A festive Salmon En Croute for Christmas Day

If you’re planning on serving fish on Christmas Day then you need something suitably significant and festive, decorous and decorative. Ideally you also want something you can prep well in advance and then just pop in the oven when the time comes. Which is what this does.
Hollandaise is generally done in a last-minute panic, as it doesn’t tend to do well from sitting around for too long – but you can sidestep this up to a point by doing it an hour or so ahead and storing in a thermos flask.
By all means omit the garnish but, being Christmas, a bell here and a whistle there is perhaps expected.

SALMON EN CROUTE WITH HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

SERVES 6–8

25g/1oz/2 tbsp butter

4 shallots, chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

salt and pepper

2 tbsp pine nuts

200g/7oz kale or cavolo nero, hard stalks discarded, then roughly chopped

6 anchovy fillets

zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 x roughly equal pieces of salmon fillet, about 500–600g/1lb 2oz–1lb 5oz each, skinned

500g/1lb 2oz puff pastry (preferably ‘all butter’)

1 egg, beaten

For the hollandaise

2 egg yolks

250g/9oz/generous 1 cup unsalted butter

juice of 1 lemon

a pinch of cayenne pepper

To serve

fresh watercress

dill salmon caviar

UP TO 3 DAYS AHEAD (MIN. 4 HOURS):

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over a gentle heat for 15 minutes, until soft. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan for a few minutes, until golden. Add the kale, anchovies, lemon zest and juice and pine nuts to the shallots. Cover and cook for 5–10 minutes, until the kale has wilted, then tip into a food processor and blend to a rough paste. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Leave to cool completely, then store in the fridge.

UP TO 1 DAY AHEAD (MIN. 2 HOURS):

Trim the salmon and remove any bones with a pair of tweezers. Lay one piece on a board, with the skinned side facing down. Spread with the stuffing as evenly as possible, and then top with the other piece of salmon, skinned side up.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the pastry to a rectangle roughly 45 x 30cm/18 x 12in, and 3mm/1/8 in thick. Brush the edges with beaten egg, then lay the salmon down the middle. Fold the pastry up over the salmon and pinch to seal the edges all around, then turn over so the join is underneath and place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover in clingfilm and chill.

1 HOUR AHEAD:

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.

Using the blunt side of a knife, mark a criss-cross pattern on the pastry. Brush all over with beaten egg, then bake for 40–45 minutes, until golden.

Meanwhile, make the hollandaise: melt the butter in a small pan. Bring 3cm/1¼in of water to a boil in a separate saucepan, then reduce the heat to just below a simmer. Put the egg yolks in a heavy heatproof bowl and sit over the pan of barely-simmering water. Whisk for a minute or so, until the yolks start to streak the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the melted butter in a gentle, steady stream, whisking all the time, until fully incorporated and thickened. Should the sauce split, start again with 2 fresh egg yolks over the simmering water, and slowly add the curdled first batch to these yolks, then continue. Take off the heat and whisk in the lemon juice, cayenne, and a pinch of salt. Keep warm in a thermos flask if necessary.

When the pastry is golden and crisp, remove from the oven and carefully transfer to a serving board to rest for 5–10 minutes. Garnish with fresh watercress, blobs of caviar and dill sprigs.

TO SERVE:

Cut the salmon into fat slices. Serve with the hollandaise sauce.

CHEAT: Skip making the stuffing if short of time, and use a good-quality shop-bought pesto

The featured recipe is from Do-Ahead Christmas by James Ramsden

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