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Dish R&D: Seared Cured Wild Salmon

04 July 2006

A month of specials shaped around sustainably raised wild salmon is quite a catch for Compass Group customers.

This article first appeared in the 15 June 2006 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).

R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website www.foodservice411.com.

By Allison Perlik, Senior Editor

DISH: Seared Cured Salmon Fillet With Leeks, Bacon and Dijon Dressing
COMPOSITION: 4-ounce salmon fillet, sautéed shredded leeks and bacon, Dijon-mustard dressing, deep-fried green onions
CONVENIENCE PRODUCTS: IQF wild salmon, Dijon mustard
MENU PRICE: $3.95; FOOD COST: 28%

Product sustainability is a powerful draw for many restaurant patrons and the chefs who cook for them. News that Compass Group, The Americas Division, plans to purchase a million pounds of sustainably raised seafood each year netted high interest from Vice President of Culinary Development Chris Ivens-Brown.

Tasked with weaving the product into the Charlotte, N.C.-based contractor's 18-month promotional calendar, Brown devised a month-long showcase starring one of the most versatile species at hand: wild salmon.

"It's easy to prepare grilled, poached, steamed or roasted, and the delicate flavor works well with many different products," says Brown, who this fall will launch the 50-recipe promotion across Compass' business-and-industry, healthcare and campus accounts.

Salmon fillet with leeks, bacon and house-made Dijon dressing stands out for its simple composition, striking presentation and broad applicability in cafeteria exhibition stations, catered meals and executive dining. The recipe, which takes cues from traditional Swedish gravlax, begins with thawed, portioned fish cured overnight in coarse sea salt laced with sugar, black pepper and a splash of brandy.

"You could add citrus zest to the cure, or horseradish is nice, or cumin and turmeric for an Indian influence. The most important idea is keeping the flavor delicate," Brown says.

He favors whole, skin-on sides of salmon, but since the promotion begins as wild salmon season ends, Compass chefs will turn to individually quick-frozen products that also have the advantage of trimming food and labor costs. Although the cured fish could be served at room temperature, searing fillets caramelizes them slightly, lending a hint of sweetness and bronzing to edges.

The dressing of Dijon mustard with cider vinegar, sugar, egg and oil borrows from the mustard-dill sauce that often accompanies gravlax, bringing bite to the dish with a creamy texture that contrasts with the bacon and leeks. Leeks are underutilized in kitchens, Brown says, but their mild sweetness makes an ideal foil for subtly flavored salmon.

A tangle of quick-fried, julienned green onions finishes the dish. Brown likes the contributions they make to taste and appearance but other garnishes such as mixed microgreens or fronds of fresh dill can be substituted.

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