CHEF BRIAN ALBERG’S GRILLED SALMON
SERVED OVER TURNIP PUREE
WITH GRILLED RAMPS AND SMOKED TOMATO COULIS
Chef’s Note: I think turnips are generally underutilized and under appreciated by home cooks. The turnip puree I serve as part of this salmon dish acts as a base for the salmon. You often find mashed potatoes in this role. Personally, I think the turnips add more character.
3 large turnips, peeled and cut into even sized medium chunks
cream to cover
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, peeled and gently crushed with the side of a knife
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions. Add turnips, cream, thyme and garlic to a medium sauce pan. Set over medium heat and place the lid over the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until tender – the tip of a paring knife should go through without resistance.
Strain liquid into container and reserve. Remove thyme and place turnips in a food processor or blender. Add butter and cooking liquid if necessary. You decide how think you want your puree to be. Season with salt and pepper and puree until smooth. Add more of the cream if necessary. Reserve remaining liquid for a great tasting soup base.
SMOKED TOMATO COULIS
Chef’s Note: This is a wonderful accompaniment to many dishes and well worth the time it takes to prepare. The smoky flavor imparted to the tomatoes adds a level complexity Red Lion guests love. It can be made in advance (which I recommend) and will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days, but can be frozen up to 8 months. Smoking is a very useful technique, and a nice addition to your kitchen repertoire. You can use any kind of tomatoes, but by all means use locally grown–from Equinox or elsewhere. Remember, the more flavorful the tomato, the better this sauce. After going through the process once, you’ll realize how easy it is and might want to do as we do: make it up in batches and can for use as the mood hits you.
Directions Smoke the tomatoes in an outdoor grill. If using a charcoal grill, bank coals to one side of grill only and start fire; with a gas grill, preheat for about 10 minutes before use with one side on high and and the other side off.
Meanwhile, soak hardwood wood chips in water for at least 20 minutes. While chips are soaking, make a bowl-shaped container from aluminum foil (or use a small aluminum mixing bowl). Drain wood chips and place in bowl.
With charcoal grill, put bowl directly on the coals; with gas grill put bowl on the hot side of grill. Arrange the tomatoes on the side of the grill that is off. Close the lid and smoke for 45 minutes.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add garlic and shallots. Sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add in tomatoes and simmer until flavors are blended, 30-40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the tomato mixture cool for about 20 minutes, then add it to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain into a bowl and set aside.
Chef’s Note: Ramps is the common name for wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) and a special culinary favorite with delicious flavor and a cult following. Ramps are the first widely foraged food available in early spring and have a very short growing season. The flavor somewhat resembles a garlicy scallion – but wilder. Ramps can be found in season at farmers markets and even some specialty grocers. Out of season, substitutes are leeks (small) or scallions.
Ramps, the bulb, white stem and a little of the green stalk – 3 to 4 per person
(or substitute small leeks, white part only –1 leek per 4 diners)
Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Directions. Cut off roots, scrub off excess dirt on the bulbs and rinse. Dry. Coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill (or saute) the ramps until the outside starts to brown and the interior has softened. This should be completed before the salmon goes on the fire. Remove to a plate and keep warm. If using leeks, when ready to plate, quarter the leeks lengthwise.
All the other elements for this dish should be prepared and ready first so the dish can be plated as soon as the salmon comes off the fire.
As I’m sure you know, wild caught salmon is superior in flavor. If you buy a whole filet, or large piece, cut into serving portions or have your fish monger do it. Oil the filets lightly and season with Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add the zest from a fresh lemon. The salmon can be grilled outdoors over medium-high flame. If you’re preparing it in the kitchen, start in a hot saute pan with hot olive oil to sear the top, turning once, then finish in a hot oven. I like it best when served with center still slightly pink.
Arrange the plates next to each other. Spoon a single serving of the Turnip Puree onto each plate slightly off center. Place 3 or 4 Ramps on or next to the Turnip Puree. Then add a Salmon filet on each mound of Turnips and spoon the Tomato Coulis around this composition. Serve immediately and enjoy.