Friday, February 12, 2010

Endive and Potato Salad with Smoked Trout

Seattle is the land of smoked salmon, but I have a secret: as much as I love the salmon, I really love smoked trout. It's a little milder than salmon, with a sweeter flavor, but it still has a nice, meaty texture and pleasant saltiness. Unfortunately, it's a little bit hard to find - 10 kinds of smoked salmon, or even salmon candy, is readily available, but refrigerated smoked trout (I've tried some in cans and didn't care for it) is only available in the more specialty stores around here.

That's part of the reason I love this salad, it's a great use of smoked trout. Paired with crunchy and slightly bitter endives, creamy potatoes, and a lovely light and lemony dressing, and lots of fresh herbs, this salad hits all the notes for me - crunchy, creamy, lightly bitter in a very pleasant way, meaty, salty, tangy, all good. All this without croutons, which I dearly love (especially when using leftover La Brea ciabatta and frying them lightly in bacon fat), but this salad needs none!

I can't take credit, this is a variation of a salad from Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook. I didn't change much, just toned down some of the herbs, since the original recipe calls for several kinds of fresh herbs that, unless you grow them yourself, would cost a small fortune (thankfully, I have chives and thyme readily available in my herb pot, so all I need to pick up is some fresh parsley). I also changed out some of the Belgian endive for frisee for additional texture. It makes an excellent main course with a fresh, buttered baguette on the side, and since the lettuces are pretty hardy, you can make it ahead without worrying about the lettuces wilting.

One note: make sure you cook the potatoes with herbs, salt and pepper as called for, it really flavors the potatoes fantastically.

Endive and Potato salad with Smoked Trout

Lemon Vinaigrette
2 large lemons
1 hard-cooked egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup neutral oil
1 tablespoon minced cornichons
1 tablespoon minced and drained capers

8 ounces small fingerling potatoes (no wider in diameter than a quarter)
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, skin left on, smashed
Kosher salt

3-4 heads Belgian, red, white, or mix
2 cups frisée, chopped
8 ounces smoked trout fillet, skin and bones removed
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup minced chives
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon drained nonpareil capers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup Italian parsley leaves
12 caper berries, drained

For the vinaigrette: Zest the lemons with a microplane and finely chop the zest. (You should have about 1 tablespoon.) Set aside. Squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from 1 of the lemons; reserve the remaining lemon for another use.

In a deep small bowl, crush the egg yolk with a fork. Whisk in the lemon juice and mustard, then, whisking constantly, drizzle in the oil until emulsified. You could also just whiz everything together with a hand blender. Mix in the lemon zest, cornichons, and capers.

For the potatoes: Wash the potatoes and slice them into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Put the potatoes, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaf, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Add cold water to cover by 1 inch and season the water with salt until it tastes like the sea. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender; drain. Discard the seasonings and garlic.

For the salad: Cut each endive leaves in half lengthwise, and discard the cores. Cut endive into 1/2" thick slices on a bias. Combine the endive with the frisee and potatoes in a bowl.

Break the trout into 1 to 1 1/2-inch chunks and add to the bowl, along with the shallots, chives, and capers. Toss the salad with about 1/2 cup of the dressing, or as needed to coat the ingredients, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add parsley leaves and toss once more.

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