My mother attended a holiday potluck and on the table was a delicate, buttery, flakey pastry wrapped salmon stuffed with spinach and mushrooms; there was a warm red pepper sauce on the side for drizzling. It was a smash hit and since my mother was giving a buffet the next week, she wanted to make it as the star of her gathering. The gentleman who brought the salmon never came through with the recipe, but my mother, the consummate cook, was easily able to recreate the recipe.
While puff pastry assures you a dish that creates some high drama on the buffet table, wrapped savory pastries is a type of preparation that goes in and out of style. But for entertaining, puff pastry is like a culinary secret weapon for making knockout dishes. Once in the realm of only the most dedicated cooks, frozen pastry is not only easily found in just about every supermarket frozen section, but it is easy to manipulate, versatile, and the flavor is comparable to the rarely made at home version. Here are a few tips:
•Work only with well chilled pastry, as it is easy to cut and shape while cold. Room temperature pastry will stretch and tear. Puff pastry can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days before shaping with no loss of texture.
•Defrost the puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator or unwrap a frozen sheet and let stand on a lightly floured work surface for about 30 minutes, until pliable.
•Be prepared to chill the pastry before and after shaping. You will need to clear part of a shelf in the refrigerator for the baking sheet.
•Do not drag a knife or pinch the cut edges since that will interfere with the rising. Use a metal spatula to transfer the filled pastry, as your fingers will warm the dough.
•When coating with egg wash, don’t let it drip down the sides; it will glue together the layers and also interfere with the rising.
•Preheat the oven to hot before placing the pastry in the oven, otherwise it will not rise properly. Bake the pastry the same day it is to be eaten for the crisp texture.
Preparation Timeline: Both the stuffed pastry and sauce can be made 1 day ahead
Serving Equipment: Long, flat platter, nice cutting board, or 15-inch rectangular slab of marble, sharp knife and serving spatula (you want the guests to be able to cut easily.)
Temperature at Serving: Warm or room temperature
- Mushroom Duxelle (recipe following)
- Spinach and Garlic (recipe following)
- One 2- to 2 1/2 pound tail-end salmon filet, skin removed
- Salt and freshly ground black or white pepper
- 1 1- or 1 1/4-pound package puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
- 1 egg with 2 teaspoons water for egg wash
- Creamy Red Pepper Sauce, for serving (recipe following)
- Mushroom Duxelle
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped (I use the food processor)
- 3 large shallots, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black or white pepper
- Spinach and Garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Prepare the Mushroom Duxelle: In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Sauté the mushrooms and shallots until well cooked and all the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste. Scrape onto a plate or into a plastic container, cover, and refrigerate until completely cold, up to overnight.
Prepare the Spinach and Garlic: In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the garlic until soft, but not browned. Add the spinach and stir until hot. Season to taste. Scrape onto a plate or into a plastic container, cover, and refrigerate until completely cold, up to overnight.
Prepare the Salmon in the Pastry: Line a large baking sheet with parchment (this is important, as the parchment will absorb the excess butter in the pastry while baking.). Set aside. With a sharp knife, carefully cut the salmon filet in half lengthwise into two equal long portions. Set the mushroom mixture and the spinach to the side; if there is any accumulated liquid, drain off. In a small bowl, combine the egg and water for the egg wash and beat with a fork until foamy.
Lay one of the sheets of the chilled puff pastry on a clean work surface with the longer edge facing you (there are two sheets per box.); you do not need to roll anything out. Mentally make a note of the middle of the pastry; you will be working in the bottom half (the top half will be folded over.).
Working quickly, spread half of the spinach mixture on the dough in the middle of the bottom half of the pastry, leaving one inch space all around. Spread half of the mushroom mixture over the top of the spinach and then lay the salmon filet on top. Season with some salt and pepper (some people like to sprinkle with a bit of dill weed as well).
With a pastry brush or your fingers, moisten the edges all the way around with the egg wash. Fold in half lengthwise, the top portion over to enclose the salmon, having the two edges line up perfectly. Press edges firmly in from the edge on the three sides, then crimp with the tines of a fork.
Transfer to the baking sheet with a metal spatula (if your baking sheet is large, you can fit both pastries on one, otherwise, use two baking sheets and bake one at a time). Repeat procedure with the second piece of puff pastry, using the rest of the spinach, mushrooms, and salmon.
With the tip of a knife, create a steam hole in the top of each pastry and cut in a few places along the edge (this helps seal the pastry and looks nice). Brush tops with the egg glaze (will make a shiny golden surface after baking.) and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator and chill 1 hour up to overnight before baking.
To bake, preheat the oven to 450º. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350º and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and puffed. Remove from the oven and let rest at least 30 minutes before cutting. Cover with foil to transport.
Transportation Notes: No special requirements, but the baking sheet needs to be tightly covered and placed on the floor of the car or in the trunk, secured so it does not slide around or tip over. Bring sauce in a covered container or a thermos.
Onsite/Preparation: None if fully baked. You can place in a 300º oven to warm for 10 minutes if you like, but this is excellent room temperature. Transfer from the baking sheet to the serving platter or marble. Pre-portion, if desired, or let guests slice their own. Reheat the sauce in a saucepan or in the microwave, then place in the serving bowl to serve alongside the stuffed pastry.
Creamy Red Pepper Sauce
Red Pepper Sauce is an attractive contrast to the layered puff pastry. Keep a few jars of roasted red peppers in your cupboard. Look for large jars at bulk foods stores. You can whip up this delicious, colorful sauce in minutes in the food processor.
- 2 15- or 16-ounce jars roasted red peppers, drained
- 1 pint heavy cream
Place the peppers in a food processor and pulse a few times until a purée is formed. Pour into a covered container and whisk in the cream. Taste for salt (a pinch or two). Refrigerate until serving. Reheat over low heat on the stove top or in the microwave. Makes about 5 cups.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2011
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.