As I mentioned before, over Christmas and New Year I had to produce food in three kitchens other than my own, and to save my sanity I decided to come up with three recipes based on one central ingredient: smoked salmon.
In the first of this 3-part series, I told you how I made salmon and dill chowder using hot-smoked salmon and from a couple of questions asked in the comments, it became apparent that not everyone knew what I meant when I talked about hot-smoked as opposed to cold-smoked salmon. This recipe calls for both, so I thought I'd provide you with a little primer.
For cold-smoked salmon, the fish are first filleted each whole side is covered in a layer of salt (often mixed with other seasonings) for six or more hours to cure. The salt draws out moisture, prevents the growth of bacteria, kills microbes and flavours the fish. The fish can then be dried for several hours before cold smoking, a slow process at a low temperature: 70° to 90°F (20-30C) for 1 day to 3 weeks. During this process the fish is not held over the fire as in hot-smoking. Instead, smoke is passed over the food, but the food is held in a separate area from the fire. Since the fish is not actually cooked, the interior texture smooth, supple and buttery. Cold-smoked salmon is usually sold either as a whole side of fish, or in thin slices.
For hot-smoked salmon, the fish are filleted and smoked from 6 to 12 hours at temperatures ranging from 120° to 180°F (49-82C), producing a thoroughly-cooked fish. Generally, hot-smoking involves holding the food directly above the fire, or in an enclosure that is heated by the fire (barbecue is a form of hot-smoking). The temperatures reached in hot-smoking can kill microbes in the food. It is sold cold, to be eaten just like cooked salmon, but can be used in most of the same preparations as cold-smoked. It is usually sold in fillets (like smoked mackerel) rather than slices and has a flaky rather than a buttery texture. In some places, this is called kippered salmon.
Both are delicious, but obviously the textural differences mean that one may be more suited to a particular dish than the other. If you want your smoky fish flavour in flakes, go for hot-smoked/kippered. If you need a pliable slice of smoked fish for wrapping or draping, go for cold-smoked.
These paté moulds are an adaptation of the smoked mackerel parcels that I have previously written about (which, in turn, were inspired by something I ate at Frieda's Restaurant in Cape Town more than 20 years ago). The best part about serving them as part of my New Year's Eve starter was the simple but impressive piece of food theatre involved in plating – so do invite your guests to watch if you are out to impress!
SMOKED SALMON PATé MOULDS (serves 4)
about 250g hot-smoked salmon, flaked
600g Philadelphia cream cheese or similar soft cheese (full or reduced fat)
6 finely chopped spring onions, green parts included
a good handful of fresh dill, chopped
fresh lemon juice to taste
freshly ground black pepper
sliced cold-smoked salmon (1-2 slices per person, depending on size)
lemon wedges and fresh dill to garnish
Flake the salmon fillets and mix well with the cream cheese, pepper, chopped spring onions, dill and lemon juice. I usually do this with a fork – no higher-grade equipment needed! Check seasoning and adjust as needed.
Line each ramekin with a long strip of clingfilm, completely covering the inside surface and making sure there is plenty hanging over the edges to cover the top of the ramekin later.
Line each ramekin with a slice or two of smoked salmon. You can overlap the slices to make sure the paté is entirely covered, but I quite like seeing some of the paté.
Fill each ramekin with the smoked mackerel pate, pushing it down lightly and leaving no gaps.
Fold the remaining clingfilm over to cover the pate completely and press down gently. Stack the ramekins (so that they slightly compress each other) and place a small round tin/bottle on the top one. Refrigerate for a couple of hours if possible.
This is where the theatrics came into play. Make sure you already have a pot of my smoked salmon and dill chowder bubbling away on the stove.
To serve the paté, unwrap the clingfilm. Upend each ramekin on its own serving plate and gently lift the ramekin, holding onto the clingfilm so that the paté unmoulds. Remove the clingfilm from each mould and garnish with a lemon wedge and some dill.
Leave an empty ramekin on each plate beside the paté and fill them with a ladleful of the salmon chowder. Present your amazed guests with "a duo of smoked salmon"
Serve with mixed salad leaves (optional) and warm toast wedges. And champagne, of course!
Related post – Smoked salmon and dill chowder
Don't forget to get your entries in for this month's Waiter, There's Something in My event – the theme is sweet/savoury swap, so think dessert soup, savoury bread & butter pudding… let your imagination run wild. Details available here.