill, and Vermouth
Makes 8 servings
A salmon fillet between 1½- and 1¾-inches thick worked best. We found temperature was a better indicator of doneness than cooking time. To test the salmon’s temperature, carefully peel back the foil just enough to insert an instant-read thermometer at the thickest end. The best way to perfectly cook this dish was to remove it from the oven a bit before the salmon was fully cooked and let the residual heat gently finish the cooking.
Don’t marinate the salmon longer than 20 minutes. The soy sauce adds an earthy dimension to the salmon’s flavor, but if left too long its saltiness will become overpowering.
½ cup soy sauce
1 3½- to 4-pound salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
8 sprigs fresh thyme
8 sprigs fresh dill, plus 3 teaspoons minced, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 cup dry vermouth
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Lemon wedges, to serve
Heat the oven to 500 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Pour the soy sauce into a baking dish large enough to fit the salmon. Add the fish, flesh side down. Marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, toss the carrots, celery, shallot, thyme, dill sprigs, and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside. Fold an 18-inch-long sheet of foil lengthwise into a strip wide enough for the salmon to fit on. Lightly coat the foil with oil, then place it, oiled side up, in the center of a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the carrot and celery mixture around the outside edges of the foil. Drizzle the vegetables with the vermouth. Place the salmon on the foil, flesh side up. Season with pepper.
Cover the entire pan tightly with foil, allowing it to dome over the salmon. Roast until the salmon registers 120 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, keeping the foil in place, and let the salmon rest until it is between 125 and 130 degrees, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the top foil, then use the foil under the salmon to lift and transfer it to a serving platter. Let cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, strain the liquid and solids on the baking sheet into a saucepan. Discard the solids and all but ¾ cup of the liquid. Over medium heat, bring the liquid to a simmer. Off heat, stir in the butter, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of the minced dill. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 3 tablespoons of the sauce over the salmon. Sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons dill over the salmon. Serve with lemon wedges and the remaining sauce.
Celery Root and Frisée Salad With Mustard and Capers
Makes 6 servings
Grainy mustard, lemon juice, and capers add brisk, bright flavor that contrasts with the natural sweetness of the celery root, fennel, and apple. We like the curly, fluffy texture of frisée in this salad, but any variety of slightly bitter green works nicely.
Don’t peel the apple — the skin adds both color and flavor. And don’t skip toasting the nuts; it crisps their texture and brings out roasted notes that complete the salad.
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup whole-grain mustard
¼ cup drained capers, roughly chopped, plus 1 tablespoon caper brine
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and halved
5 ounces peeled celery root
1 Granny Smith apple
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 small head frisée, torn into bite-size pieces
½ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, capers and brine, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside.
Adjust the blade of a mandoline to slice 1/16-inch thick. One at a time, hold each fennel half by the base and shave against the grain as far as is safe; discard the base. Set aside.
Adjust the blade of the mandoline to slice 1/8-inch thick, then slice the celery root into planks. Keeping the apple whole and starting on one side, slice the apple into planks until you reach the core. Rotate the apple a quarter turn and repeat on all sides; discard the core. Working in batches, stack the celery root planks and use a chef’s knife to cut into matchsticks; you should have about 1½ cups. Repeat with the apple planks.
Set aside ¼ cup of the chopped walnuts for garnish. Add the remaining walnuts, the fennel, celery root, apple, frisée, and parsley to the bowl with the dressing and fold to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl or plate and sprinkle with the reserved walnuts.
Asparagus With Sauce Gribiche and Fried Capers
Makes 4 servings
For this dish, we used white balsamic vinegar instead of conventional wine vinegar because we preferred its mild sweetness. And instead of adding capers to the sauce, we used caper brine; the capers themselves we fried to create a crisp garnish for the sauced asparagus. Finally, a dose of horseradish gave the sauce a welcome piquancy. When buying asparagus, choose bunches with spears that are similar in size; we preferred pencil-size spears. The cooking time will vary slightly based on the thickness of the spears.
Don’t be timid when patting the capers dry. Lay them out on paper towels, then press on them with additional towels. Removing the moisture minimizes the splattering as they fry. Also, don’t allow the oil to smoke during frying; it also is used in the dressing and to cook the asparagus, and it will taste bitter if it gets so hot that it smokes.
6 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil
¼ cup drained capers, patted dry, plus 2 tablespoons caper brine
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
4 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/3 cup packed fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the capers and cook, stirring, until most of the bubbling has subsided and the capers are crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers to a small paper towel-lined plate. Reserve the skillet, leaving the oil in it.
In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar and shallot. Set aside for about 10 minutes. Halve the hard-cooked eggs. Add the yolks to the shallot; finely chop the whites. To the shallot and yolks, add the mustard, horseradish, caper brine, and ½ teaspoon salt. Mash with a fork until smooth and creamy. Stir in the chopped egg whites, parsley, tarragon, and 3 tablespoons of the oil from the skillet.
Return the skillet to high and heat until the oil shimmers. Add the asparagus and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, tossing once or twice, until bright green with lightly charred spots, 2 to 4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, then cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer to a serving platter. Spoon the sauce over the asparagus and sprinkle with fried capers.