Potato and Leek Encrusted Salmon
I fell in love with this dish the minute I saw Jaques Pepin make it on TV. I never thought to put a piece of fish inside a bed of shredded potatoes to steam it to a flaky doneness but after watching this master, I just had to try it.
It sure turned out to be a wonderful method of cooking salmon or any other large fillet of fish. Jaques used sea bass in his recipe but I just happened to have some salmon which worked quite nicely also. I may have to try this method on several kinds of fish to see how they turn out but I was quite happy with tonight’s dinner.
The recipe began with three medium potatoes shredded with a box grater and squeezed of its liquid. Don’t just throw the liquid out when you squeeze the potato shred… collect that juice in a small bowl or plastic container and set it aside to settle. The starch will settle to the bottom and the liquid will rise to the top where you can pour it off and enjoy a free tablespoon or so of potato starch to thicken sauces. I used this starch to thicken a lemony wine sauce to pour over this dish when it was done.
With potatoes shredded, and juice set aside, I chopped up a small leek and tossed it together with the potatoes. I seasoned this mixture with salt, pepper and the zest and juice of half a lemon. Next, in a stainless skillet I heated some extra virgin olive oil…about two tablespoons and placed one fourth of the potato mixture in a spot as big as the salmon fillet and another fourth in the other side of the skillet the same way. With the heat on medium-high, I place a fillet on each bed of potato and leek and let it cook with a lid on until the potato was well browned and the fish was beginning to steam…about three minutes or so.
Once the fish started to become more opaque, on each fillet I place the remaining two fourths of potato mixture on top with a drizzle of olive oil and carefully flipped the fillets over to brown the potatoes and steam the fish on the other side. This time I placed a good couple of servings of asparagus fresh from the garden directly between the fillets. The lid went on again. After about three minutes everything was ready to plate up.
Now this empty skillet still had something to offer. There was a bit of browned bits stuck on and with that reserved potato juice I mentioned before, I poured off the liquid and pure starch was left on the bottom. This other half of the lemon’s juice and its zest went right in along with some salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and a splash of dry white wine (water works fine too). I re-heated the skillet, poured in this slurry and it thickened immediately to a perfect consistency. It was so tasty on top of the fish as well as the asparagus.