The Simple Art of Cooking and Ireland Inspirations

While studying abroad more than 40 years ago, I took a brief holiday in Ireland. Well before the words ‘locovore,’ ‘sustainable,’ ‘farmers markets,’ ‘CSA’s,’ ‘organic’ and the like were part of our everyday vocabulary. In Ireland, in the homes and on the farms, I recall how the people took great pride in their local products, such as fresh salmon and newborn vegetables, locally made pork products and earthy, hearth-baked breads. I suppose I’ve always been inspired by ingredients.

A dear friend and native of Belfast, Ireland, speaks nostalgically of her mother’s Irish stews, salmon fish cakes and lemon Meringue pies. Though corned beef and cabbage may appear on many a menu here in the United States to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, in Ireland they are, no doubt, feasting on one or more of their native dishes. So if you’re feeling a bit Irish, and everyone does on St. Patrick’s Day, you might consider preparing sautéed salmon steaks with mustard, dill sauce or the couldn’t-be-simpler salmon baked in a foil envelope. These recipes may not be quintessentially Irish, but they are as simple and straightforward as the Irish people are.

SAUTEED SALMON STEAKS WITH YOGURT, MUSTARD, DILL SAUCE

Sauté steaks with shallots then employ the professional restaurant technique of finishing the dish off with white wine in a hot oven.

Serves 4

 

1 tablespoon butter or canola oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

4 6-8 ounce salmon steaks

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

 

For the Sauce*

1 cup plain yogurt, drained

2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

 

1. In a large skillet with a metal handle, preferably non-stick, melt butter or heat oil over medium heat and sauté shallots for a few seconds until translucent. Add salmon steaks and sauté quickly until lightly glazed on both sides. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

2. Pour white wine over steaks then transfer skillet with the steaks in it to a preheated oven and roast for 7 to 8 minutes until springy to the touch. Serve with yogurt sauce.

 

*Prepare yogurt sauce ahead: Place yogurt in a sieve over a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Transfer yogurt to a mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients and stir to mix. Can be prepared ahead and refrigerated in a suitable container until ready to serve.

 

BAKED SALMON IN A FOIL ENVELOPE

‘En papillote’ is a French term, but it is a familiar phrase for food, generally fish that is cooked in paper or foil. It is an excellent way to bake fish, and the simplicity of this recipe is perfect for calorie counters. Place the fish on a large square of foil, and season with a sprinkle of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to your taste, several sprigs of fresh tarragon and a light coat of olive oil. It is ready for cooking. The fish emerges from the oven moist and tender, perfumed with the aroma of the fresh herb.

Serves 4

 

Heavy duty aluminum foil for wrapping the fish

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet with or without skin

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 to 4 large sprigs fresh tarragon leaves

 

Preheat oven to 400

 

1. Cut a piece of foil large enough to enclose the salmon. Place the fish on the foil, shiny side in, and center it.

 

2. Season the fish liberally with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle oil over the fish and top with fresh tarragon leaves.

 

3. Lift the two long ends of foil to meet and fold over the fish. Fold the sides of foil to enclose the fish. Place on the middle rack of a preheated oven and bake for about 18 to 20 minutes until fish is tender and just barely pink within. Let rest in foil for a few minutes, then unwrap and serve.

 

*The use of fresh herbs in this recipe is essential for best flavor. If fresh tarragon is not available, I have used fresh thyme or flat-leaf Italian parsley with good results.

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