Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Salmon is Soused...

I had fresh salmon fillets and wanted something different to do with them.  Many of my historical recipes don't deal with salmon (it was protected and regulated and thus was expensive during the Elizabethan era) but I did find something intriguing in my copy of Dining with William Shakespeare, by Madge Lorwin.

ISBN 0-689-10731-5
On page 99, in the chapter labeled "A Feast for Beatrice and Benedick", there is a recipe titled

To Marrinate Salmon to be Eaten Hot or Cold.

The original recipe, taken from Robert May's The Accomplisht Cook, is:

Take a Salmon, cut it into joles and rands, and fry them in good sweet sallet oyl or clarified butter, then set them by in a charger, and have some white or claret-wine, and wine-vinegar as much as will cover it, and put the wine and vinegar into a pipkin with all manner of sweet herbs bound up in a bundle, as rosemary, tyme, sweet marjoram, parsley, winter savory, bay-leaves, sorrel, and sage, as much of one as the other, large mace, slic't ginger, gross pepper, slic't nutmeg, whole cloves, and salt; being well boild together, pour it on the fish, spices and all, being cold, then lay on slic't lemons and lemon-peel, and cover it up close; so keep it for present spending, and serve it hot or cold with the same liquor it is soust in, with the spices, herbs, and lemons on it.

You can view Robert May's book through Project Gutenberg here:  The Accomplisht Cook.  It was published in 1685 and was "Approved by the fifty five Years Experience and Industry of ROBERT MAY; in his Attendance on several Persons of great Honour."

Ms. Lorwin's adapted version is:

One 1 1/2-pound piece of thick salmon fillet
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
1/2 nutmeg, broken up
1 large piece of whole mace
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon savory
1/4 teaspoon sage
6 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups claret
1 lemon, sliced thin and seeded

I love all the spices!
Rinse the salmon fillet under cold running water and pat it dry with paper towels or a clean white cloth.  Cut into approximately 2 1/2-inch squares.  Melt the butter in a skillet large enough to hold all the fish in a single layer.  Arrange the fish pieces in the skillet and saute' over low heat only until the flesh is no longer translucent, turning once -- about four minutes on each side.  Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside, covered, until the sousing liquid is ready.

Beginning to cook
Turned once
Add the herbs, spices, and wine vinegar to the claret and bring the mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat to simmer and cook ten minutes.

Looks a bit muddy but smells good
Layer the pieces of salmon in a small, deep bowl -- a 1 1/2-quart stainless steel or glass bowl is a good size.  Pour the hot marinade, including the seasonings, over the salmon.  Arrange the lemon slices over the top, pushing a few down into the liquid at the sides of the bowl.  Cover and set aside until the marinade has cooled.  

I used one lemon, not two
Refrigerate until needed.  Serve the salmon cold with some of the marinade poured over it.

This dish keeps well for a week to ten days; after that the fish begins to toughen.  But if you plan to keep it that long, peel the lemon before slicing it, since the peel tends to give the fish a slightly bitter taste if left more than a day or two in the marinade.

We preferred the salmon cold, but if you wish to serve it warm, reheat it in the marinade in the top of a double boiler.

My Notes

I was out of parsley and fresh ginger (and dried ginger) so I skipped the parsley and used dried, ground galingale in place of the ginger.  About 1/4 teaspoon of the galingale.  Also I used cubebs instead of peppercorns, just because I could.

My sage and mace were ground.  The nutmeg was broken up by pounding it a bit in the mortar.  Oh my, it smelled good.

The rosemary and thyme were fresh from the garden.  I used about a teaspoon of each.

I used white wine vinegar and chardonnay for the wine.  "Claret" used to mean clear wine and I felt that white wine was the best choice here.  And yes, my lemon was a Meyer lemon! The tree still has some fruit on it.

The salmon cooked for almost exactly four minutes on a side but wasn't "no longer translucent".  I didn't worry about it because I set the skillet aside as Ms. Lorwin instructed and the residual heat finished cooking the fish.

I was concerned about the spices being poured on the salmon.  This seemed appropriate to get them to infuse their flavors in the meat but I really didn't want to take a bite of it and crunch into a whole cubeb or chunk of nutmeg.  My hope was that I could somehow rinse off the big bits of herbs and spices before serving.

It took about an hour before I felt the marinade had cooled enough to refrigerate.  Then the whole dish cooled for about four hours before eating.

The Verdict

I served the salmon cold alongside a tossed salad with a variety of vegetables.  It was easy to brush off the big pieces of spices so that turned out to be not a worry at all.  I poured a little of the marinade on each piece but put it through a fine mesh sieve first, to remove the chunks.

This was really good.  I am not super fond of fish but like it well enough.  This was cooked thoroughly, did not smell "fishy", and the marinade have enough acid bite (just a little) to make the fish and the spices blend together well. The flesh was firm and moist.

The spices were not overwhelming nor were they dominated by any particular flavor.  Just a balanced blend with occasional little dashes of flavor on your tongue.

My two guest tasters both liked it, enough to ask for seconds.  We all agreed that serving it cold seemed the better choice to let the flavor of the marinade shine through.

Success!  Easy!  Give it a try!

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