How to make salmon en croûte
A salmon centrepiece that can be stress AND fuss free once you know the knack. Follow our step-by-step guide to making salmon en croûte.
- Heat the butter in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the garlic and, when it releases its aroma, tip in the spinach and watercress. Stir until the leaves just wilt. Tip into a sieve and press down firmly on the wilted leaves with the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Roughly chop, discarding any tough stems, then put in a mixing bowl with the dill and lemon zest. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
- Dry the salmon fillets thoroughly on kitchen paper and season them generously. Lay the fillets on a chopping board, skinned-side down, and run your finger down each to check for pin bones.
- If you find any, pull them out with tweezers.
- Stir the horseradish into the crème fraîche, then spread evenly over one of the fillets, followed by the spinach mixture. Top with the other fillet, skinned-side up (see How We Cracked It).
- Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a 3mm thickness and trim to a 27cm x 40cm rectangle (or big enough to leave a generous border around the salmon when folded over). Put on a lined baking sheet and brush with the Dijon mustard. With a short pastry edge facing you, put the stacked salmon fillets across the top half of the pastry, leaving a 2-3cm border. Brush the pastry edges with some of the beaten egg, then fold the bottom half over to cover the fish.
- Trim the edges, crimp them by pinching gently to seal (see tips), then brush with a little more beaten egg.
- Top with decorations made from the pastry trimmings, then brush again with beaten egg. Chill for at least 20 minutes (see Make Ahead). Heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. 5. Once chilled, make a few small holes in the top of the pastry for the steam to escape, brush with the remaining beaten egg and bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed and golden and a few juices leach out of the holes. Rest for a few minutes before slicing, or leave to cool a little and serve warm.
Tips for success
- You can assemble the dish up to 24 hours in advance and keep, covered with cling film, in the fridge. Bake from chilled. Freeze the unbaked salmon for up to 1 month. Bake straight from frozen, adding an extra 30 minutes to the oven time. Cover with foil if the pastry turns too dark.
- Season the spinach and watercress filling well in step 1 to help distribute flavour throughout the fish as it cooks.
- When wilting the greens (step 1), pull out any thick stems – they can make the finished dish tricky to slice neatly.
- To ensure even thickness, place the fillets so the thin tail end of one fillet sits over the thick end of the other fillet (see How We Cracked It, above).
- When trimming the pastry , use a sharp knife and cut straight down to keep the layers intact and help them puff easily.
- Don’t panic if your crimping isn’t neat. The pastry will puff in a way that makes it look more rustic in style. You don’t have to crimp it – just make sure the edges are well sealed to keep the juices locked in.
- To serve, slice the baked salmon with a sharp, serrated knife, using a gentle sawing motion. This will cut through the pastry, salmon and filling neatly, allowing the pretty layering to be seen clearly.
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