Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
Cooking salmon is fairly easy. Because it's such a rich, fatty fish, it stays moist, even if slightly overcooked. If possible, buy wild salmon, which, although more expensive than the farmed fish, has a firmer texture.
Salmon choucroute with riesling beurre blanc (pictured)
This is my version of a dish I tasted at the Maison Kammerzell restaurant in Strasbourg, France. Friends and I visited the city in Alsace last year when the weather was quite warm, so the idea of eating cured meat choucroute, which is another of the restaurant's specialities, didn't appeal. The fish version has lighter textures and flavours than that of more traditional choucroute.
Allow about a week for the sauerkraut to ferment. For this dish, I like it just slightly fermented, so the tartness doesn't overwhelm the fish.
For the sauerkraut:
1 head of green cabbage
Fine- or medium-flaked sea salt, as needed
For the riesling beurre blanc:
180ml dry riesling
1 large shallot, minced
180 grams unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1cm chunks
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
For the salmon:
4-6 skinless salmon fillets, sliced about 1cm thick
200ml dry riesling
3 bay leaves
5 juniper berries
To finish the dish:
180ml dry riesling
Fresh chives (don't use Chinese chives)
Boiled new potatoes (optional)
Fine sea salt, freshly ground white pepper and freshly ground black pepper
Quarter the cabbage, cutting through the core. Remove and discard the core, then cut each wedge in two lengthwise. Use a sharp knife to cut each wedge across the grain into ribbons about 3mm thick, then rinse well and let them drain in a colander. Weigh the shredded cabbage and for each 500 grams add 15 grams of salt and half a teaspoon of dill seeds. Leave for an hour at room temperature, mixing occasionally. Wash one or two tall, glass heatproof jars (I use Mason jars), fill them with boiling water then empty them and let them air-dry. Pack the cabbage and any liquid the salt has extracted into the glass jars, leaving at least 3cm of space at the top. Weigh down the cabbage: put about 250ml of water into a flexible plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as possible then tie the top into a tight knot; put this bag into another flexible plastic bag, squeeze out the air and tie the top before placing directly on the cabbage so it's submerged in the brine. Leave the cabbage in a shaded spot at room temperature. After three days, remove the bag and check the sauerkraut. It should smell fermented and taste slightly sour. If not, stir the ingredients with a sterilised wooden spoon, put the bag of water back on the cabbage and leave until it's ready, checking and stirring every day. When it's ready, remove the bag, put the lid on the jar and refrigerate until needed.
Take 500 grams of sauerkraut from the jar and rinse thoroughly in a colander. Squeeze out as much water as possible from the sauerkraut then put it in a pan with 180ml of riesling. Bring to the simmer and stir often until the sauerkraut is hot and has absorbed most of the wine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Make the riesling beurre blanc. Put the riesling and shallot in a saucepan and place it over a medium flame. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced to about 30ml. Turn the heat to very low and start adding the butter a chunk at a time, whisking constantly. Let each piece of butter melt and almost fully incorporate before adding more.
When all the butter has been whisked in, season the sauce with lemon juice, salt and white pepper.
Poach the salmon: heat the riesling, water, bay leaves and juniper berries in a shallow pan. Bring to the boil then lower the flame until the water is barely simmering. Poach the salmon one piece at a time, cooking it for about two minutes, or until done to your liking. Drain briefly on paper towels.
Divide the hot sauerkraut between two or three plates, placing it in a mound. Lay the salmon slices over the cabbage then spoon some of the riesling beurre blanc on top. If using potatoes, halve them then put them on the plate. Use scissors to snip the chives over the ingredients. Serve the remaining beurre blanc on the side.
Seared salmon with minted green peas
2 skin-on salmon fillets, about 200 grams each
Cooking oil, for the skillet
30 grams unsalted butter
400 grams frozen petits pois, thawed
About 80ml cream
A small handful of fresh mint leaves, cut into chiffonade
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Thoroughly dry the skin of the salmon with paper towels, then season the flesh lightly with salt. Oil a skillet (preferably well-seasoned cast iron), set it over a high flame and heat until very hot.
Lay the salmon fillets skin-side down in the pan and cover with the lid. Lower the flame to medium and cook the salmon for about five minutes, or until cooked to your liking. Uncover the pan, turn the heat to high and cook the salmon briefly to crisp up the skin. Put the salmon on plates and sprinkle with pepper.
While the salmon is cooking, melt the butter in a skillet. Add the peas, the cream and a little salt. Cook over a medium-high flame until the peas are tender and the cream is reduced to a light sauce consistency. Add some pepper and the mint leaves. Spoon the peas onto the plates and serve immediately.