Pink on Pink

It's getting towards summer and that always makes us me think of travel.

Where can we go? What new adventures await?

Because of job requirements, summer isn't the easiest time to travel. And, honestly, summers can be very crowded wherever we go.

Thus, we head to the table as a means to transport us to faraway places. This week, it will be no surprise to you that our destination is Provence. After all, the first Saturday of the month is when I pair a Provençal wine with food.

We had our friends and neighbors Lee and Bill to dinner. We enjoy being with them immensely and have much in common, including interests in the fine arts, travel, family backgrounds on the East Coast, and love of the desert.

Especially, we all love good food and wine. Lee is a wonderful cook (she is also a great potter), and we are inspired to cook fun and interesting food when we get together.

Most recently, I made a Provençal-themed dinner, all based on pink. Pink food, pink wine. Well, dessert was kind of gold... but you get the idea.

I was gifted three different rosé wines from Mirabeau en Provence to test and let you know what I think of them.* They are all wonderful wines, and you can read about the pairings on the Provence WineZine.

I started with potted salmon - a recipe based on one from The Littlest Anchovy, a former blogger in Australia. It is a perfect combination of creamy and tart and savory. Lee contributed the brilliant idea of using leftovers to make potted salmon rolls, à la lobster rolls!

The main course is a dish I devised for Mark and myself one quiet Christmas Eve - a ragoût of fennel and langoustine tails seasoned with saffron, and served in a puff pastry box; a perfectly wrapped gift. I used some precooked langoustine tails, which we love and are readily available for us at Trader Joe's. The dish is just as good with nice, meaty shrimp.

And dessert? I revisited and refined a recipe that our friend Barbara and I devised while we were in Tuscany in 2011. Absent the local Italian butter cookies, for the crust I used the Girl Scouts' Trefoil cookies (which are, oddly, quatrefoils). You will have to wait till spring for this recipe, as I will post it when Girl Scout Cookies are once again on the market.

In the meantime, light some candles, dine outside if weather permits, and please enjoy the potted salmon and the ragoût of fennel and langoustines!

~ David

Potted Salmon

3 cups water
1 cup white wine
6 fresh bay leaves
1 pound boneless, skinless salmon fillet
4 ounces cured salmon (lox), diced
1 cup crème fraîche
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus additional for garnish
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon Piment d’Esplette
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
bread, small toasts, or crackers to serve

Bring water, wine, and bay leaves to a boil. Remove from heat, add fillets and cover. Set aside to for 15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily but retains some firmness. Remove from poaching liquid and let cool fully in a colander. Discard poaching liquid.

Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Gently flake the cooled fillets over the cream mixture and season with salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Fold the salmon flakes gently into the cream, taking care not to break up the salmon.

If not using immediately, store refrigerated in a covered glass container for up to 4 days. If using the same day, place in a serving dish and garnish with dill. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Serve with sliced bread, toasts, or crackers.

Serves 6-8 as a heavy appetizer or first course.

Ragoût of Fennel and Langoustines with Saffron
about 1 pound all-butter puff pastry, either homemade or purchased
3 tablespoons butter
2 large fennel bulbs, topped, cored, and diced
2 large shallots, peeled and diced
3-4 tablespoons water
3/4 cup seafood stock
3/4 cup white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3 large plum tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 pound cooked langoustine tails
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375°F. Make 6 boxes from the puff pastry (about 4 1/2-inches square). I use a sharp knife to cut around the edges and create a box with handles. See my illustration above in the post. (It might help to do a test using a square piece of paper so you can begin to understand the folds.) Use a little egg white to attach the strips to the bottom. Score the inside edge of the box with a sharp knife. Brush bottom with egg white, being careful the egg white doesn’t touch the sides or they won’t puff. Bake for 20-25 minutes until deep golden-brown. While they are baking, make the ragoût.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the fennel, shallot, and 3 tablespoons water; cover with a piece of rumpled parchment and cook over low heat, stirring once or twice, until the fennel and onion soften, about 10 minutes. Add another tablespoon of water, if needed, to keep it moist, but don't be concerned if it browns a little. That will add to the flavor and color to the ragoût. Add the stock, cover again with the parchment, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the wine and saffron, cover once again with the parchment, and let simmer 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the tomatoes, peas, and langoustine tails and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring, until peas are cooked but stll brightly colored, and the langoustine tails are warmed through. Adjust seasoning and add cream. Bring to a simmer.

Using a small spatula, take off the tops off the inner part of the box (where you scored the pastry). Fill the boxes with ragoût, letting some spill over onto the plate. Replace the box top and serve immediately.

 Serves 6.

* As always, all opinions regarding the wines are my own.

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