Wild Salmon: Seafood Sauerkraut and cruising memories
What happens when the freshest of ingredients meet some past their prime in my fridge? Some would say, get rid of the old and make room for the new. My answer is mix them up, giving leftover cooking a fresh twist.
It all started with a quick trip to the shop for milk with Mr T. I should have known we’d end up with more, especially when I spotted him at the fish stall next door eyeing out scallops and wild Canadian salmon. The latter in particular is rarely seen fresh in australian retail shops, and very much a delicacy for us. Unlike the farmed Atlantic salmon usually available, wild sockeye salmon stands out for its brighter colour, drier and firm texture as well as a distinctively pronounced taste ( more fishy, less fatty ). While it is pricey, in my opinion the superior flavour makes it well worth buying. If only for the memories it brings back…
We sampled our first sockeye many years ago, while cruising thru the Canadian Inside Passage onto Alaska’s Glacier Bay. This was part of our long Transpacific voyage, back in our boating days!
Marc was a toddler then, and would stay onboard with me, while we would wait for Mr T, Craig and Mal to come back from their fishing expeditions, the dinghy full of salmon, halibut, or rockfish!
It was hard work in cold and wet conditions most of the times, but we also thought it was a lot of fun and felt tremendously lucky to be able to catch our own dinner. I remember extracting the roe from the salmon to make our own caviar, catching dungeness crabs bigger than a plate from the back of the boat and ending up serendipitous guests at some remote fishing lodge party…
Oh the antics we got up to! Little did we know that 20 years later, this would be labelled as gourmet expeditions!
Fast forward 18 years and last week, we came home with an unexpected bag of seafood when I had already planned some sort of vegetarian dish for dinner using up leftover mashed potatoes from the night before and green cabbage past their prime ( In hindsight, the prospect of a vegetarian leftover meal might have been the reason for Mr T picking seafood…)
Coleslaw was out, as no one felt like salad. Mixed mash and boiled cabbage was mentioned, but the idea seemed wrong to me. Then pouring over one of my french cookbooks, I came across the recipe for Choucroute de la Mer, seafood sauerkraut.
Most people know the meat version of this Alsatian dish with pork , smoked sausages and bacon. The lesser known seafood one is equally delicious while lighter and fresher. I took my cue from Justine Schofield recipe, using 2 types of fish ( the salmon and some cod I had acquired earlier to make fish tacos ) but taking the liberty to omit the shellfish as a) Marc is allergic to crustaceans an b) Mr T had other plans for the scallops. I substituted some chorizo for the smoked fish ( because that’s what I had and it turns out smoked sausage and fish go well together ), chopped spring onions for parsley and fried the mashed potatoes into little cakes instead of boiling new ones.
Of course, I needed to pickle the cabbage first and I discovered an old Martha Stewart recipe for a quick sauerkraut which was a cinch to make.
The only element that required attention was the sauce beurre blanc, which is not hard to make as long as you keep your eyes on the time and make sure the butter does not turn oily on you.
Other than that, most of the other ingredients are staples: oil, butter, chicken stock, white wine vinegar, …and yes, I keep juniper berries in my pantry, and on occasions I have wine I am prepared to cook with rather than drink!
The verdict: “Not bad for a friday night dear “ said Mr T. “Wow, that sauce! how come you’ve never made that before?” exclaimed Marc. “ I particularly liked the chorizo” observed Anne. I guess, I’ll take that as a success, though I must mention that the kitchen smelled of pickled cabbage for a couple of days afterwards so I think that next time, I will make an industrial quantity of sauerkraut and bottle it for future use. Rubben sandwich anyone?
From Everyday Food, Martha Stewart
I like this recipe for a quick and easy way to pickle cabbage.
It is not however, the way to ferment cabbage, which requires days of leaving the vegetable to sit in its own juices and allow the bacteria to thrive on the sugars in order to achieve proper acidity level and flavor development. Should you have the time and inclination for the more conventional sauerkraut, you can check this recipe.
Makes 3 cups
1/2 head green cabbage, outer leaves removed, cored and thinly sliced ( use a mandoline or food processor )
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp coarse salt
- In a saucepan, combine cabbage, vinegar, salt and 3/4 cup of water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender, about 30mn.
- To store, refrigerate in a mason jar up to 2 weeks.
Choucroute with Seafood
Adapted from Justine Schofield
4 cups left over mashed potatoes, cold
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
750g sauerkraut, rinsed and drained ( homemade or store bought )
3 juniper berries, bruised
1 bay leaf
375ml dry white wine ( riesling is good )
250ml chicken stock
500g salmon fillets, skin on
500g cod fillets ( or other firm white fish like snapper )
salt flakes and pepper. to taste
250g chorizo or smoked sausage, thickly sliced
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1 French shallot, finely chopped
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp white wine
3 tbsp cream ( I used mascarpone, which made it thicker than planned )
150g butter, chilled and cubed
- Shape the cold mashed potatoes into patties, and set aside in the fridge until ready.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sweat for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the juniper berries and bay leaf, cook for 2 minutes or so before adding the sauerkraut and some cracked pepper to taste. Pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Cook for 2 minutes , then add the stock. Turn the heat down to low and simmer gently covered for 45mn.
- Make the sauce: place the shallot, vinegar, and white wine in a saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes until reduced by 2/3. Stir in the cream and reduce for 2-3 minutes ( if using mascarpone, there is no need to reduce so much as it is thick cream already ). Turn the heat down to low and gradually start whisking in the cold butter, a cube at a time. Keep whisking until all the butter is incorporated and the sauce is nice and glossy. Keep warm.
- Take the lid off the sauerkraut and turn off the heat.
Add the chorizo to the sauerkraut, cover the pan and steam for a few minutes while you look after the potatoes and the fish. Heat the oven to 150C.
- Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Drizzle some EVO and cook the potatoes patties , about 5 minutes on each sides, until brown and crispy. Keep warm in the oven.
- In the same frying pan, drizzle some more EVO and cook the fish, skin side down, for 2-3 minutes until the salmon skin is crisp. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.
- To serve: place the sauerkraut, chorizo and potato patties on the plates. Arrange the fish on top, pour a generous amount of butter sauce and sprinkle some green onion.
- Enjoy with a glass of Riesling ( hopefully you have some left to drink! ).