Salmon with watercress sauce.

flag-mini-Ireland It’s no surprise that countries surrounded by ocean and streaked with freshwater rivers and streams count seafood as a culinary staple. Through poems, fairy tales, history books and movies, I have come to associate fish like cod, mackerel, haddock, herring and flounder with Merrie Olde England.
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But the fish that shows up most commonly in my British cookbooks and magazines is rosy salmon, which looks and taste delicious no matter how it's prepared. And it’s almost always draped in sauce or dolloped with mayonnaise made beautifully green from rocket/arugula, parsley, watercress, sorrel, spinach or some other green leafyness.
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According to the
Scottish Salmon Producers' Organization, salmon is the U.K's most popular fish ordered in restaurants and purchased by consumers for preparing at home. The site also emphasizes how all those Omega 3's in salmon (up to 5 grams in an 8-oz. fillet) "help to develop and maintain our eyesight ... and conditions such as schizophrenia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and even protect against sunburn, strokes and some types of cancers, as well as positive effects on the immune system and in mitigating the symptoms of arthritis." Protect against sunburn? Count me in! They do have some tempting salmon recipes, especially that Salmon Omelette. But wait -- don't leave yet ... there's more here.
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We
love salmon, so recently I picked a recipe with sauce made from watercress and cream out of my favorite "The Romance of Ireland" issue of Bon Appetit from May 1996. (It will take me a good long time to experiment with all the tasty recipes in that edition.) This recipe, like so many from this issue, is not available at the Bon Appetit site so I'm including it below.
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The recipe couldn't be simpler, with a whopping
five ingredients in all: butter (yum!), shallots, watercress, whipping cream, and salmon fillets. As usual, I did some skimping: in lieu of shallots I used up half an onion from the veggie drawer, and substituted a combo of evaporated milk and half-and-half for the whipping cream.
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Butter lover that I am, I'd rather have the butter called for in the recipe than the fat and calories from whipping cream. In some cases. The recipe is meant to serve 8, but I was able to easily halve the sauce recipe and cook up just two salmon steaks. Even for 8, this wouldn't take much time or effort and requires minimal prep -- mincing shallots (or onions), a small amount of watercress trimming, then sauteeing, blending, and poaching (or broiling, grilling, I opted for frying) the salmon.
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I was craving the golden color and crispiness that frying (in a combo of butter and olive oil) lends to the salmon, but in the future I might opt for the healthier method of poaching or grilling. Salmon doesn't take long to cook, even these fat fillets. You can cook them until just done, then let them finish cooking on a plate so they'll be perfectly moist and tender. Oh my mouth is watering just thinking about it!
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The sauce was bright and fresh, both in color and flavor, and complemented the salmon beautifully. We had lots of leftover turmeric-tinted rice with peas from the
Chicken Tikka Masala prepared earlier that week, which made for a colorful and dee-licious early summer dinner with chilled white wine. Lately we've taken to gulping down glasses of Three (formerly Two) Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's. We are always on the lookout for wine bargains, but we feel like we're stealing this stuff. Our wine rack is full! And we're happily wine buzzed. Now, Evanston, when the heck are you going to open a Trader Joe's here??
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Salmon is so pretty.


Salmon with Watercress Sauce
From Bon Appetit, May 1996 "The Romance of Ireland" issue
Serves 8 (but halves nicely)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 large bunches watercress, tough ends trimmed
1-1/2 cups whipping cream

8 8-ounce salmon fillets with skin

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and saute until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add watercress and stir until wilted and still bright green, about 3 minutes. Add cream. Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Puree hot sauce in blender until almost smooth. Transfer to heavy small saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Refrigerate.)

Butter 2 steamer racks and place in 2 large saucepans over simmering water. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Place salmon, skin side down, on steamer racks. Cover saucepans and steam until salmon is just opaque in center, about 10 minutes.

Whisk sauce over low heat to re-warm. Transfer salmon to platter. Spoon some of the sauce over salmon. Garnish with additional watercress. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

Enjoy!

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