Herb Smoked Pacific Salmon with Shaved Fennel and Dill Salad
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 15 whole black peppercorns
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 8 (5 ounce) salmon fillets, cut thickly and uniformly
- 1/3 cup snipped fresh dill
- Olive oil, for grilling
- 2 medium fresh fennel bulbs, shaved paper thin
- 1 medium cucumber peeled, cut in half, seeded and cut into long thin strips
- 1 fresh endive separated into individual leaves
- Walnut-Dill Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
This is a simple dish to prepare but timing is crucial. The cure can be made in quantity and stored refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. It is imperative that the salmon not stay in the cure for longer than 30 minutes before grilling or the surface will become dry and tough. It can cure for as short a time as 15 minutes. In volume situations, the salmon can be undercooked slightly and flashed in a hot oven to just heat through just before serving. The fennel needs to be shaved paper thin and ideally done just before serving. Do not store shaved fennel in ice water unless absolutely necessary - - it loses its fresh, aromatic flavor. Once shaved it can be held covered and refrigerated for up to 3 hours without browning.
In a saucepan over high heat, combine the salt, sugar, coriander and fennel seeds, peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the dill and let cool completely. Place the salmon fillets in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour on the cooled wine mixture and let the salmon "cure" for 30 minutes only, turning once. Meanwhile prepare a charcoal fire along with some soaked hardwood chips or shavings. Lightly oil the grill.
Lightly brush the salmon with some olive oil. Place hardwood chips on coals, cover and smoke/cook the salmon over medium coals for 5 to 6 minutes or until just done. Be careful not to overcook the salmon or it will become dry and lose its wonderful texture. It should still be translucent in the center. To serve: Toss the fennel and the cucumber together and dress to taste with Walnut-Dill Vinaigrette. Arrange attractively on top of the endive leaves on chilled plates. Place salmon on top and garnish with the sprouts, salmon roe and drizzles of the basil oil around the plate. Salmon can be served warm or at room temperature.
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