Pasta with smoked salmon cream.

flag-mini-Scotland Salmon is my favorite fish. It's so pretty and meaty and tasty, no splintery bones to deal with, and it goes with just about everything you can think to serve it with, except perhaps chocolate. Although ... hold it ... a quick Google search and ... anyone for salmon goat cheese wraps with chocolate ganache? salmon with white chocolate sauce? hot chocolate salmon pancakes? (I might actually try that one.) If those are all too weird how about a nice fish-free solid chocolate salmon.
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Smoked salmon, I have to say, is a bit of a different story. As a rule, I don't like smoked fish. I don't really like smoked anything, not even barbecued potato chips! They're too smoky, and on my tongue that smoke flavor obliterates the taste of the actual food. I do like cheddar potato chips and cheese just about everything ... even, surprisingly, smoked Gouda (I think) and Blarney (although I can never find it anywhere).
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Ah, but Einstein Bagels' smoked salmon cream cheese (or "shmear" as they call it) has nudged me ever so slightly in the direction of smoked salmon. I could eat bowlsful of that stuff! It's more than wonderful on toasted Everything bagels, with extra Everything sprinkled on top. (I make my own Everything -- poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried garlic and onion, kosher salt all lightly toasted in a skillet and stored in a jar.) We finally stopped ordering puny little sides of salmon cream cheese whenever we venture into Einstein's -- now we grab a full-on 8 oz. container of it and spread it with abandon.
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Despite the "smoked" part, this Pasta with Smoked Salmon, Cream, and Dill recipe has beckoned to me ever since I opened the May 2004 "A Taste of Scotland" issue of Bon Appetit. I have a weakness for pasta with some sort of creamy sauce (and a few twists of black pepper and grated parmesan cheese). Now that I've had a bit of exposure to smoked salmon, I'm finally ready to give this dish a try.
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Like Salmon with Watercress Sauce, this dish is reasonably quick and easy to make, and requires just a few ingredients, nothing fancy. The recipe calls for 12 ounces of smoked salmon -- that felt a bit much to me so I bought two of those skinny li'l 4-ounce packets from the fish department at the grocery store, and for this smokeless gal the dish would have been just fine with only one. Four ounces of smoked salmon pack a LOT of smoky flavor! For me, anyway.
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The smoked salmon is chopped or slivered, sauteed in butter (yum!) then further cooked in heavy cream (forget about fat and calories at this point), stirred into cooked penne pasta and topped with fresh dill. It's like fast food, and is quite tasty! Although I confess it was still too smoky for me, even after cutting down the salmon by half. I'm obviously very sensitive to smoked fish. My Sweet Husband, on the other hand, eats smoked salmon straight up (must be his Scottish heritage) -- it was not too smoky for him. When I make this dish again, I will either poach the smoked salmon first in a small amount of milk, then pour off that milk and skip straight to the cream and dill mixture in the skillet, bypassing the butter. Or combine maybe two ounces of smoked with slivers of fresh salmon, to allow some of the smoky salmon flavor into the dish but not too much.
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The recipe comes from Valvona and Crolla, a family-owned Italian grocery, cafe and wine bar in Edinburgh, Scotland that is well known throughout the U.K. I first heard of V&C from the 44 Scotland Street stories by Alexander McCall-Smith. As Sweet Husband and I both descend from Scottish ancestors, eventually we'd like to take an official honeymoon (it's been three years already!) to the motherland. Even if that honeymoon is a long way off, for now we can eat like we're on Elm Row in the heart of Edinburgh.
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Hopefully we'll get a chance to personally tell the V&C folks how much we enjoyed their salmon pasta back in the U.S. Slainte!

Feel free to leave a comment about smoked salmon, pasta, salmon and chocolate, Scotland, bagels and cream cheese, or whatever inspires you.


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Pasta with Smoked Salmon, Cream, and Dill
Adapted from a Valvona & Crolla recipe appearing in
Bon Appetit "A Taste of Scotland" issue, May 2004

9 ounces dried penne, linguine, or your favorite pasta

1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces smoked salmon (or up to 12 ounces*, depending on your preference for smoked salmon),
chopped into bite sized pieces or cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon tomato paste
3 teaspoons chopped fresh dill, divided
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

While pasta is draining, melt butter in large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add salmon and cook until fish turns light pink, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Stir in cream and tomato paste. Cook until sauce is heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons dill and the cayenne pepper. Mix pasta into sauce (or pour sauce into pasta), adding pasta cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls as needed to moisten. Divide pasta among 4 plates or shallow bowls. Sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon dill and serve.

*If using more than 4 ounces of salmon, increase butter to about 1 tablespoon per four ounces of fish.