Recipe: Salmon Wellington
Who doesn't like flaky pastry? If you don't, that's okay. I'll have it. 😉
I remember eating a croissant when I was much younger from The French Baker (a bakery from the Philippines). After eating that, I asked my mom if we could go back. So we did and I grabbed a piece of everything else that looked like it (chocolate croissant, blueberry danish, raspberry danish, cream cheese danish, and even their savoury tuna turnovers). I just went nuts and my whole mouth was in a frenzy! It was flaky, chewy, buttery, and just luxurious to devour.
When I finally learned how to make puff pastry in college, my respect for bakers just elevated tenfold because there was heart in making it. If you have a rolling pin and some patience, then try it out. It's therapeutic too.
Puff pastry is basically a layered pastry dough that's rolled and folded with butter and flour. Once the dough is rolled out to a sheet, another layer of butter and flour is added and it's then folded again; this process is repeated several times. This is also called "laminating" (so you end up with a "laminated dough"). When you bake it, the butter in between the layers pop, creating pockets, and the flaky texture is achieved. Just imagine multiple popping in between the dough, the steam inside that pocket expands the pastry, creating all those yummmmeh layers. Depending on how many times you repeat the process, then that's how much layers you'll have. Some doughs can have a hundred paper-thin layers!
I'm happy there are ready-made sheets and I try my best to buy it from local bakers (even from farmer's markets - well, this was obviously before the pandemic). There's one shop here in St. Lawrence Market in Toronto that the baker makes batches of puff pastry sheets and you can buy them frozen. I never remember the name of his shop but I know how to get there. Good enough for me. His sheets definitely cost more than the store bought brands but he took the time to make it. Fist bump and respect. Plus, the butter he uses is just way tastier.
This recipe can make 4 servings (they're a bit massive, so you can even divide each serving into 2 portions). Or, you can use a whole salmon fillet instead and the filling should work out fine if you spread it out. If the whole salmon fillet is bigger, adjust the recipe and multiply by 1.5 (i.e. 1 cup = 1.5 cups).
You'll need parchment paper, a rolling pin (or an empty wine bottle), a baking sheet, and counterspace.
4 single portion salmon fillets, patted dry, skinned and deboned (just check because you never know, feel it with your fingertips and remove any fish bones you feel with tweezers)
2 puff pastry sheets, thawed
flour, for dusting
2 tbsp butter, melted for brushing (instead of butter, you can use egg wash to brush)
1/4 small onion, minced
1/2 cup fresh Bella mushrooms, chopped (you can use canned button mushrooms too)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup cooked spinach (In case you buy the frozen kind, make sure you strain all the water out. If you're using fresh spinach, just boil in water, drain, and chop until you make about a cup.)
225g cream cheese, softened (This is one bar, I use the light kind too so it's less salty.)
2 tsp garlic powder (I don't use fresh garlic for this recipe because it's too strong and will dominate the flavour of the overall dish.)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded/grated
1. Pre-heat the oven to 425℉. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a skillet, heat up the olive oil to medium heat. Sauté the onions and mushrooms. Once tender, set aside and let it cool.
3. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, cooked mushrooms, cooked spinach, garlic powder, pepper, and shredded cheese. Mix until fully incorporated and set aside.
5. On your lined baking sheet, place the salmon fillets on each portioned pastry sheet. Top each salmon with 1/4 of the cream cheese and spinach mixture.
7. Score the top of your pastry dough using the back of your paring knife (I just drew out a diamond pattern so it looks pretty. Scoring allows for air to be released while baking.)
8. Brush the tops with your melted butter (or egg wash, if this was your preference).
9. Place your baking sheet at the center rack of the oven. Bake for about 12 minutes. (Not that bad, eh?! Doesn't take long! And your salmon will come out succulent and tender!) Although, if you want it browner, go for 15 minutes. (Thank you, Maillard reaction - the chemical reaction of sugars and acids making them brown due to heat.)
10. (Okay.... the hard part again. Waiting.) Let this cool for about 5-7 minutes. You don't want to disturb the bubbling cheese inside.
*I was able to find procedure photos in my vault of food pics! Woot woot! 🙌 That's a win!
**Baking is an exact science. But cooking is much more lenient and to taste. This also applies with measurements. You can adjust how much of a certain ingredient you want - if you want more or less, it's up to you. I'm just always aware of which foods are saltier than others so I adjust my seasoning - like knowing that cheese, soy sauce, olives, etc. will contribute to the saltiness of the dish. Don't worry if you under-seasoned. You can always adjust and add in the end. I know some chefs are highly offended when someone picks up the salt shaker. Don't be scared, it's your tastebuds (and your money).
You can serve this with a side soup or salad. Keep in mind this is a very rich and filling dish so go easy on the side. None of that mac and cheese or cheddar broccoli soups. Serve it with a light balsamic salad or a broccoli and kale slaw. When served with a slightly acidic side, it cuts the richness of the butter from the pastry and cream cheese filling and thus balancing the whole dish. Pairing this with fruity white wine will do wonders as well!
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