Friday, February 12, 2016

Seared Salmon with Crawfish Beurre Blanc

     New Orleans Style French Cooking!
     Searing is a sauté cuisson technique.  Searing at a high temperature is how Cajun Blackened Fish is made.  For most seafood applications, searing at a moderately high temperature is good, because the object is to increase flavor by caramelizing the meat and the object is not to blacken a spice mix on the fish.  Searing at too high of a temperature will result in a charred surface on the meat.
     Searing only requires a small amount of oil, lard or butter.  Searing with a dry pan can be done in certain applications too.  The object is to allow the meat to make contact with the metallic surface of the pan till a Maillard Reaction occurs.  Too much oil, lard or butter will result in pan frying or sautéing the meat.
     The classic French searing technique involves searing one side of a fish filet at a moderate temperature for about 6 minutes, till the flesh or skin becomes crisp.  Then the filet is flipped and the other side is seared for about 1 minute.  Searing a fish filet that has the skin attached is best, but the skin must be cooked till the skin is crisp and some browning occurs and or the Maiilard Reaction will not be complete and the skin will stick to the pan when the fish is flipped.

     French chefs have a word to describe nearly any culinary process.  The French term "Maillard Reaction" refers to the point in time when enough caramelization occurs to allow a piece of meat to break free from the surface of a pan.
     For example, when a plain raw boneless chicken breast is placed on a small amount of oil on a hot pan, the raw chicken will stick to the pan.  If a spatuala is used to flip the chicken before a little bit of brown color appears on the surface, the surface of the chicken will still be stuck to the pan and the meat will shred when the spatula pries it loose.  If the chicken breast is not disturbed till some caramelization occurs, then the chicken will break free from the surface of the pan with ease.
     The Maillard Reaction happens because heat evaporates excess moisture and molecular contraction occurs.  Then the composition of the surface of the meat loses its ability to adhere to a surface.  The Maillard Reaction is important to remember, especially when searing delicate meats, like fish.  The less oil, lard or butter that is used when searing, the more important that the Maillard Reaction is.    
     Voila!  Now you know that having the patience to wait for the Maillard Reaction to occur before flipping a piece of meat in a hot pan, will result in an undamaged piece of meat!

     I used to recommend Northeastern Atlantic farm raised salmon, because it was better quality than salmon that was farm raised in tropical waters, like Southeast Asia.  Now I hesitate to recommend farm raised salmon of any kind.  The reason is because farm raised salmon poses many health issues and environmental issues, especially now that GMO "Supersize Salmon" have been introduced to the aquaculture farming process.    
     The best choice is to select natural wild salmon that is harvested in a heavily regulated fishery.  The Alaskan fishery is heavily regulated and they do not allow over-harvesting, which can cause the extinction of a species.  There are several different Alaskan wild salmon species and each has its own flavor and texture characteristics.
     Wild salmon is subject to availability, so a fish market may not have wild Alaskan Salmon in stock every time that a customer seeks this product.  Limited availability is related to sustainable catch limitations.
      If no wild salmon from Alaska or any other heavily regulated sustainable fishery is available, then select another sustainable fish species and avoid purchasing fish that has sustainability issues.  Being a responsible shopper is the best way to preserve wild seafood stock and avoid the depletion or extinction of fish species.
     I always recommend the Seafood Watch website for readers that want to enjoy a guilt free seafood dining experience.  Here is the link:  Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch

     Beurre blanc is very easy to make, if you follow this single key to success.  The wine reduction must be hot and the butter pats must be slightly chilled.  A classic Beurre Blanc has no cream fortification.  A classic Beurre Blanc is almost always made to order, because the emulsion tends to separate at a proper holding temperature.
     If you are making Beurre Blanc for a large group of people, then adding a splash of cream to the wine reduction is a good choice.  Reducing the cream with the wine reduction will provide a stable base for the Beurre Blanc.  A cream fortified beurre blanc is less susceptible to temperature variations.  Technically, reduced cream is butterfat, so this modification is somewhat okay to do, but classic French cuisine chefs frown upon this practice.      

     Crawfish Beurre Blanc:
     This recipe yields 1 generous portion.
     Be sure to save the orange colored crawfish fat from between the head and the tail.  The crawfish fat adds a very rich tasting flavor to the beurre blanc! 
     Step 1:  Select 20 to 25 poached whole crawfish.
     Save 1 crawfish to use as a garnish later in the recipe.
     Shell the crawfish tails and save the orange colored crawfish fat.
     Set the shelled crawfish tails and orange fat aside.
     Step 2:  Cut 3 ounces of chilled unsalted butter into square butter pats that are about 3/16" thick.
     Keep the butter pats chilled.
     Step 3:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced shallot.
     Gently sauté till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Step 4:  Add 1 cup of dry white wine.  (White Burgundy Chardonnay is a good choice.)
     Add 6 whole black peppercorns.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Simmer and reduce the wine, till it is a very thin syrup consistency.
     Step 5:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Immediately add 2 or 3 of the reserved chilled butter pats at a time while constantly whisking, till a butter sauce emulsion is formed.  Wait till each addition of butter liquifies and emulsifies before adding more.  Keep whisking till the beurre blanch looks creamy
     Step 6:  Pour the beurre blanc through a fine mesh strainer into a ceramic cup.
     Keep the beurre blanc warm on a stove top or in a 90ºF bain marie.
     Step 7:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of water or shrimp stock.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add the shelled crawfish tails and the crawfish fat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till almost all of the liquid evaporates.  (A small amount of emulsified crawfish fat will remain in the pan.)
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Allow the ingredients to cool to the same temperature as the beurre blanc.
     Add the warm crawfish fat and the crawfish tails to the beurre blanc while stirring with a spoon.
     Step 9:  Keep the ceramic cup of Crawfish Beurre Blanc warm on a stove top or in a 90ºF bain marie.   (Do not allow the temperature to go over 135ºF or the butter emulsion will separate!)
     Serve within 45 minutes.
     *45 minutes is how long items like Hollandaise or Beurre Blanc can be held for immediate service without worrying about pathogen contamination.

     Seared Filet Of Salmon:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     A tail piece of salmon is good for this recipe, because it provides a larger area of contact with the hot pan, so it will finish cooking quicker.
     Step 1:  Select a 6 to 8 ounce salmon filet that has the skin attached.
     Season the salmon with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter.
     Allow the butter to get hot, so the moisture evaporates and the butter clarifies.
     Step 3:  Place the salmon in the pan with the skin side down.
     Allow the salmon to sear undisturbed for 5 to 6 minutes, till the skin is browned and crisp.
     *Do not shake the pan or peek at the skin with a spatula!  When the Maillard Reaction occurs, the salmon skin will easily break free from the surface of the pan when it is flipped with a spatula.
     Step 4:  Use a spatula to flip the salmon.
     Sear the other side of the salmon for about 1 minute.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Seared Salmon with Crawfish Beurre Blanc:
     This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.  
     Always save applying a beurre blanc during for the last step of a recipe, just before serving!  This way, the beurre blanc will not separate or become cold.
     Step 1:  Heat the reserved whole crawfish in a small pot of boiling water, till it is hot.
     Remove the whole crawfish from the pot and keep it warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Use a spatula to place the seared salmon on the front half of the plate, with the crispy skin side facing up.
     Step 3:  Use a ring mold to place a portion of rice on the back half of the plate.  (Herb flavored long grain white rice is a good choice.)
     Place a vegetable of your choice on the plate.  (Sautéed sweet snap peas and mushrooms are the vegetables in the photos.)
     Garnish the rice with a small Italian Parsley sprig.
     Step 4:  Just before serving, spoon a generous portion of the Crawfish Beurre Blanc over the seared salmon and onto the plate.
     Garnish the Crawfish Beurre Blanc with the warm whole crawfish.

     Viola!  A classy French New Orleans salmon entrée!  

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