Fish. There was a time when the word struck absolute, paralyzing fear into me.
You see, I used to think that I was allergic to it. My father has a deathly allergy, as does my grandmother. And I have had some incidents that suggested to my allergist that my body had followed suit to the family history. A simple blood test in 2011 proved there is no issue, but old habits die hard.
Salmon was the first fish that I ate after the long hiatus. It was all wrapped up in a crispy and spicy roll at a cheap all-you-can-eat sushi place in Hamilton, Ont. I was timorous — certain the very air in that place, laced with the oily odour of fresh fish and tempura shrimp, would strangle the life right out of me.
This is the first fish recipe that I have posted to the blog. I am learning more about preparing fish, so please do look forward to more such recipes. This one forwards the subtle flavours of spring.
Asparagus and Gravlax Salad with Tarragon and Poached Egg
For the gravlax:
500 g fresh deboned salmon (a lean belly fillet is preferable)
150 g kosher salt
350 g granulated sugar
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon white peppercorns, lightly crushed
Mix the salt, sugar, caraway seeds and peppercorns in a bowl large enough to fit your salmon fillet. Bury the fish in the mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Turn the salmon twice a day for 4 days. Rinse off the salt and sugar mixture. Dry thoroughly. Keep in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic, until needed.
For the salad:
40-50 sprigs of asparagus (depending on size)
juice of 1 lemon
gravlax (recipe above)
1 shallot, very finely diced (optional)
4 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon white vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
butter, for frying
Add white vinegar to a large pot. Fill the pot halfway with water. Place over medium heat. Allow the water to come to the stage just before simmering, when tiny bubbles appear along the bottom and sides of the pot. Reduce the heat. Crack each egg into separate small dishes. Create a whirlpool by stirring in a single direction around the pot. Gently glide each egg, one by one, into the centre of the whirlpool. Continue stirring gently for one minute. Stop stirring. Continue to cook the eggs for three more minutes, or until they are just wobbly when touched with the spoon. Remove with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towel.
Meanwhile, slice the gravlax on an extreme bias, ensuring no skin is attached to the slices. Clean and peel the asparagus. Fry gently in butter until they soften slightly and turn bright green. Season with salt and pepper.
Layer asparagus, gravlax and tarragon in a shallow dish. Squeeze lemon juice over top. Sprinkle with shallot, if using. Gently place the eggs on top. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper.