When I wrote my first cookbook more than 20 years ago, nearly half of all the recipes I received from Irish chefs contained what they called “a taste of Ireland” — a small dose of Guinness, whiskey, Irish cream, or some other variety of Irish “spirit.”
We all know better now that to be an authentic Irish recipe, alcohol is not a required ingredient. However, a tablespoon or two can add a festive touch and a delicious taste. This multi-step dish from chef Gordon McGladdery of the historic Bushmills Inn, County Antrim, is one of those dishes. You’ll find recipes like this in my newest cookbook Favorite Flavors of Ireland. To order a signed copy, visit www.irishcook.com
PAN-FRIED AND WHISKEY-CURED SALMON WITH PICKLED FENNEL AND HORSERADISH SNOW
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 to 1 1/2 pound salmon fillet, skin on, bones removed
1/3 cup Irish whiskey (Bushmills preferred)
3/4 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 to 3 sprigs dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
1 cup white wine
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 bay leaves
3 black peppercorns
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 (5 to 6 ounces) pieces salmon, skin on
Rapeseed or olive oil for drizzling
1. Make the snow. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Pass through a fine sieve into a plastic bowl, cover, and freeze until solid. At serving time, use edge of a spoon to scrape “snow” shavings over salmon.
2. Make cured salmon. Brush whiskey over flesh of salmon. Combine salt, sugar, and dill in medium bowl. Spread half of mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap, lay salmon on top, skin side down, and then cover top with the rest of cure, pressing down firmly. Tightly wrap salmon, place in a dish, and refrigerate for at least 24 and up to 36 hours. When firm to touch, wash salmon under cold water, pat dry, and thinly slice. (Wrap unused salmon in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days).
3. Make fennel. In small saucepan over medium heat, bring wine, vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorns to boil. Remove from heat, add fennel, and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
4. Make pan-fried salmon. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet. Season salmon with salt and pepper and fry, skin-side down, for about 5 minutes, or until browned. Turn and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer, or until flesh feels firm.
5. To serve, divide fennel onto serving plates and top with pan-fried salmon. Put a few slices of cured salmon next to it and top with “snow” shavings. Garnish with fresh dill and drizzle with oil.