A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Salmon quenelles with watercress cream and rice cakes

I was reluctant to include this recipe because it’s quite time-consuming, it will probably be the most expensive preparation you’ll see on this blog, and there are a couple of places where one can screw it up. But, damn, it tastes good! Not only that, aesthetically it’s very nice on the plate (as I hope the photo demonstrates). So, forewarned, here it is. The quenelle part of the recipe is a basic recipe from Julia Child’s The Way to Cook, although I’ve varied the ingredients.

For the quenelles:
Salmon, 12 oz, cut into pieces and well chilled
Cold smoked salmon, 3-4 oz, cut into pieces and well chilled
1 large egg, well chilled
Heavy cream, ½ - 1 cup, well chilled
¼ to ½ tsp saffron
Ground white pepper
Dry vermouth, ½ cup
A few black peppercorns
More salt

1.  Place the fresh and smoked salmon, the egg, a half cup of cream, the saffron, and the salt and white pepper in a food processor. Puree until smooth. Refrigerate for an hour or so (longer is fine).
2.  In a large pan heat to boiling water, about a cup of vermouth, the peppercorns, and a teaspoon or so of salt. Let it boil for a couple of minutes to burn off some of the alcohol, and then turn down the heat to a gentle, barely discernible, simmer. You don’t want the water to be boiling when you drop the salmon mixture in because it’ll disintegrate. Now take a soup spoon and spray it with non-stick spray. Scoop up a rounded spoonful of the chilled salmon mixture and drop it gently into the simmering water. It doesn’t matter if the quenelles fall short of the Platonic egg shape ideal. A certain rusticity is fine. Do the same with as many spoonfuls as will fit into the pan without crowding. Poach for eight minutes or so, turning them over midway through. Better to keep them in too long than remove them too soon, since they should be cooked enough to easily hold their shape. When the quenelles are done, remove them to a microwavable container. They can be done a day or two in advance if you (obviously) refrigerate them.

For the two sauces:
Spinach, 12 oz (Watercress can be used if the leaves are separated from the stems.)
Sea scallops, 2
Shallots, 1, minced
Butter, 1 Tbs
Heavy cream
Lobster or clam bouillon
Pink peppercorns, 1 tsp, crushed
Ground white pepper

1.  Barely wilt the spinach in a microwave. You don’t want to shrink it to a half cup, which can easily happen with spinach. Drain any water that has accumulated. If you’re using watercress, which provides a nice peppery flavor, there is no need to microwave it.
2.  Poach the scallops in gently simmering water flavored with a bit of salt. This will take a minute or two. Scallops transmogrify into hockey pucks very quickly if heated too long.
3.  Place the spinach and the scallops in a food processor, along with a half cup of cream and process until smooth. It should be somewhat thick. And green. Set aside. This is one of the sauces, the green one in the photo.
4.  In the meantime, sauté the minced shallot in a small saucepan with the butter, but don’t allow it to brown. Add some heavy cream to it and about a cup of lobster bouillon and reduce a bit. (About this time you’re asking, “Just who the hell has lobster bouillon on hand?” Actually, it’s available in larger grocery stores in the section with dried bouillons. The brand is “Better than Bouillon”. It isn’t, but it isn’t bad either. These things tend to be salty, too. It comes in an eight ounce glass jar and is in a paste form. Look for the flavor called lobster base. If you can’t find it, use clam juice, although the sauce won’t have an appealing reddish –orange tint. ) Back to the sauce: Add some ground white pepper and a little salt, but be careful of oversalting. If you like, strain it to remove the shallots. This is quite optional. Set this aside as well. This is the second sauce.

For the rice cakes:
Risotto-type rice, 8 oz, (Arborio, Canaroli, or any other short-grain rice suitable for risotto is fine. I’ve used an Indian rice called Seeraga Samba, but this is harder to find.)
Onion, ¼ c, minced
Butter, 1 Tbs
Garlic, 1 clove, crushed
Dry vermouth, ¼ c
Lobster bouillon, 3 or 4 cups
Tomato paste, 1 Tbs

1.  Prepare the risotto. First, heat the lobster bouillon in a saucepan and place a soup ladle nearby. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion and crushed garlic clove and sauté briefly. Now add the rice and stir for a minute or two, taking care not to brown it. Now add the vermouth, turn up the heat, and boil until the liquid is pretty much gone. At this point, reduce the heat to medium and start adding the bouillon a half cup at a time (the ladle is useful here), stirring all the while, until the pan becomes almost dry. “Almost” is the key word here. Continue alternating the bouillon and the rice for thirty minutes or so, sometimes less, sometimes more, until the rice is creamy and tender. Sometime during this seemingly laborious procedure, add the tomato paste. The final product should not be dry, but neither should it be soup-like. Locate and fish out that crushed garlic clove.
2.  Butter or spray with non-stick spray a pan with dimensions around 9” by 13”. Put the risotto mixture in it, and smooth the top. The thickness should be an inch or so. Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours to firm up.

For the finished dish:
1.  Turn the pan with the risotto upside down, give it a rap, and allow it to fall onto a cutting board. It’ll be no surprise to you to see that it’s in a rectangular shape. Now cut it into triangles for a nicer presentation than squares or smaller rectangles. Heat some butter in, preferably, a non-stick pan large enough to accommodate two or three triangles, and brown them. You’ll probably have to do it in shifts, keeping them in a warm 200 degree oven.
2.  Reheat the sauces on the stovetop.
3.  Reheat the quenelles very briefly in the microwave.
4.  Place the spinach-scallop sauce on plates but leave room around the edges for the shallot-cream-lobster bouillon sauce. Now place three or four quenelles, depending on size, atop the green sauce, and spoon the latter sauce around the edges. Sprinkle some minced chives and crushed pink peppercorns on top of it all and serve.


  1. Wow...that was a labor of love! I am going to try this. Do you serve as an app or entree?

  2. A bit late here. Sorry. It's a bit labor-intensive but not as much as it might appear. Once one does quenelles the first time, it becomes easy for other quenelle recipes. I've always used this sort of thing as an entree, but it could easily be a first course by simply serving less.