The smoked salmon croque madames. Photo: Marcel Aucar
When I was a young chef, the quality of smoked salmon in Australia was not great. Much was imported from northern Europe, which meant it was frozen for the journey.
Fortunately things have changed, and fantastic sides of smoked salmon now come out of Tasmania and an excellent smokehouse in South Australia.
At MoVida we have a cold smoker, which is a fridge with a smoking box attached to it, designed and built by Melbourne smoking legend Tom Cooper. We cure our salmon as for gravlax, then place it in the refrigerated smoke box for about six hours; smoke is pumped into the box by a small fan. Once finished, we grate citrus zest over the fillet and it's ready to slice.
Frank Camorra's smoked salmon rillettes. Photo: Marcel Aucar
Salmon rillettes is a rustic pate. It is great with grilled bread and radishes. This twist on the croque monsieur is a fantastic breakfast - fill the bread the night before, then keep it wrapped in the fridge.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 red eschallots, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
¼ bunch thyme
400g fresh salmon, pin-boned and skinned
2 bay leaves
100g butter, softened
240g smoked salmon, cut into 1cm dice
200g natural yoghurt
60ml lemon juice
2 tbsp chives, chopped
Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add the oil, eschallots, garlic and thyme and sweat until soft. Take off heat and cool slightly. Cut fresh salmon into two pieces and place each on a square of plastic wrap with the dark side of the fish facing up. Evenly distribute the shallot mix over each piece and add a bay leaf to each. Wrap tightly, place on a plate, put them in a microwave for 1.5 minutes on medium power, take out, turn over and put them back in for another 30 seconds on medium. Leave to rest for five minutes. Slice butter and place in a bowl. Unwrap fish, discard herb mix, break warm fish onto the butter and let it soften. Make sure all the butter is melted or soft before mixing in the other ingredients, otherwise you will have lumps of butter in your mix (microwave briefly if you need to). Add remaining ingredients and mix well, trying not to break up the cooked salmon too much. Serve with toasted rye bread and cornichons.
Serves 6 (pictured)
SMOKED SALMON CROQUE MADAMES
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp plain flour
⅔ cup whole milk
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
8 slices white bread
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
150g sliced smoked salmon
¼ cup small dill sprigs, plus more for garnish
2 cups grated gruyere cheese
4 large eggs
Make bechamel sauce by melting one tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until well combined. Gradually whisk in milk and cook, whisking, until mixture comes to the boil and thickens. Simmer sauce for about 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, then remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Using remaining butter, butter each slice of bread. Take four slices, spread the unbuttered sides with mustard and top with salmon. Scatter dill over salmon. Top each with ¼ cup cheese. Close sandwich with remaining bread, buttered side up. Preheat grill. Heat a large non-stick frypan over medium heat. Add sandwiches; cook, turning once, until golden brown, about two minutes each side. Spread two tablespoons of bechamel sauce on top of each sandwich; sprinkle each with ¼ cup remaining cheese. Grill until cheese is bubbling and golden brown. Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick frypan over medium heat. Crack eggs into pan. Cover, and cook until whites are set but yolks are still soft, about two minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Place one egg on top of each sandwich, and serve.