Chef Anne McAllister was back at my house recently. I gave my eldest son a private cooking class with Chef Anne for his 11th birthday. Yes, I know, he is not your average 11 year old. He’s the son of an avid cook/food blogger and the grandson of a chef and I promise he will make someone really happy someday with his well-honed kitchen skills and his wide-ranging palate. He insisted that they prepare a 5-course French dinner. He and Anne cooked the meal together in our kitchen and they served it to our immediate family and the family of his best friend from school. It was absolutely one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten (and we’ve eaten quite a few fine meals in our day). I was in a food coma for a solid 30 hours afterwards. The appetizer course was this delightful salmon mousse. Making it does require that you either own or purchase a terrine mold. This mousse is so good I think you should run right out and buy a mold NOW so that you can make this dish immediately. I’m serious. Where are your car keys?
Salmon Mousse (8-10 servings)
- 1 ½ pounds smoked salmon
- ½ pound clarified butter
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 lemon, juiced
- ½ tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- salt and white pepper
- ½ hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
Lightly oil your newly purchased (or old and well-used) terrine mold. Line the mold with plastic wrap.
When Chef Anne gave me this recipe it did not include directions for how to clarify butter. This is because, bless her, Chef Anne assumes that we were all born knowing how to clarify butter, or that we’ve all gone to a Class A French cooking school. Unfortunately, most of us have not. If you already know how to clarify butter skip this section. If you do not – read on! Gently melt unsalted butter over low heat until the butter begins to break down. You’ll see that the melted butter is forming three distinct layers. The top layer is foamy and needs to be skimmed off with a spoon and discarded. The milk solids will drop to the bottom of the saucepan and form a milky layer at the bottom. What is left in the middle is the clarified butter. Once you’ve skimmed off all of the foam take your pan off of the heat and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Next, strain the mixture through a very fine sieve or through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Your task is complete. Clarified butter can be kept in the fridge for ages. Make extra so that next time you are prepped and ready.
In a food processor, puree 1 pound of the smoked salmon, the clarified butter, and the cream. Puree until really smooth. Turn the mixture out into a mixing bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Salt levels in smoked salmon vary wildly, so be sure to taste for salt BEFORE you add it. You may not need any. Line the prepared mold with ½ (or a little more) of the remaining smoked salmon. To assemble spread ½ of the mousse evenly over the smoked salmon. Lay ½ of the cucumber slices over the mousse, then top with a layer of smoked salmon. Then repeat the process – spread the remaining ½ of the mousse, followed by the cucumber, and then the remaining salmon. Fold over any flaps of salmon from the original layer. Wrap the mold tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
The next day release the mold and invert the salmon mousse onto a platter. Slice carefully with a very sharp knife. This is not an easy task and takes a certain amount of skill, patience and forgiveness. The forgiveness is for YOU. Take a few Zen breaths and just accept the slices as they are. They may not be perfect, but they are good enough and you can press the slices back into shape with your fingers once you plate them or place them on a platter. Serve the terrine with toast points and garnish with fresh herbs. The mousse should be served COLD. It is delicious as an appetizer, or as part of a Sunday brunch.