Salmon rush day

Chef’s salmon ballotine with Champagne butter sauce

I’m in Champagne Ardennes. What immediately springs to mind is Champagne, obviously, and coarse pâté. Speciality sweets and charcuterie feature heavily. Lady’s fingers—the biscuits used in Tiramisu—originated in Reims. Sheep’s tongue in Troyes. Then there’s cheese and the famous Brie de Meaux. There’s a great looking pork pie called a Tourtelets de Rethel made with a yeast-raised dough and filled with pork, breadcrumbs, butter and nutmeg. I really fancy that.

One dish in this session. Ballotine de Saumon avec Beurre Blanc au Champagne. Salmon ballotine with a Champagne butter sauce is the last possible exam dish. Huzzah. Thank god. As exam dishes go this feels like the most straightforward. Though first time through every new dish is always a rush at the end.

The skin was removed from a centre cut of salmon. Then the brown meat carefully shaved away. But the challenge was to carefully slice a couple of 5mm escalopes with a super-sharp filleting knife. These were trimmed to size. The grain had to go left to right; head on the left, tail on the right. I got this wrong. No big issue but need to get this right in the exam. Next, another fish mousse. Hake this time—with a little surprise in the middle. A 5 mm strip of salmon. The ballotine was rolled in clingfilm and cooked in water at 65C. I managed to overcook my fish. It never got hotter than 69C but chef said it’s better to be under 65C than over. Noted.

Veg next. Balls were scooped from a carrot with a Parisienne. A Canneleur grooved the side of a cucumber, then in with the Parisienne. So cute. Lastly, turned mushrooms again. Not sure I’m getting better. The carrots and cucumber were glazed. The mushrooms cooked à blanc.

A lattice was cut into puff pastry for a bit of show on the plate.

Sauce last. Reduction made with shallots, Champagne, and Champagne vinegar. Small cubes of cold butter were whisked in and double cream added. This sauce strained through a chinois. It’s quite acidic but tasty and it works well with the fish. The problem with butter sauces is that when you reheat them at home they tend to split. Grrr. Chef said they can be recovered by putting some cold cream in a clean pan on a low heat, then slowly whisking in the split butter sauce, as you would oil into a mayonnaise. Must try next time.

My salmon ballotine with Champagne butter sauce