The acclaim for the Smoked Salmon Mousse I served last night has taken me by surprise. I just thought it was a simple appetizer I’d throw together for friends to enjoy while watching the Downton Abbey finale. From the emails, texts and Facebook posts I’ve seen in the last 24 hours, it seems like it was a huge hit with everyone, more than the other things that I made for us to munch on while waiting to see if Matthew and Mary would finally get together (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t watched it.). It’s no small thrill for me to witness my friends enjoy my cooking, especially when the recipe is something I haven’t even attempted to make in years.
A Charlotte Mold – I tried to find a salmon-shaped pan but couldn’t locate one at any store in the city
The basic recipe is one that I found on Epicurious.com many years back. I’ve re-jigged it substantially here to fit my tastes. By using wild-caught salmon in the fresh and smoked variety, the salmon-y flavor came through really intensely, like eating salmon spread slathered on a bagel. Poaching the fish instead of using canned fish is actually an easy process, not dissimilar to the one for poaching chicken, but with less water and in a shallow pan. It is also better than having to comb through a can of salmon with all the bits of random stuff in it, and taking the time to do this simple step really improves the flavor of the final dish.
Dill, scallions, and lemon – perfect with the salmon
In addition, I decided to add dill instead of cilantro to the mousse mixture and to amp up the citrus a bit by adding the lemon zest as well as the lemon juice. I think that this gave it a nice tang as well. Serving this with endive and radicchio made a crunchy, slightly bitter counterpoint to the creamy, richness of the mousse.
It does take a bit of work to put together, but the rewards are well worth it as the final dish is delicious!
In my original plan, I was going to be low-tech about putting this together, to keep in the Edwardian spirit of the evening, but in the end, I resorted to the efficiency of the food processor to give the mixture the texture for which I was looking, not completely smooth but not rough and chunky either. Instead of using a machine to pull together the cream and the salmon, however, I decided that folding the fish into the whipped cream would give me a better result and lighter texture. Something must have worked, as everyone really loved it. This is one recipe I decided I should not keep hidden away in my files.
You are never too old to lick the bowl or spatula
Smoked Salmon Mousse
Prep Time: allow an hour cooking time, including time to poach the salmon, plus at least 8 hours setting time
Serving Size: 8-10 as an appetizer, maybe, as your guests will devour it
Waxed or Parchment Paper
Vegetable or Canola Oil
8-10 small dill sprigs
4 oz. piece of wild-caught Salmon
1/2 tsp. dry White Wine
1 small Bay Leaf
1 slice Lemon
1/4 c. plus 1 Tbsp. cold Water
2 3/4 tsp. boiling Water
1/2 packet of powdered Gelatin
1 1/2 tsp. Lemon Juice
3/4 c. Sour Cream
1/8 tsp. Tabasco sauce (add more to taste, but the dish shouldn’t be spicy)
4 oz. wild-caught Smoked Salmon, cut into small pieces
Zest of 1/2 Lemon, grated
2 Tbsp. Scallions, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh Dill, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. White Pepper, freshly ground
1/2 c. Heavy Cream (not whipping cream)
Endive and Radicchio spears
Prepare the Charlotte mold by cutting a circle of waxed or parchment paper the size of the bottom of the pan. Oil the bottom and sides of the pan. Place the paper inside the pan on the bottom. Put a very thin swipe of oil on the paper. Place the dill springs on the paper. These will end up decorating the top of the mousse when it is unmolded.
Decorate the bottom of the pan by placing sprigs of dill on top of the paper lining
To poach the fresh salmon, put it, skin side down, in a skillet with 1/4 cup water, bay leaf, and lemon slice. With heat on low, let it come to a simmer and watch the fish as the color changes from bright, vivid pink to light rose pink. When the color has changed about halfway up the side of the fish, turn it over to cook it on the other side. When it the entire piece is light pink on the outside, give it another 30 seconds, and then turn off the flame. Remove the fish from the water and set aside to cool.
Poached wild-caught salmon
Pour lemon juice and 1 Tablespoon cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 packet of powdered gelatin over the liquid and let it sit for a couple of minutes to soften. Pour boiling water over the mixture and stir to dissolve the gelatin. The liquid will start to look thick.
In the bowl of a food processor, pour in the sour cream and Tabasco sauce. Add the smoked salmon and the poached salmon. Blend until smooth, allowing for some texture in the mixture.
Salmons and sour cream blended together
Add the dissolved gelatin, lemon zest, scallions, chopped dill, salt, and pepper to the salmon mixture. Pulse again, several times, until everything is thoroughly blended together. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning as needed. There should be a slight tang from sour cream along with an herbal freshness from the dill, a bright citrus lift from the lemon, and perhaps the teeniest kick of heat from the Tabasco. These flavors will change again with the addition of the whipped cream.
Mixture with the spices added and the texture a bit smoother
At this point, in a separate bowl whip the cream until it is in the soft to medium peak range. Do not over beat it.
Fold one quarter of the salmon mixture into the cream, lifting from the bottom to incorporate everything. Continue to add the salmon mixture one fourth of a time (i.e., three more times), folding each time to keep the mixture light. With the last fold, make sure that the cream and salmon are completely mixed together. Taste again for seasoning. Refrain from eating it all before you put it in the Charlotte mold.
Gently spoon the mixture into the bottom of the Charlotte mold, taking care not to disturb the dill springs on the bottom so that they set up properly.
Mousse mixture in the bottom of the pan
Continue to spoon the mouse into the pan until there is none left in the mixing bowl. Gently shake the Charlotte mold to make sure the mousse is level.
All the mousse is in the pan
Ready to go into the fridge to set up
Cover the mold with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to set up. The mousse should be kept in the fridge for at least 8 hours and can be prepared the night before serving. When ready to serve it, remove the plastic wrap and run a knife alongside the edge of the mousse in the pan to loosen it. Place the bottom of the mold in a pan of hot water to loosen it further. Take a plate or platter, put it on top of the mold and flip it and the pan over together to release the mold. You might have to give the mold a slight shake to release it fully. Discard the waxed or parchment paper.
Smoked Salmon Mousse
Serve the Smoked Salmon Mouse alongside endive and/or radicchio spears. Don’t anticipate having any leftovers.