It’s been a while now since I last posted a blog. Summer has come to a subtle end in southern California,
and I’ve had the privilege to spend some time back in New England, where life seems to make sense in some way. I feel torn, and the home I know resides in the old streets and beautiful waterfront landscapes that shape the city that I swore I’d never return to. I’ve been gone for a while now, and returning was like breathing again. Life is back in me, and I feel surprisingly inspired and confused at the same time. Of course, Los Angeles is my home now, and I won’t be leaving any time soon, but spending time back east was good. Very good. And it made me think about the seasons, more so than before. As a chef, seasons are important. To people, the change of the seasons are so important. In southern California, summer is still in full swing, but in Boston, it’s a different story. Fall is in the air, and my mind (as a chef of course) is turning to fall dishes. It’s time to hunker down, build a fire, open a wonderful red wine, watch the Pats and love food. To be inspired affects everything we do, and right now, I feel like giving you a wonderful recipe. It’s an inspired fall dish. Not classic, not traditional, but completely in the spirit of fall.
To be honest, I don’t particularly care for many of the heavy eastern European dishes. I find them to be just that: heavy. Heavy and bland. In particular, I’d like to single out borscht. I have never liked borscht. Red beets cooked in a beef stock garnished with- that’s right- more beets. Add cabbage, potatoes and sour cream, and you have a traditional eastern European meal. But so many people love it. I have to wonder, what can I do to make it mine? How can I transform it into something I like? And if I make it into something I like, how do I make it into something I love? So, since this post is about inspiration, let’s call this an inspired borscht. A dish for those of us who don’t particularly care for the heavy crimson dish that borscht traditionally is.
This borscht is made from golden beets, fennel, sour dough bread and aromatics. It’s light, sweet, complex in flavor and absurdly delicious. The flavors come from proper cooking techniques, proper development of flavor, great ingredients, and a great concept. I love to serve this with slow roasted king salmon and garnish with dill and salmon roe. The flavors by themselves are dynamite, and together it’s nothing short of spectacular. This borscht is exceptional. And easy, which is important. You will find it’s enjoyable to make. It’s not as heavy as traditional borscht, and you will probably want to have some bread or starch on the side, unless you’re going light. It’s a gem of a dish, and I hope you like it as much as I do.
Slow Roasted King Salmon with Golden Borscht Sauce and Dill
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: appox 1 hr
Inactive cook time: 1 hr
Yield: 4 portions
For the Borsch:
5 medium to small golden beets, trimmed of any leaves and washed
1 tbsp unsalted butter
fine ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and rough chopped
1/2 rib celery, rough chop
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup day old torn sour dough or crusty french bread, torn or cut into pieces
1 tsp apple vinegar
1 small carrot, peeled, rough chop
splash of white wine
1 bulb fennel, core removed, thin julienne
3 cups vegetable stock
For the Salmon:
4 6-7oz pieces wild king salmon, skin on
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
3 springs fresh thyme, leaves only, fine chop
Several sprigs of fresh dill
4 tbsp fresh salmon roe
Method: (make the borscht and thyme butter first)
For the Salmon:
Work the thyme and butter together to make a compound butter. Let sit 1 hour in a cool spot in the kitchen. Heat an oven to 400. Liberally season the salmon with salt, pepper and a small amount of vegetable oil. In either a cast iron pan, or heavy bottom oven safe pan, begin heating the oil over medium high heat. When hot, slide the salmon into the pan, skin side down. Cook until skin begins to crisp, place the thyme butter on top of the salmon and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the salmon is still slightly pink but warm on the inside. Remove the salmon from the pan and let rest for about 3 minutes.
For the Borscht:
Begin by cooking the beets. Place the beets in a small sauce pot and cover with water by about 1 inch. Add the butter, thyme, a heavy pinch of salt and the sugar. Simmer until fork tender. Remove the beets, let cool, peel and cut into quarters. Meanwhile, reduce the cooking liquid by 2/3, add the vegetable stock to the pot and reduce by another 1/3. Strain the liquid and reserve, keeping hot.
In a large sauce pot, begin sweating the onion, carrot, celery and fennel in the vegetable oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the onions and fennel are translucent and begin to smell sweet. Add the splash of wine and let cook until almost dry. Add the beets and the reserved stock and bring to a low boil. Cook for 10 minutes, and then add the bread and vinegar. Cook for another 10 minutes. Turn the heat off. Let sit for 20 minutes.
In batches, puree the soup in a bar blender, making sure it’s as smooth as possible. Do not strain. Return the soup to a clean pot, bring back to a very low simmer, and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and sugar if necessary. The flavor should be sweet, vibrant and very complex. Reserve.
Ladle the borscht evenly into the bottom of 4 hot shallow pasta bowls. Place 1 piece of salmon into the center of each bowl, slightly submerged in the borscht, skin side up. On top of each piece of salmon, directly in the middle, spoon 1 tbsp of the salmon roe. Garnish the caviar with dill. Serve right away.
Best served with sour cream on the side.