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Appetizers, Fish and Shellfish

Confit of salmon with pressed caviar and brown butter-Meyer lemon hollandaise

Confit of salmon with pressed caviar and brown butter-Meyer lemon hollandaise
Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Holiday meals tend to pass by in a blur of turkeys, hams, roast beef and sweet potatoes. How do you break through that to make an impression on your guests? Caviar is one sure cure. And it's one that can ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes, plus chilling and resting times for the salmon | Serves 4
  • 4 portions of salmon weighing about 5 ounces each, cut from the thick top loin, measuring approximately 3-inches square, skin removed, dark gray areas trimmed away
  • About 2 teaspoons plus 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 ounce pressed caviar
  • About 1 quart canola oil
  • Zest from 2 Meyer lemons, removed with a vegetable peeler, white pith removed, plus finely grated zest from 1/2 Meyer lemon, divided
  • 2 fresh bay leaves, snapped in half
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives

Step 1Season each of the 4 salmon portions evenly with about one-half teaspoon salt and then wrap them in plastic film. Refrigerate the salmon for several hours, preferably overnight, to allow the salt to be absorbed.

Step 2Remove the salmon portions from the plastic wrap, rinse them and then dry them well with paper towels. Use a sharp paring knife to cut a pocket in the sides of each portion. To do this, set the square, flat bottom of the salmon portion down onto a flat, level surface. Insert the tip of the paring knife into the center of one of the sides and angled toward the opposite corner. Push the tip in to a depth of about 2 inches, taking care not to go out the other side of the salmon. Now, sweep the tip of the knife toward the other corner without cutting a large slit in the side. Remove the paring knife.

Step 3Fill a small disposable plastic piping bag with the pressed caviar and cut a one-fourth-inch opening at the tip. Insert the tip of the piping bag into the salmon pocket as far as you can, and pipe one-fourth of the pressed caviar into the interior pocket. Repeat with the remaining salmon portions. Leave the salmon at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before beginning to cook it.

Step 4Find a pan that will allow you to set all four portions of salmon on the bottom without crowding them and that will allow the salmon to be covered with oil by one-half inch. Add the oil to the pan and slowly heat it to 110 degrees (no hotter). Add the peeled zest from 2 Meyer lemons and the bay leaves. Maintain the temperature by keeping the pan in a warm location, adding heat if necessary.

Step 5While the salmon is resting, begin to make the hollandaise. Whip the cream in a small bowl to stiff peaks and then hold it in the refrigerator until needed.

Step 6Place the butter in a small sauce pot and heat over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter until it foams, then begin whisking it slowly until it begins to take on a nut-brown color. Once the butter browns, remove from heat and measure three-fourths of a cup of the brown butter and keep it hot.

Step 7Fill the base of a double boiler with about an inch of water and bring it to a simmer. Combine the yolks, lemon juice, water, remaining three-fourths teaspoon salt and remaining grated lemon zest in the bowl of the double boiler and whisk them together. Place the bowl over the simmering water and continue to whisk vigorously until the yolks thicken, are foamy and become pale in color. Remove the bowl from the double boiler and place it on a damp towel that has been coiled into a "turban" in order to hold the bowl steady while whisking in the butter. Drizzle the butter into the yolk mixture while continuing to whisk vigorously. The mixture should form a thick emulsified hollandaise. Cover the hollandaise and keep it in a very warm but not hot location until ready to serve.

Step 8Immerse the salmon portions in the oil and carefully stabilize the temperature at 110 degrees. (To maintain the temperature, briefly warm it over low heat or, to cool it down, just add a little room temperature oil.) Check the salmon after 12 minutes; it should still appear to be almost raw but begin to flake apart like it is cooked when gently pressed. If the salmon does not begin to flake, cook it for a couple of more minutes.

Step 9While the salmon is cooking, finish the hollandaise by whisking in the whipped cream to lighten the texture. For added refinement, strain the hollandaise through a fine-meshed strainer.

Step 10Remove the salmon from the oil using a slotted spatula and set briefly on a couple of layers of paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

Step 11To serve, sprinkle the minced chives over the top of the salmon and then set the portions on individual warm serving plates. Spoon the hollandaise next to the salmon and serve while warm. This dish is best accompanied with a wilted green such as spinach.


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