Dijon & Herb Crusted Salmon with Creamy Leeks and Crispy Potatoes

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If you are looking for a fancy yet easy complete meal for your next date night, this is it. It was another one of those dishes that I had out at a local European restaurant and just had to figure out how to recreate it at home. My Mom appears to have figured it out! She’s been making this dish for roughly a year now, and it’s about time I got around to blogging it. It’s a five-star meal loaded with flavor, but it’s so simple to make.

I love the balance of textures going on in this dish. You’ve got a layer of ultra-crispy potatoes on the bottom, topped with a layer of creamy leeks, followed by tender salmon with grainy mustard and a crunchy topping. It’s to die for! I don’t eat fish very often, but I’ll make an exception for this dish because it’s just too good.

It’s been a bit of a rough week having to only eat soft foods since my oral surgery. I felt like a puppy sitting at the table, longingly staring at everyone else’s plates while I ate overcooked Mac ‘n’ cheese and smoothies. Luckily, I’m almost back to normal! Crunchy foods, I’m coming for ya (soon). Can I also say, WHY do people feel the need to share with me everything that went wrong during/after their oral surgery procedures?! I went to a cooking class last night and I told one of my fellow classmates that I just got my wisdom teeth out. His response was “Not to scare you or anything, (at which point I should have told him to  stop talking), but when I got mine out they healed up just fine and then a week later I got an abscess and my whole neck swelled up and it was a whole thing and $2000 I’m still dealing with the aftermath.” Gee, thanks. I’m glad you shared your completely non-helpful tidbit about the horror following your surgery. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen to me!

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Ok, sorry for that little tangent. Just know, if you had a bad experience following a medical procedure, it’s probably best not to tell someone who just had said medical procedure done.

…But back to the food. The reason you’re here reading this. When I do splurge to eat fish, I like to get the highest quality, most sustainable fish I can get. The salmon used in this recipe was wild Alaskan Coho Salmon, and I would definitely recommend the Coho over Sockeye, if you can find it.

Disclaimer: This recipe is easy, but it uses quite a few pots and you have to attend to each component of the dish. I would highly recommend reading through the entire recipe before starting so that you can have your prep work done and make it a less stressful event!

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Dijon & Herb Crusted Salmon with Creamy Leeks & Crispy Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 lb Wild Alaskan Coho Salmon

1/2 cup grainy dijon mustard

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Zest of one lemon

For the potatoes–

2 large potatoes, diced

2 Tablespoons butter

For the leeks– 

2 leeks

2 1/2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice the leeks in thin rounds and place in a medium bowl. Fill the bowl with water and allow the leeks to sit for a few minutes, to allow any gritty material to sink to the bottom of the bowl. Drain and set aside.
  3. To make the potatoes: In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, fry the potatoes in the butter and season with salt and pepper, stirring only occasionally, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
  4. To make the creamy leeks: In a small pot over medium heat, melt the 2.5 Tablespoons butter. Slowly whisk in the flour and allow to cook for 2-3  minutes. Add in the milk and fresh nutmeg, as well as salt and pepper. Allow this mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until thick and creamy. Throw in the sliced leeks and allow to cook for another 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. While the leeks are cooking, cut the salmon into 4-5 pieces. Divide the mustard evenly between the salmon pieces and smear a generous amount on the top of each piece.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the panko bread crumbs, 1.5 Tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon zest, and chopped parsley. Divide the crumb mixture evenly between the salmon pieces and firmly press the crumbs into the top of each piece. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. In a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat, fry the salmon (skin side down) in the remaining 1.5 Tablespoons of the the olive oil for 10 minutes.
  8. Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and bake the salmon for 12 minutes. Then, turn the broiler on high and broil for 3-5 minutes, but check frequently to make sure the salmon isn’t burning!
  9. Serve each plate with a base of crispy potatoes topped with the creamy leeks. Top this with a piece of salmon and a lemon wedge.

 

Sweet Potato & Corn Cakes with Sage & Pequin Chile Butter

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One of my favorite things to do is form something into a patty, season it with tons of different flavors, crisp it up, and eat it with an egg. I do this with chickpeas, black beans, and in today’s post…sweet potatoes. I used to hate sweet potatoes because I had only ever had them at Thanksgiving, when they are loaded with brown sugar. In my (unpopular) opinion, sweet potatoes are perfectly sweet alone and they need savory ingredients to contrast all that sweetness. That’s where the salty, herby butter topping these bad boys comes into play.

Compound butters are a great and easy way to add unique flavor to a number of different dishes. In this case, I simply added fresh sage and some pequin chile salt I had on hand (shout-out to Elaine for getting Eric and me a 6 month RawSpiceBar subscription), and voila! Instant flavor burst. The best part is when the butter starts to melt on the hot, crispy surface of the freshly griddled potato cake. It starts to sink into all the nooks and crannies of the cake and you get that lovely aroma of fresh sage. The pequin chile flakes add a smoky, spicy kick which goes really nicely with the sweet potatoes.

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Look at that gorgeous butter melt its way into that cake! I’m crying a little on the inside because I’m having my wisdom teeth taken out today and looking at these pictures is making me long for crispy, crunchy textures I cannot have for a few days. Being as obsessed with food as I am and being severely limited in what consistencies you are able to eat is pure torture. I have a whole new appreciation for working with clients who have swallowing disorders and are unable to eat regular diets. I have considered one day merging my love of food blogging with my knowledge of speech-language pathology to release a series of recipes specifically designed for individuals with dysphasia. Stay tuned, speechie friends!

I have made different variations on sweet potato cakes before, and recipes almost always want you to boil or microwave the sweet potatoes. It gets the job done as far as cooking the potatoes, but personally I find that roasting them in the oven gives them a nice color and extra layer of flavor. Also, it is an absolute MUST that you eat these cakes with a crispy fried egg. If you need tips on how to get it super crispy, refer back to this post. The combination of that runny yolk with the compound butter and the crispy sweet potato cake simply cannot be beat.

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Sweet Potato & Corn Cakes with Sage & Pequin Chile Butter

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the sage & pequin chile butter– 

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

1/2 teaspoon pequin chile salt (If you can’t find this, you could simply do 1/2 tsp salt and a dash of pequin chile powder, or red pepper flakes).

For the sweet potato cakes– 

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 cup frozen corn

2.5 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 egg

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Sunflower oil, for frying

Crispy fried eggs, for serving

Directions:

  1. To make the compound butter: Combine the butter, sage, and pequin chile salt in a small bowl. Empty the mixture onto a large sheet of parchment paper and roll the butter into a log shape (it should look kind of like a candy wrapper). Allow the butter to harden in the refrigerator, about 2 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the diced sweet potatoes on a large sheet pan and drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium pan over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in the remaining 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Add in the frozen corn, season with salt and pepper, and stir until warmed through. Set aside.
  4. When the potatoes have cooled slightly, mash them in a large bowl with the heavy cream until mostly smooth. Add in the corn mixture, cumin, smoked paprika, egg, and bread crumbs. Mix until nicely combined.
  5. To fry the cakes, heat a medium pan over medium-high heat with sunflower oil (around 2 Tablespoons). Form small patties from the sweet potato mixture and fry in the hot oil, about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown.
  6. Serve each cake with a fat slice of the sage & chile butter and a crispy fried egg.

 

 

 

Polenta Bowls with Buttery Herbed Mushrooms and a Crispy Fried Egg

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I have a theory in life, and it’s that everything tastes better with a fried egg on top. Okay, maybe not everything, but nearly everything. Ever since I was little, I can remember my Dad digging through the fridge some nights, frying up whatever leftovers we had in a pan, and topping it all with a crispy fried egg. I was constantly hungry as a child (certainly not for lack of food!), so I would always light up with excitement when I heard him rummaging around the kitchen several hours after dinner. Mom and Erika always said they weren’t hungry and didn’t want any, but my Dad always knew to make a little extra. Once the aroma filled the kitchen, they would come trotting in with the dog and soon enough everyone wanted a bite of whatever it was he created.

These bowls were dually inspired by my Dad, because he seems to throw together these kinds of meals effortlessly;  and Ina Garten, because her Parmesan polenta recipe is the BOMB. You’ve heard my spiel on mushrooms before (see this post), so I won’t repeat myself but suffice to say these mushrooms are delightfully savory.

Let’s talk for a minute about how to get your egg super crispy. I use a lot of olive oil, and I fry each egg individually to maximize the crisp-factor. You want the oil to be screaming hot before you crack your egg into the pan. I once heard a chef say that when oil starts to shimmer, it’s “getting nervous.”  For some reason I absolutely adore that expression. I don’t put the egg in the pan until I can tell the olive oil is getting nervous. When you do crack your egg, be careful! The hot oil is going to splatter a little bit. Basically, the extremely hot oil gives you a beautifully golden brown crust all along the edge of the egg. I take a metal spoon and use the oil in the pan to baste the whites of the egg. This allows you keep a runny center on the egg but cook the whites all the way through, and you never have to even flip the egg!

When you dig into this bowl of deliciousness, the first thing you need to do is break that egg yolk and let that liquid sunshine get nice and comfy with the polenta and mushrooms.  Am I the only one who thinks it’s kind of sensual to watch an egg yolk drip all over its neighboring food? (I know Eric is with me on this one. Whenever I top our dinner with crispy fried eggs, he gets this little smirk on his face right before he breaks the yolk). Maybe we’re a little weird. If you haven’t spent this much time thinking about egg yolks, make this dish and take pleasure in the first bite when there is beautiful, glorious egg yolk running all throughout the bowl.

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Polenta Bowls with Buttery Herbed Mushrooms and Crispy Fried Eggs

Serves 2

Ingredients:

½  batch of Parmesan Polenta

½  lb mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (I used a great local shiitake, but most other mushrooms would probably work great!)

3 tablespoons butter

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

2 eggs

3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Fresh Italian Parsley, for garnish (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Make the parmesan polenta according to these directions. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan and let them sit—don’t stir yet! Let them get golden brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Add the thyme to the pan. Stir the mushrooms sparingly and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so, until golden brown and tender. Turn the heat off and season the mushrooms with salt and pepper.
  3. Fry your eggs: In a small skillet, let the oil get “nervous” (AKA extremely hot) first. This should take around 3-4 minutes on fairly high heat. When your oil is screaming hot, add your egg (I do one at a time, but you could do both at the same time if you really want to). Using a small metal spoon, scoop up small amounts of oil from the pan and use it to baste the egg whites. Season the egg with salt and pepper. All in all this takes about 3 minutes until your egg should be perfectly crispy with a runny yolk.
  4. Assemble your bowls: Spoon a generous amount of polenta into each bowl. Top with sautéed mushrooms, a crispy fried egg, and fresh parsley.