There's more to this plate of food than might at first seem. The salmon is really simply cooked, but the sauce is kinda involved. Do this for a nice weekend dinner, a date, or something for a summer or early fall celebration. If you make this in winter with hothouse cucumbers, omit the tomatoes altogether -- better to skip them than use crappy out-of-season tomatoes. I catch a lot of king salmon, so that's what I use. Feel free to use smaller pieces of salmon, or substitute any other sort of salmon, trout or char. Don't like salmon? Try halibut. You do want a thick piece of fish here, though, so just keep that in mind.
Course: Main Course
Author: Hank Shaw
1/2cupchopped dill,plus a few sprigs for garnish later
1cupneutral oil(sunflower, canola, grapeseed)
4pretty blocks of salmon,trout or really any other large fish
2to 4 tablespoons clarified butter,walnut oil or vegetable oil
2tablespoonswalnut oil or vegetable oil
2cucumbers,preferably English, 1 of them peeled
Salt and a pinch of sugar
Lemon juice to taste
White pepper to taste(optional)
10to 20 cherry tomatoes,cut in half
To make the dill oil, put the oil and dill in a blender and puree for a solid minute on high. Set some cheesecloth in a fine-meshed strainer and put the strainer over a bowl. Pour the oil into the strainer and put the whole thing into the fridge to slowly drip. (Keeping it in the fridge helps preserve the bright green color.) This step can be done up to 3 days in advance.
Salt the salmon pieces and put in the fridge.
Gently cook the onion in the walnut oil until it is soft and translucent: I do this over medium-low heat in a covered pan. Don't let the onions brown. When they are cooked, puree them in a blender and set them aside.
Slice each cucumber lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out all the seeds from both cukes; don't toss the seeds. Chop the unpeeled cucumber and put it and the seeds into a blender. Puree. Set a fine-meshed strainer over a bowl and pour the pureed cucumber into it. Let this strain untouched for 2 hours. Meanwhile, dice the peeled cucumber.
To make the sauce, whisk as much of the strained cucumber water into the pureed onions as you need to make a sauce the consistency of melted ice cream. Add 2 tablespoons of the dill oil (save the rest for another dish) and season the sauce with lemon juice, salt and white pepper to taste. I like this served at room temperature, but you could warm it gently, too. Don't heat it too much or it will break and taste weird.
To cook the salmon, heat the oil in a pan over high heat until it's almost smoking. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels and set it into the pan. Sear one side of the salmon hard for a good 6 to 8 minutes. Don't let it burn, but you want a good crust. If the salmon is very thick, you will need to flip the fish and finish cooking on the other side. If it's an inch thick or less, you can just baste the exposed side of the fish with the hot oil and it will cook fine.
To serve, toss the diced cucumber and the cherry tomatoes in the sauce and pour some in shallow bowls or plates with a well in the center. Set the salmon on top seared side up. Top with a little more dill and some salmon caviar, if you have some.
I like to eat this with a bracing white wine like a Chenin blanc or a French Sancerre. A German Riesling or an Italian Pinot Grigio would be good, too. For beer, go with a hefeweizen or a good lager.