Sautéed Darnes of Salmon with Saffron Sauce
Green zucchini roses center the plates, with pink salmon darnes — fish-shaped sautéed fillets — standing around them. Bright saffron sauce, a variation of beurre blanc, is pooled between the darnes; tomato concasse tops them. The dish is an elegant presentation of silky textures and flavors.
- Salmon fillets - 2 fillets (10-12 OZ each)
- Saffron Sauce
- Saffron Threads - 1/2 tablespoon
- Dry white wine - 2 ounces
- Shallot - 1 large, diced
- White peppercorns - 1 teaspoon
- Bay Leaf - 1
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1/4 cup
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Unsalted Butter - 8 ounces (2 sticks), cold, cut into small pieces
- Zucchini - 1 large
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Virgin olive oil - 1/4 cup
- English Peas - 12, cooked al dente
- Tomato - 1 medium, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
- Chervil Sprig - 1
To prepare the salmon: Slice the skin from the fish. Cut across the fillet, making 1/2-inch-thick slices. Curve each slice around into a “fish”-shaped darne and fasten the ends of each together at the “tail” with a toothpick. Press each darne slightly to close the center; trim the tips to create a neat end. Make a total of 12 darnes. Reserve the salmon trimmings for another use.
To prepare the saffron sauce: Put the saffron threads in a sauté pan and pound with a wooden mallet or similar dull object. Add a little of the white wine, about a tablespoon, and place over medium heat until the water simmers. Remove and set aside to steep. In another sauté pan, combine the remaining wine, shallot, peppercorns, and bay leaf and simmer over medium heat until the mixture is almost dry. Add the cream and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper. With the pan over medium-low heat, begin adding the butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking constantly. Incorporate each addition completely before adding the next. If the sauce begins to “break” — liquid drops of butter begin to show in the pan — remove the sauce from the heat immediately and whisk in 2 or 3 more pieces of butter vigorously until the sauce combines again. When all of the butter has been added, whisk in three-fourths of the saffron mixture, then add more as necessary to get a bright yellow color. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Set aside in a heatproof container until ready to use.
To prepare the garnish: Slice the zucchini crosswise into paper-thin slices on a mandolin or V-slicer. Bring a pot of water to a boil and place the zucchini discs in the water for 10 seconds; drain and immediately cover with cold water for 15 seconds. Drain again. Spread a paper towel on a work surface and spread the one fourth of the zucchini slices on the towel, overlapping at least half way on each slice. Lift the paper towel to start rolling the line of slices, then continue rolling them up. Set the rolled up slices on end in the center of a serving plate and fold back individual slices to create a rose. Repeat with the remaining slices.
To cook the salmon: Season the darnes with salt and pepper on each side. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or skillet and place the darnes in the oil. Do not let the darnes touch; divide the oil and darnes and cook in batches if necessary. Cook for 40 seconds to one minute on each side. Watch the edges of the darnes to determine the degree of doneness; as the fish cooks, the sides gradually lose their rosy color and turn pink. When they are cooked to taste, remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
To serve: Place three salmon darnes equidistantly around the zucchini flower on each plate, tails pointing to the center. Remove the toothpicks. Spoon saffron sauce between the darnes near the center of the plate. Place a green pea at the outermost edge of the sauce between each darne. Top each darne with a small spoonful of tomato concasse. Put a chervil leaf on each spoonful of concasse.