I can’t remember where I first came across this dish but it was many years ago and it has been a regular in our household ever since. If you are expecting guests and are in a bit of a fluster, try this. Again, it’s a good one for the lazy or less able cook but it is presentable enough for a modest dinner party – especially if your guests know you are not exactly a past winner of TV’s Masterchef. If their expectations are low, the better the chance that you will exceed them with this dish. Here goes:-
– Take a salmon fillet per person and put them (salmon not persons) in an oiled roasting tin or oven proof dish.
– Spread each one generously with pesto. Red or green, it’s up to you (I happen to prefer red pesto).
– Cover each fillet with a slice of Parma, Serrano, the whatsit called German one or similar raw ham (or, if you will, prosciutto crudo which sounds more glamorous than “raw ham” but means the same).
There, you have done the hard part. For a quick family weekday tea you could stop there (apart from the oven bit below which is quite important). For a Saturday evening meal with DVD or for your modest dinner party, carry on as follows:
– Slit a cross in the top of some cherry tomatoes (a small serrated knife is best for this). As many as you like, maybe 5 or 6 toms per person. Scatter them with reckless abandon in the tin/dish with the salmon.
– Splash some balsamic vinegar over the lot.
– Put in oven on 190C/Gas Mark 5 for about 20 minutes.
– Five minutes before the end sprinkle over some torn up or chopped basil leaves.
The good thing with this dish is that it comes with a ready-made sauce. Some pesto will leak out from under the ham and combine with the balsamic vinegar and juices from the salmon and tomatoes. The important thing is not to use too big a roasting tin or oven dish otherwise the juices with probably reduce down to a dry black crust that needs to be chiselled off the bottom. So don’t, for example, put two bits of salmon in your largest turkey tin!
Now serve. But what with? After all that exertion, you could go for the minimalist/gastro pub/less is more approach. Maybe some steamed green vegetables (broccoli or green beans?) and chunks of posh bread – focaccia or ciabatta perhaps.
If you don’t have a steamer, then you can obviously boil your vegetable of choice. But remember, in order to save time and the earth’s natural resources, use just enough water to cover your vegetables. The same applies when taking a bath.
If you adopt the less is more approach, be bold and put the salmon in the middle of the plate. Anywhere else and people will just think that you have forgotten something. Spoon over the juices and tomatoes and decide where the vegetables look most at home.
If you are of an arty disposition, I’m afraid the sauce is not thick enough to do those stupid smears across the plate, so beloved of pretentious twits on Masterchef. You know, when they put a small dollop on the plate and then quickly drag it to one side with the back of a teaspoon. What is the point???? Please just spoon this sauce over the salmon in a quantity that you can actually taste and that can be mopped up with a hunk of bread.
A tip for a slightly cheaper variation: use bacon instead of ham (smoked would be my preference). It looks more elegant if the bacon is stretched out so that it is thinner. To do this put a rasher on a board and lightly drag the blunt side of a table knife along the bacon (the knife being across, not in line with the bacon otherwise you will just be ploughing furrows in your rasher). Or just push the pads of your fingers along the rasher. If you used your fingers and enjoyed it too much, then you would probably like the cover of the Undertones’ 1983 album, All Wrapped Up, as bed time reading.
Two rashers of streaky (cut to length) are probably needed per salmon fillet but one rasher of back bacon would be enough. The lack of fat makes back bacon harder to stretch out though. If you are not bothered about presentation, just put the back bacon on “as is” and give your salmon a duvet rather than silk sheet.
Hope this works for you. If it was all too much, I have an even simpler idea for salmon which may feature in a later post.