beached salmon recipe

beached salmon (or, heston’s fish pie simplified)

I love reading In Search of Heston’s recipes. United by our passion for all things Blumenthal-flavoured, he goes the whole hog in attempting to recreate Heston’s entire recipe index. And he really pushes the boat out to make them as accurately to the original text as possible.

One of his recent posts was Heston’s fish pie. I’ve kind-of blogged about this before. Phil went all the way and made every element, taking him over two days and eventually eating the finished dish at 3.38am one bank holiday Monday morning. It sounded quite the ordeal. He also related how fellow Blumenthaler Kita had a similarly delayed dinner, with many steps resulting in an excellent meal for a lot of effort.

I wanted to pay tribute to that effort, and capture the spirit of the fish pie but have a version that could be made for a weekday dinner. So here’s my beached salmon: the major components of Heston’s fish pie reduced (dare I say deconstructed?) to a portion of salmon with pommes purees, sauce and crunch topping (the “sand”).

The potatoes take about 45 minutes, but the vast majority of it is unattended. Whilst it may sound long-winded with the two-stage temperatures, it’s the only way to achieve the silky-smoothness this recipe deserves. The salmon is simple, enhanced only by miso in lieu of a full cure. The sauce is the main binding ingredient and that’s where the power is. With a sauce rich in vermouth (Cinzano is one of the few spirits we always have in the cupboard) and cream it gives a luxurious finish. You can add improvements yourself with the quality of the stock you use, using fish offcuts if available.

It may not be 3 days worth of toil and can’t hope to compare to the original, but hopefully there’s enough flavours in to call back to the Heston recipe.

beached salmon (or, heston’s fish pie simplified)

Serves: 2

Ingredients

    For the salmon:
  • 2 salmon steaks
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • For the sauce:
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 20ml vermouth
  • 20ml white wine
  • 100ml fish stock
  • 50ml double cream
  • For the pommes purees:
  • 200g Charlotte potatoes, peeled and sliced into 5mm slices
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 30ml whole milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 10g Comte cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • For the sand topping:
  • 10g panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 nori leaf
  • Pinch of salt
  • To serve:
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Marinate the salmon first: spread the miso paste evenly over the fish and put to one side until needed.
  2. For the potatoes, rinse the slices well under cold water to remove the excess starch. Fill a pan with water and heat to 80C. Add the potatoes and maintain at 70C for 30 minutes.
  3. In a small pan, add a little oil and fry the panko until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and crush in a pestle and mortar with the nori and salt. Set aside until needed.
  4. While the potatoes cook, get on with your sauce. Gently fry the onions in a little butter with the star anise until softened, and then add the garlic. Crank up the heat and add the vermouth and wine. Bubble away, deglazing the pan and reduce by half. Add the stock and cream, remove the star anise and once it hits the boil reducing to a gentle simmer.
  5. When the potatoes are ready, drain and rinse then return them to the pan. Add more water, add salt and bring to the boil, simmering for 15 minutes. Put the butter, milk, cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and set a sieve over it. When the 15 minutes are up, drain the potatoes well and push through the sieve into the waiting seasonings. Beat well with a spatula to combine and taste for seasoning. If it's ready before everything else, return to the saucepan to keep warm
  6. Get a frying pan on medium-hot for your salmon. Fry on the skin side for 4 minutes and flip over until done to your liking.
  7. To assemble the dish, add a scoop of potatoes. Add your fish. Check the sauce for seasoning and pour over. Add a sprinkle of parsley and plenty of 'sand'. Serve with mangetout or asparagus.
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10 thoughts on “beached salmon (or, heston’s fish pie simplified)”

  1. love this recipe Gary – I find with many of these incredibly long recipes (similar for the French Laundry or Boulud cookbooks) we try and spread it out, preparing the components over several days and storing them frozen or in fridge to make the finishing time more socially acceptable though I have not tried the Heston fish pie recipe, so perhaps it would not work that way!! will have ot go check but I like your beached salmon – nice idea.

    1. Sometimes I go the whole hog and prepare it as the author intended, but I do like to find the intersection between time and flavour!

  2. Love this recipe! Much as I love Heston, I simply don’t have the patience or the organisational skills (!) to make super complicated recipes, but this sounds perfectly doable on a school night ;)

    1. Yeah it’s doable on a school night. It’s a busy 45 minutes but if you’re prepared and go for it there’s no reason you can’t do it in this time frame.

  3. This is a magnificent bit of work, and massive, massive thanks for all the kind words. Pleased to see Kita getting a mention too, since both you and her were addressing Heston’s Fish Pies long before I did.

    I’d say the masterstroke here is the use of nori. I know you’re always finding innovative uses for it (other readers, check out Gary’s Nori Crusted Lamb recipe) but here it brilliantly and neatly bypasses the need to source awkward to find kombu sheets, using a supermarket substitute – basically the same thing- and ensuring your recipe keeps all of the taste.

    The other advantage your recipe has, over the Heston variant (beyond the 3 day cooking time and £25-per-portion price tag) is that the salmon is cooked “to your liking”. I’m okay with rare 45 degree salmon very now and then, but sometimes you just want that cooked and roasted, flaky texture.

    A fantastic post! Looking forward to more kitchen creativity.

    1. Thanks Phil. I do like the “jelly-like” 45 degree salmon but yeah sometimes the crispy skin and firmness are just what the doctor ordered.

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