The holidays are often the perfect opportunity to combine old and new, mingling nostalgic family classics with fresh recipes, and flavors. While we likely all have our traditional dishes that appear on the holiday dinner table time and again, there’s nothing wrong with stirring the pot with some new recipes for this season’s spread.
In the vein of mixing old and new, there seems no one better to turn to than Chef Jacques Pépin. His firm attention to technique accompanies honed flavors and menus that can be successfully accomplished by the home cook – , and on that even one on a snappy schedule that so often dictates the holiday meal.
An article in the New York Times boldly declared “There’s the Wrong Way and Jacques Pépin’s Way,” accompanied by a full-page image of the chef ardently whipping up, of course, the perfect, fluffy, French omelet. Pépin’s omelet has certainly become an iconic image, but furthermore it’s a reminder that even the humblest meal is luxurious when prepared with passionate attention to technique, and ingredients.
Molasses Cured Salmon
With Pépin’s flair for making the simple seem extravagant, we’re offering the chef’s recipe for cured salmon as a great new addition to your holiday meal. This recipes plays with sweet and spicy flavor profiles as an updated approach to a classic preparation. The dark molasses and warm spices of the marinade decorate the salmon with winter flavors, while the silky, light texture of the fish is the perfect palate warmer—delighting the appetite as a first bite, but leaving plenty of room for family favorites still to arrive at the dinner table.
Chef Pépin’s molasses-cured salmon is an ideal holiday hors d'oeuvre for its flavor, festive plating, and well-planned preparation.
• Curing the salmon days before the meal lets the fish develop its full flavor, and leaves you plenty of time to polish off the rest of the feast’s preparation while your guests enjoy the appetizer.
• Heating is not required, taking up none of that coveted oven space on the day of your celebration.
• Using finely chopped shallots or red onion to top the brilliant iridescent pink of the fish makes a particularly picturesque plate.
• The recipe includes suggestions for pairing surplus salmon with salad greens for another meal, although the prospect of leftovers seems unlikely.
Perfect Holiday Drink
When asked by Food and Wine magazine to name his favorite holiday cocktail, Pépin quickly replied, “Champagne, without question.” In honor of his selection, pair this appetizer with a sparkling aperitif for an impressive first course. We suggest in particular a Crémant—a gently bubbling white wine that is traditionally mellower, offering a creamy effervescence that matches the silkiness of the fish, but still piquant enough to brighten the heavier winter spice of the dish.
And then, this recipe also sits firmly atop Pépin’s other favorite pillars of cuisine—a well-sharpened knife and good bread and butter. It sounds simple, but it’s the best way to finish your fish - —an impressive, paper-thin slice atop an unassuming, but entirely satisfying, buttered wedge of bread.
Serves 8 as a first course
Sweet molasses in combination with dark soy sauce not only gives this cured salmon an intense flavor but also colors the flesh of the fish, turning it almost black on the outside. When you slice it, the inside is a beautifully transparent gold and pink and contrasts dramatically with the exterior.
This recipe is easy to do, but it takes time—the salmon is cured in the sugar, salt, spices, molasses, and soy for 24 hours and set aside to dry for another 24 hours before it is sliced and served. Because so much time is involved, it makes sense to cure a large fillet, so this is a great dish for entertaining. Any leftover salmon will keep for a week under refrigeration. It’s nice on salad greens.
1 center-cut salmon fillet (about 1 ½ pounds), of even thickness throughout, skin removed
¼ cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup dark molasses
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
Buttered black bread, for serving
Extra-virgin olive oil
Place the salmon in the center of a large piece of plastic wrap. Mix the salt, sugar, cumin, allspice, paprika, nutmeg, and cayenne together in a small bowl. Spread the mixture evenly on both sides of the salmon.
Mix the molasses and soy sauce together in a small bowl. Pour half of the molasses mixture over the top of the salmon and spread it evenly over the surface. Turn the salmon over and coat the other side with the remainder of the molasses mixture. Wrap the salmon tightly in the plastic wrap. Put it on a tray and refrigerate tightly for 24 hours.
Unwrap the salmon (it will have absorbed most of the marinade) and discard any remaining marinade. Pat the fish lightly with paper towels and arrange it on a wire rack set over a tray. Refrigerate it for another 24 hours to dry. At serving time, thinly slice the salmon on a diagonal. Serve 2 or 3 slices per person, with buttered bread. Garnish the salmon, if desired, with chopped onion, capers, and a drizzle of olive oil.
-Recipe from Essential Pépin
Boston University is pleased to welcome Claudine and Jacques Pépin this week, and again this upcoming Spring, for a wonderfully entertaining, instructive, and delicious evening with recipes expertly prepared from the award-winning cookbook, Essential Pépin. Attendees will leave with the book and accompanying instructional DVD, which demonstrates how over five decades of the chef’s best recipes can be made at home. For tickets and information please call 617-353-9852.
Boston University’s Food and Wine Experiential Programs are dedicated to culinary education, offering certification programs in cheese, wine and the culinary arts as well as seminars in food, wine and gastronomy. Semester-long certification courses are offered during the Fall and Spring academic semesters while special tastings, demonstrations, and guests lectures are held year-long. For a full listing of current events and more information regarding professional certificates, please visit http://www.bu.edu/foodandwine/.
Graduate of Boston University’s Program in the Culinary Arts