Assorted Hors d’Oeuvres
This platter looks as pretty as a still life on a cocktail table or buffet. Colorful and flavorful purchased items augment the three preparations done in the kitchen. The salmon is a variation on gravlax, the smoked trout has a slightly Oriental overtone, and the garlic is accented by sharp bleu cheese. All of the components can be prepared ahead of time, letting you devote your time to the arrangement.
- Cilantro Leaves - 1 cup
- Basil leaves - 1 cup
- Sugar - 1/4 cup
- Salt - 1/2 cup
- Black peppercorns - 1/2 cup, crushed
- Salmon fillet - one, 3-pound (an oily salmon, such as king or Norwegian)
- Smoked Trout
- Water - 2 quarts
- Salt - 1/3 cup
- Honey - 3/4 cup
- Soy Sauce - 1/3 cup
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice - 1/4 cup
- Garlic Cloves - 3, peeled and crushed
- Fresh Ginger - 1 tablespoon, grated
- Trout fillets - 5 pounds
- Garlic Puree
- Garlic Bulbs - 3
- Water - 1/2 cup
- Olive Oil - 6 tablespoons
- Stilton or other sharp blue-veined cheese - 1/2 pound
- To serve
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Cool Water - 1/4 cup
- Red apples - 3 small
- Blanched Almonds - 1/2 cup, slivered, toasted
- Small crackers
- Garlic Mayonnaise - 1 cup
- Mixed black and green olives
- Red Bell Pepper - 1, peeled, seeded, and diced small
- Seedless Grapes - 2 bunches, small
- Dill - 1 bunch
To prepare the salmon: Mix the marinade ingredients together and place half in the bottom of a glass or stainless steel dish just large enough to hold the salmon. Wash the salmon, removing any skin if necessary and picking out any small bones. Place on the marinade herb bed, then place the remaining marinade on top. Cover the salmon with plastic wrap, then place another pan on top of it containing five pounds of weights, such as cans, or bricks wrapped in foil. Place in the refrigerator and let sit 24 hours. Turn it and pour off any juice that has accumulated, then marinate another 24 hours. Rinse the salmon; at this point, the salmon will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator, tightly covered.
To prepare the smoked trout: Combine the first seven ingredients in a glass or stainless steel dish. Marinate the fillets in the brine for 6 to 8 hours, turning occasionally. Remove them, pat dry, and allow the fillets to sit in a cool dry place or in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 8 to 10 hours, or until they look shiny and a skin or film develops. Soak four pieces of apple or cherry wood in water for 30 minutes. Light a fire in a smoker or covered charcoal grill; when the coals are covered with light grey ash, move them to the side. Place two pieces of the wood on the coals and set the cooking rack in place. Put the fish on the cooking rack on the side away from the fire and set the cover of the grill in place, leaving the smoke holes open. Smoke for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, adding more charcoal and the remaining wood as necessary. Remove the fish from the grill and allow to cool; wrap and chill in the refrigerator.
To prepare the garlic puree: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the garlic bulbs in a baking pan with the water. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the cloves are soft. Baste with water frequently during the roasting. Remove and let cool. Squeeze the garlic paste out of the individual garlic cloves and puree with the olive oil in a blender or processor. Mix in the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill in the refrigerator.
To serve: Put the lemon juice and water in a small bowl. Using a sharp knife, cut narrow V-shaped grooves from the top of the apple to the bottom, all the way around, for decoration. Cut the apples in half vertically and remove the cores, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Dip in the lemon water to prevent discoloration and set aside.
Pipe the garlic puree onto crackers and garnish each with two roasted almonds. Slice the salmon into thin slices on the diagonal. Roll the salmon slices into rosettes for the plates. Slice the smoked trout fillets into small, thin pieces and put on crackers. Put a small dab of garlic mayonnaise on each piece of trout. Slice the cornichons almost all the way through and fan one over each dab or mayonnaise. Divide the items among the serving plates, arranging them in a rough circle. Place a branch with a few grapes in the center of each plate. Sprinkle a few olives, any remaining nuts, and more cornichons in the center of the plates. Sprinkle diced red pepper over the trout crackers. Garnish each plate with a sprig of dill.