Throwing a party is very, very fun and very, very low stress when you share the work with good friends. Last Friday, I hosted a luncheon at my house with 2 great friends in honor of another great friend.
The menu was inspired by a Russian theme, but we didn’t stick totally to the theme. Here is what the ladies were served:
Appetizers and drinks: Cold Borscht served in demitasse cups, Cheese Puffs, Crab Salad in Endive, Vodka with Lemonade, Iced Tea
Lunch: Poached Salmon with dill sauce, cucumber salad, orzo salad, black bread
Dessert: Russian tea cookies, raspberry and coconut sorbet
My cooking to-do’s were the Cold Borscht and the Poached Salmon. I also put together the sorbets (Haagen Daz) and the Vodka drink.
I got the salmon on Wednesday from the fish purveyor at the Farmer’s Market. I spoke to the women at the stand one Saturday and asked about ordering for Wednesday. They gave me the name of the owner and I called him. No problem. The wild salmon from Canada was filleted and ready for me when I picked it up. So easy. Then I removed all the pin bones and poached it Thursday, adapting an old Gourmet Magazine method.
I must have been pretty focused on the party, because I didn’t take any pictures of the finished salmon. It looked light pinkish-orange. I had scored the top of the salmon down the middle and across, so there were about 10 pieces per fillet. When it was cooked and chilled, I pre-cut the pieces all the way through, keeping the fillet whole, but cutting was easy because of the score marks. Then, I decorated the top of each piece with a thin slice of cucumber and a sprig of dill. Not fancy, but pretty.
For the Borscht, I thought that I would use Ina Garten’s recipe from her new cookbook. I know it would have been flawless, but it seemed heavy with 2 cups of sour cream. And, I wanted a little more body, so I fiddled with that one, too. I used only 1 cup of sour cream, upped the yogurt to 1 cup, and used buttermilk to round out the flavor. I’m not sure how much buttermilk I used, but it was likely 1 1/2 – 2 cups. The biggest difference came from the fact that I pureed about half of the beets – that is where I got the body and the intense pink color. Wow.
I am not posting the full recipe for the borscht, because I really just modified and tasted, tweeked some more and tasted. I’m not sure of the exact measurements. Since it is a cold soup, you seem to need more intense flavors because the temperature seemingly makes your tastebuds less sensistive – like with ice cream.
The salmon on the otherhand, is pretty exact.
Here is the recipe:
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
I made two 2 1/2 pound fillets and so upped this recipe – about 1 1/2 times the amounts, and had to use a roasting pan to fit both of the fillets. The size of the fish will determine what type of pan you use.
Serves 6 (or more depending on how many ounces you estimate per person).
2 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
¼ juicy lemon
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, bruised
1 bouquet garni (tie together: 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs parsley)
1 ½ tsp. sea salt
a 3 1/2- to 4-pound salmon fillet
Preheat the oven to 400°F (NOT convection).
In a small saucepan bring the water and the wine to a boil. Squeeze in the quarter lemon and put the squeezed lemon in the pot, too. Add the black peppercorns and the bouquet garni. Boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the mixture stand, for 5 minutes.
In a large buttered baking dish (I use a roasting pan) arrange the salmon, skin side down. Add the wine mixture and cover tightly with foil. Place the pan in the middle of the preheated 400°F, and poach the salmon for 20 to 25 minutes (check at 20 minutes – press lightly on the middle of the fillet – if it is very soft, cook for another 5 minutes, if it shows some resistance, it is done) or until it just flakes and is cooked through.
Serve with a dill sauce or with green goddess sauce.