Toxic Butter Shock

We were having four overnight guests in our little cape house in Maine, and I wanted to make them something special which I had previously created for Mark one day when I was home sick.

Our small, wonderful home in Kittery, Maine.
Mark loves to tell the story. It is a bit embarrassing when he does it at the dinner table... “David was home sick and exhausted one day and, in the late afternoon, rummaged through the refrigerator... and ended up creating this magnificent Salmon Wellington. I thought to myself, 'If this is what he does when he is low-energy, I can’t wait to see what he invents when he is well-rested!'”

As we lived on the coast, it wasn’t unusual to have bits and pieces of fish flash frozen in our freezer. I found a couple of scallops, a quarter pound shrimp, and one lone sole fillet. And a box of puff pastry.

The recipe needed an anchor. I had Mark pick up some salmon fillet on his way home from the office. My innovation worked, and I knew I’d want to repeat it.

The version I made for our friends that night was a veritable force of nature. To say it was rich was an understatement. To give you some perspective: Bill Gates is rich, this dish went waaaaay beyond that.

After dinner, at some point in the wee hours, we realized we could hear all our guests pacing around their rooms and the upstairs hall. The next morning we all shared that the richness of the dish had us all awake much of the night, with energy to burn. The syndrome was immediately dubbed, “Toxic Butter Shock.”

I have lightened the original recipe quite a bit by reducing the amount of salmon, using smaller pieces of puff pastry, and less cream. The dish didn’t suffer from the reductions, and neither have we! Now we can dine on it and sleep through the night.

This meal comes together quite easily and can be catered to your and your guests’ palates. Allergic to bivalves? Leave out the scallops and add another sole fillet. Don’t like tarragon? Use thyme, or cilantro. Cream sauce too much for you? Try a Beurre Blanc. (The opposite of Julia Child’s advice, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”) Just be creative!

We served this with an exquisite Condrieu (Viognier) from the Northern Rhône region - you can read about the pairing on the Provence WineZine.

~ David

Salmon Wellington

1 pound salmon fillet, skin and bones removed
1 Dover sole fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 sea scallops
1/4 pound raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
zest of 1 lime (reserve lime for juice below)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, plus additional
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, thawed
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, minced
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water

Cut salmon into 4 equal-sized rectangular portions (do not make long, skinny pieces); set aside. Combine sole, scallops, and shrimp in the food processor and pulse 5 times. Add yolks, cream, lime zest, and tarragon; purée to a smooth, thick paste but don’t over-process.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out puff pastry sheet to a 10-inch by 18-inch rectangle and divide into four 5-inch by 9-inch pieces. Trim corners to create an elongated octagon. Divide the puréed sole/shrimp mixture among the pastry sheets placing in the center of the pastry... think of it as a pillow for the salmon. Top each with a piece of salmon, skinned side up. Fold the sides and ends over the fish, seal the corners by pinching them, and turn over onto a baking sheet. Brush tops with the egg wash and bake for 20 minutes.

While salmon is cooking, sauté the shallot in the butter until clear. Add wine and lime juice, reducing to 3 tablespoons. Add cream, season with salt and pepper, and reduce slightly. Strain cream sauce into a clean bowl and dived among four heated dinner plates. Top with salmon, garnish with additional chopped tarragon, and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

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