He was served this Steamed Salmon entrée, a melon salad, delicious rustic bread, and an Individual Coffee-Chocolate Mud Pie — however, the only thing my dad requested for his 80th birthday dinner was the salmon.
This was a tall order. You see, my dad is known for his perfectly cooked salmon — so of course, mine would have to be perfect as well. He and my mom have never, and will never order salmon in a restaurant because they fear it’ll never be as good as his.
Salmon is definitely one of those foods that can go from spot on to bad in a matter of seconds. Delicious salmon has something to do with the flavors it’s cooked with, and it has everything to do with not overcooking it! Whether it’s sautéed, grilled, roasted, or, in this case, steamed inside cabbage leaves — it should never be completely opaque. Never! The salmon should appear slightly raw in the center. When you stop the cooking process at this point, you’ll have melt-in-your-mouth, flaky fish. Let it go another minute, and the magic will be gone.
This is one of my favorite salmon preparations and it’s inspired from a recipe in Charlie Palmer’s Great American Food cookbook. It might look very intricate, but it’s really quite simple. You can do it! And I promise you, you’ll totally WOW your guests!
- ⅓ cup fresh orange juice
- 1½ tablespoons whole grain mustard
- ¾ teaspoons honey
- 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (Here's How to Season to Taste)
- 6 to 10 large Savoy cabbage leaves (Napa cabbage will also work)
- ½-pound wild-caught salmon, cut into chunks, skin removed
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- a few turns of freshly ground black pepper
- 10 fresh, large basil leaves, washed & dried
- 6 (approximately 4-ounce) fillets wild-caught salmon, skin removed
- Add the orange juice, mustard and honey to a small bowl. Mix until everything is combined, and then gradually whisk in the oil. Once it's nicely blended, mix in the shallots and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Here's How to Season to Taste.) TIP: The best way to taste dressing is with a lettuce leaf.
- Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels and set it aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a few of the cabbage leaves at a time to the water, and let them sit only long enough to wilt, about 20 seconds. Use tongs to gently remove them and place them on the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Continue until all of the leaves are wilted. Set aside to cool to room temperature -- they must be no warmer than room temperature when you are ready to use them.
- Add the ½-pound of salmon chunks, cream, egg and basil leaves to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Blend a tiny bit and then add the salt and pepper. Now blend just until it's smooth. (You will still see small bits of the basil.) The is a salmon mousse.
- Use paper towels to pat dry the cabbage leaves if they are still wet, and lay them out on a clean, dry workspace.
- Spread a thin layer (about ¼-inch or less), of the salmon mousse over each cabbage leaf.
- Sprinkle both sides of the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Then place a fillet directly in the center, presentation side down. It should look like this . . .
- Now very carefully fold the sides of the mousse-coated cabbage leaves over the fillet -- it should stick nicely. (If there are any particularly tough stems in the cabbage leaves, cut them out and use parts of another leaf to fill in any empty spaces.) Set aside in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook. (You can leave them in the prepared state for up to 6 hours.)
- Put a large steamer into a large pot with the water level just below it. Over high heat, bring the water to a boil and then add cabbage wrapped salmon to the rack -- as many as will fit. You may need to do this in two batches, depending not he size of your pot. Cover and steam for 3 to 4 minutes. Just slice into one if you're unsure if they're done -- you want the very center to be orange and almost raw.
- Heat the vinaigrette in a small sauté pan and slice each cabbage steamed salmon one on a bias.
- Drizzle each portion with the vinaigrette and serve.