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20th April 2023 - David Wolves-Den
Dinner Party Dining - Course Three - A Crust is Formed
We had this particular evening's cookery planned for, and shopped for, the 23rd March.
Unfortunately the college was hit with plague. Or terrorism. Or closed due to snow. Or a bomb scare. Or a breakdown in the kitchen's fans.
Their kitchens have fans! How come they don't let the damn heat out then??
But whatever the reason, the class was cancelled at the last minute, and so I spent the next two weeks eating things crusted in herbs. Including my easter fillet-end leg of lamb. And very nice it was too - but by the time the replacement class rolled around on 20th April featuring the same crust recipe I balked, and decided to try something almost, but not quite, entirely different.

Herb-Crusted Lamb Rocket-Crusted Trout
And now, this week's message from our sponsor:
Morning chefs

We are going to go for the herb crusted salmon on Thursday.

Please see the ingredients list attached.
College will provide the cheese, the butter, the oil, the salt and pepper and sugar

It would be great if you can bring your own takeaway tubs so you can pack your dish and take it home with you.
Any questions let me know
Crusty Fish
Herb Crusted Salmon
Finally, the salmon is served!
Parmentier Potatoes
Round or square, they're Parmentier.
Tomato & Onion Salsa
The healthy part.
Horseradish Crème Fraîche
A fine counterpoint to rich fish.
Rocket Crusted Trout
A pleasant alternative for those utterly herbed out.

Official Herb Crusted Salmon
main fish
The official class recipe!

For my own original unofficial version, not having access to the College's endless supplies of parmesan, I substituted quite a lot of panko breadcrumbs, left over from a previous class. It makes for a nice crunchy crust, though it doesn't cohere terribly well and needs oil or melted butter to be dribbled in to hold it together. So make sure yours has plenty of cheese to melt it all together.

Your many leftovers will make a good crust for a leg or rack of lamb too. Bonus!

Serves 2

Finely chop all the herbs in a bowl (use a food processor if needed) and add parmesan, seasoning and lemon zest. Glaze the salmon fillet in Dijon mustard (just enough to act as a glue for the herbs). Roll the salmon in the herb dressing and set aside.
We made something of an unnecessary performance of this, moving the fish from one piece of greaseproof paper to another, but all you need to do is put the Dijonned salmon skin-side down on a chopping board, press the dressing over the fish using your hands, and maybe a spoon. Then cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper, oil it lightly and slide the dressed salmon onto it.
Heat the oven to 180°C and place the salmon on a baking sheet with greaseproof paper, cook for 12 minutes or until the herbs are a dark green colour, take out and rest.
Perfectly adequate recipe, but baking for so long does tend to spoil the fresh bright greenness of the crust. Better I think to fry the fish a little first, skin-side only perhaps, and only bake it for long enough to get melt the Parmesan in the crust and get it to congeal around the fillets. Make sure you have plenty of Parmesan in the dressing mixture to promote this, which is the key to a good crust.

Parmentier Potatoes
staple veg
Serves 2

Peel the potatoes and drop into cold water as you go to wash and prevent browning. Dice potatoes evenly into 1cm dice and place in a pan of salted boiling water for 10 minutes or until just tender. Take out and strain, then return them to the pan and let them steam for 30 seconds before taking them off the heat and leaving to cool.
If you want to be really fancy you can use the small end of a melon baller to make little spheres instead.
Heat a pan of olive oil and a knob of butter, bring to a foam before adding the potatoes and crisp them all over. Add salt and pepper to taste and finish them with chopped rosemary.
Despite being a fairly straight-forward dish your potatoes will burn if you turn your back on them for too long when they're almost done. Don't fuss with them too much, just turn or shake them once or twice when the undersides are golden.
I'm not sure about scattering them with chopped rosemary which I find hard and spiky. Maybe use thyme, or cook them with the rosemary sprigs to flavour the oil?

Tomato & Onion Salsa
salad veg vegan
Serves 2

Finely dice the tomatoes and onions and add to a bowl, add seasoning, sugar, juice of half a lemon and a little extra virgin olive oil.
Not very good, if I'm honest. Too sharp, too aggressive, too unsubtle. Perhaps with less, pickled, or no onion?

Horseradish Crème Fraîche
sauce veg
When David refers to 2 teaspoons of horseradish in the ingredients, he means from those jars of horseradish sauce stuff you find in the supermarket that are made from mustard, vinegar, turnip and snot.
Well I despise that stuff, and I couldn't find any fresh horseradish root, but I did have some horseradish-flavoured vodka left over from Christmas...
I had decided to simplify my Yule Bloody Marys by throwing chunks of horseradish straight into the vodka bottle instead of grating some freshly into each glass, which makes you cry.
It worked well enough at first, but the vodka eventually leeches out a little too much bitterness from the root and it stops being fun. Which is why I had so much left over.

Anyway, this seemed like a dish which wouldn't mind a little bitterness so much, so I drizzled some of that into the crème fraîche. Then I threw in some lightly crushed capers too. To further disguise any bitterness.
It was rather nice actually!

Makes 1 Cup

Add the horseradish and crème fraîche to a bowl, add the zest of half a lemon and season with a little salt to taste.
I reckon it could also stand a little squeeze of the lemon. And a handful of crushed capers aren't half bad either.

Rocket Crusted Trout
main fish
My cookery course had to skip the meal of Herb-Crusted salmon due to a bomb threat, and so I spent a week eating herb-crusted salmon, and then another eating herb-crusted leg of lamb. So as you can imagine, I was heartily sick of eating herb crusts. It's quite amazing how much herb crust three bags of herbs make.
Anyhoo, when the course instructor decided to re-do the missed herb-crusting lesson, I decided to try a rocket-crust instead. A change is as good as a rest, they say.

My first crust, with almost equal volumes of crushed flaked almonds and (minced) rocket was a bit on the bland side. So I tried again with less nut, more seasoning and a splash of balsamic Chardonnay vinegar. (The balsamic makes it too brown). I did think some chopped capers might be nice too, but didn't get around to trying those.

Serves 2

Mince the herbs. Crush the nuts. Mix the crust mixture. Add just enough cream cheese to cohere the mixture.
Dry the trout fillets, lay skin-side down, season, smear the flesh with a thin layer of cream cheese then cover with the crust mixture.
Lift the fillets onto oiled parchment on an oven tray.
Bake for 8 minutes at 180°C convection, probably 200°/Gas Mark 6 regular.
Not too bad.
Makes a nice change from salmon, anyway.
These fillets were quite thin. Anything thicker and you should fry them first skin-side down until half cooked, then finish them off in the oven for no longer than before.