Monday, December 14, 2009

Dec 14: Daring Cooks - En Croute

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

Thank you Simone for hosting this month's challenge. Her blog, Junglefrog Cooking, should have the other options to this challenge.

Recipe source : Good Food online

Mandatory for this challenge is to cook with pastry!

If you do not like fish or are allergic to salmon, you can substitute the salmon for the Beef version, which is Beef Wellington. Recipe below. Salmon can be substituted for another type of fish, although I am not sure which fish would do well in pastry. Vegetarian versions are also allowed. For a vegetarian version check out this recipe on my blog and leave out the chicken

For this challenge, I chose to do a Salmon en Croute and after Thanksgiving I decided to make a Vegetarian en Croute. I made the shortcrust recipe included in this challenge.

Shortcrust pastry

While this is not mandatory to do, I highly recommend making your own shortcrust pastry as it is very simple to do! As mentioned in the notes; please make sure to not add too much water as that is the key to having a successful shortcrust pastry.

[Looking at the shortcrust recipe, it appears to be very similar to a typical pie crust. The main difference is butter is used as the fat of choice for the shortcrust.]


450 gr (15.8 ounces or 3.2 cups ) of plain all purpose flour
200 gr ( 7 ounce) cold butter
pinch of salt
2 to 3 T of Water [Note: I ended up using more water about 4 1/2 T. I suspect the water quantity is off by 1/2]

[I opted to use a food processor.]

Stir in the salt, butter chunks and flour.

Blend until the butter is incorporated - with the appearance of corn meal or bread crumbs.

Then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough.
Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface.
Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.

Salmon en croute:
Mascarpone or cream cheese 5.2 ounces/150 gr [I could only find cream cheese]
Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach - 0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr
Shortcrust pastry - 17.6 ounces, 500 gr.
Salmon fillet (skinless)- 17.6 ounce/500 gr [Instead of a large fillet, I cut into individual servings which were about 4 ounces. My reasoning... more crust per person.]
egg - 1 medium sized

Preheat the oven to 200°C/390 F.

1.Put the cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.

2. Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don’t have any thick lumps of pastry as these won’t cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.

[The fillet was thin, so I doubled it over and applied sauce between layers. Also, the salmon was seasoned with salt and pepper.]

3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test whether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.

[I played around with the folding. The "tuck-under" or the "crimp the edges" wrap.]

[While the salmon was baking, I embellished the sauce to make a basil-less pest. Is it still pesto without basil? lol! I added roasted pistachios and garlic to boost the flavor.]

Vegetarian en Croute
After Thanksgiving, I decided to use the remaining shortcrust to make a vegetarian en croute.

I used mushrooms, the remaining greens and ricotta.

The flavor of slowly sauteed mushrooms is wonderful. I think it has to do with the natural umami flavors that are brought out during the cooking process.

The mushroom were coarsely cut into quarters. The goal was to have some large chunks to give a feeling of heartiness. When mushrooms are sliced too thin, they eventually become too small.

8 oz Oyster Mushrooms
8 oz Button Mushrooms
1/4 (a couple pinches) Thyme
1 Shallot, diced
1 Green Onion, minced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 T Butter or olive oil.
Salt and Pepper
2 C Fresh Spinach
2 C Arugula

The aromatics were sweated to flavor the oil/butter.

Next, the mushrooms and thyme is added and slowly cooked over medium heat.
The key is the slow saute will drive off moisture which will eventually lead to a nice golden browning of the mushrooms (as shown below).

Finally the greens are added... to cook down.
Allow the mixture to cool before using.

Making the en croute... add a layer of ricotta, followed with the mushroom mixture and sauce.

Another layer of ricotta and sauce... and wrap.

The Finished "En Croutes"

First the salmon... Surprisingly, the salmon was very moist and the crust held up to the moistness. I served with sauteed asparagus, glazed carrots and finally scalloped potatoes. I chose scalloped potatoes since they reminded me of fish scales. :-)

Finally, the vegetarian version.
I'm familiar with using mushrooms with meat dishes, such as a pot roast, but what was delicious surprise about the mushrooms was the "meaty" flavor. The cooking with the aromatics, butter and thyme (which is a common basis of a pot roast), plus the nicely browned mushrooms gave a terrific meat-like flavor. The flavor reminded me of the crispy brown bits on a seared steak or the pan fond after cooking a roast. That's the mysterious umami flavor at work. I was surprised by mock meat flavor that was achieved by the mushrooms. I learned something new. :-)


Wic said...

I adore the step by step pictures and the results looks absolutely delicious. great work.

Jenny said...

Wow both the fish and the veggie version looks amazing! I'm getting hungry here :)
I did the meat version (with moose/elk) but I'm definitely going to try the fish and veggies as well. Great job on the challenge - especially for making your own pastry dough!

Jenn said...

Your en croutes look delicious! Love the addition of pistachios, mmm!

TaGa_Luto said...

Beautiful presentation. I like your step by step shot on the pastry.

Unknown said...

The mushroom photo made me almost drool! Glad to hear both the salmon and the veggie version worked out for you :)

Lauren said...

The vegetarian one is adorable! Love the flavours you played with there =D. They all look amazing John!

syrupandhoney said...

I had to add more water to my pastry too, but mine turned out a little tough. I should have used the food processor method, I think. Great job!

Anonymous said...

John, love that you did both a salmon and a vegetarian version of the 'en croute' family. Those mushrooms are call8ing to me! Beautiful photos, and mouth watering pastry for both. As always, fantastic challenge results!

BTW, where has Audax gone? He just poofed! He didn't even post his wellington challenge, and as always, he was one of the first to finish. Strange!