Happy St. Patrick's Day!: Ballynahinch Castle Salmon

Thursday, March 17, 2011

We honeymoond in Ireland and it was then I fell in love with the most beautiful country I'd ever seen. At the end of our trip, we stayed at the Ballynahinch Castle. If you're planning a trip in the future, I highly recommend staying there. Set in the wilderness of Connemara, Co. Galway, the castle is actually an estate converted into a 4-star hotel that boasts one of Ireland's finest salmon rivers. Indeed, you could go fishing right on the estate property if you plan your visit during salmon season.

Well, long story short we had an amazing meal that night at the castle including one made with salmon (of course!). The original dish I remember had cabbage, which unfortunately I can't eat anymore (stupid thyroid) so I've adapted it with an easier to prepare mashed potatoes. The salmon is pan-roasted for a perfect crisp crust and moist and tender inside. I like using skin on for this recipe or when I pan-roast in general because it gives the fish incredible flavor and texture. I also blanch the asparagus right in the same pot as the potatoes the last 4 minutes of cooking.

I love this recipe. It's using lots of spring ingredients like chives, dill, asparagus, and shallots. I love that it's very elegent and presents extremely well, and comes to gether quite quickly. You do have to keep your wits about you though, as working with butter means it can burn quickly so pay attention! And I love that it's elegent and delicious Irish food. Cheers!

This recipe will serve 4 people.

Ballynahinch Castle Salmon with Asparagus and Chive Mashed Potatoes
4 (7-8 oz) portions salmon -- boned with skin on
celtic sea salt (or kosher)
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter + 2 Tbsp olive oil

for the mashed potatoes:
2 lbs yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
kosher salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 Tbsp heavy cream or half n half
2 Tbsp finely chopped chives

for the asparagus:
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed off and washed

for the buerre blanc sauce:
1 shallot, minced
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
celtic sea salt (or kosher)
1/4 cup dry white wine
fresh dill

Place potatoes in a pot with cold water and a good amount of salt (2-3 Tbsp). Bring potatoes to a boil and cook until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Cook time will vary with how large or small you cut your potatoes. About 4-5 minutes away from being perfectly fork tender, add the asparagus to cook. Take asparagus out and set aside; drain the potatoes then return the drained potatoes to the same pot. Taste one and add more salt if needed. Add butter and mash until crumble. Switch to a wooden spoon and start stirring the potatoes quickly -- this is called "whipping" them. Add the cream to taste (more cream will give you thinner mashed poatoes; less will give you thicker ones) and add chives. Mix to combine, cover, and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking make the salmon. Season the salmon flesh side with salt and pepper (no need to season the skin side). Heat a pan on high heat. Add the butter and oil together at the same time (the butter is for flavor; the oil is so the butter doesn't burn) and then add your salmon pieces flesh-side down (so the skin is up). Cook for 3 minutes or until a nice crust forms. Flip the salmon and finish cooking it skin-side down this time another 2-3 minutes, depending on thickness. Remove and set on a plate with paper towels to drain excess oil and fat.

While the salmon cooks, make the buerre blanc sauce. Heat the butter in a saute pan. Add the shallots and season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Cook 3-4 minutes then add your wine and dill. Cook for 2 minutes. Set aside when done.

To assemble the dish, spoon out a generous portion of mashed potatoes in the middle of a plate. Add 4-5 asparagus all facing the same direction right on top. Top the asparagus with the salmon. Drizzle some of the buerre blanc sauce around the plate and a little on top of the salmon if desired. Top with a small sprig of fresh dill and serve.

My Notes:
It happens, even to me: if your salmon comes out undercooked, just pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute. It won't compromise the crispiness so don't worry about it.

If you want to substitute the wine with a non-alcoholic version, simply use chicken broth instead of the wine; same amount.

Nothing in this dish can be made ahead of time, except the asparagus. So make sure you prep all your ingredients before you start cooking: mince your shallots and herbs before the potatoes even set to boil. This way you can pay attention to the cooking rather than cutting up a garnish while the butter burns!

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