Sometimes it’s all in the name. Too long and no one looks further as it might take too much time. As in Steak Arrabbiata on Leek-Smothered Greens with Garlic-Kissed Wild Mushrooms. Too simple and we pass it by; we already know how to do that. As in Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes. Too esoteric and it’s a loser because who wants to make one more trip to a specialty store or spend time mastering an expensive or time-consuming, seldom-needed technique. As in Sous Vide Pheasant with Sautéed Leek Rye Rolls and Steam-Fried Homegrown Micro Greens.
(above: making the lentil risotto)
But Salmon on Lentil Risotto with Mushrooms and Fresh Greens (served with a perfect Cristom Oregon Pinot Noir–see below) just couldn’t be anything else. I’ve made it twice in the past two days and the only thing I could change is the risotto bit. We could possibly just say lentils, but you’d be thinking about boiling a bunch of lentils in a big pot of liquid and that just isn’t the way it is, so the name stands. You’ll just need to try it to see what you think of this whole meal in a bowl. Oftentimes folks choose a wine to go with a dish or a meal. In this case, I chose the wine first — I knew I wanted to bring an Oregon Pinot to this party — and custom-created a dish to go with it. This is a fun process for me and it’s one I often follow in restaurants. I check out the wine list first, choose my wine, and then look and see what dish will compliment it.
(below: our wine group tasting with Steve Doerner, Winemaker–second from right with beard and in brimmed hat– at Cristom, a favorite Oregon winery, in 2010)
This dish, used as first course for 15– here offered as a hearty main course for 8–was created to be taken to an Open the Bottle party hosted by dear friends, Drew and Jill Robinson (Drew did the wine pairings for my book).
(below: a WSJ quote about OTBN a couple of years ago)
“Memories – making them and reveling in them – is what Open the Bottle Night (OTBN) is all about. OTBN is just around the corner: Saturday, Feb. 26. We created OTBN in 1999 for a simple reason: All of us have that one bottle of wine that is so special to us that we plan to open it on an important occasion, but never do. On OTBN, as a world-wide community, we prepare a special meal, finally open that bottle, and celebrate the memories.”
We also toasted Drew’s 50th 10K race in his 50th year –all for the American Cancer Society. He’s raised $43,000 and has just one short 5K to go before hopefully raising a total of $50,000.
Main courses were gorgeous grilled lamb chops and many-cheese smashed potatoes with a salad of citrusy-cooked greens and teensy carrots,
as well as boneless beef ribs and bacon-wrapped fingerling potatoes–served with such succulent, well-paired wines as Halter Ranch Syrah, a Heitz Cab, Seghesio Petite Syrah, and a ‘70 La Fite-Rothchild Bordeaux, the likes of which I’ve never tasted:
(below: a. opening the Bordeaux b. the bottle)
At some point, a huge platter of barely roasted asparagus came around just for a bit of crunch and change. (Roasted or, even more, grilled asparagus isn’t quite the wine-killer that boiled or steamed asparagus with its sulfurous aroma seems to be.) Dessert: Chocolate cake extraordinaire and a perfect old Dow port, one of Drew’s very favorite drinks. Each wine was presented with its story and the story of why the guest brought/bought/loved it.
(below: Heitz Cab and then the lamb and the asparagus)
(below–me at Halter Ranch, home of the toothsome Syrah, two weeks ago)
While the salmon and lentils dish isn’t difficult, do read through the preparation before beginning so you understand the order in which things can be cooked. You may very well do it differently or simplify it in some way, but I think you’ll conclude as I did that pacific northwest salmon with earthy lentils and Oregon Pinot Noir is a phenomenal combination. Our American Pinot Noir is the New World equivalent of French Burgundy, so I include in the dish some typical Burgundian ingredients like Dijon mustard (Dijon is the capitol of Burgundy) and hazelnuts, a favorite crop in east-central France. What grows together, goes together is true here and in more than one way.
Our wine for the first course salmon dish? An Oregon Pinot Noir Cristom, 07, Sommers Reserve –an exquisite New World burgundy:
First make the lentil risotto–simply a mixture of sautéed vegetables, lentils, and broth cooked slowly together. In the meantime, sauté a small pot of mixed mushrooms and chopped shallots with chopped zucchini and yellow squash added just at the end. Next–or beforehand– grill the salmon gently to medium. Serve the salmon on top of the lentil risotto with a few mixed, dressed greens and mushrooms set at the side of a pasta bowl or plate. Lovely hot or at room temperature, it’s not gilding the lily when you garnish with a few fresh pea tendrils, as well as some toasted, chopped hazelnuts. Pass the pepper mill at the table.
- 4 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 each, chopped: leek (white part only), medium onion, garlic clove
- 3 small carrots, small dice
- 2 stalks celery, small dice
- 2 small parsnips, small dice
- 1/2 cup butternut squash, small dice
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons each chopped fresh thyme and dill
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper, and a pinch of ground cayenne
- 1 cup each green lentils, black lentils, and red lentils (or any mixture or single color), rinsed well and picked over
- 3 quarts low-sodium chicken broth (preferably homemade)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- Water, if needed
- 2/3 cup finely chopped, toasted hazelnuts, divided (1/3 cup is for garnishing at serving)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard (or to taste)
- 1/4 cup each minced celery and scallions
1. Sauté the pancetta over medium-high heat in a deep, 4-5 quart sauté pan in two tablespoons of olive oil until browned. Add the vegetables, herbs, and spices (Leek – ground cayenne) and cook until the vegetables are softening — about 10 minutes, adding a bit more olive oil if needed.
2. Stir in lentils. Pour in about a quart of the broth, stirring, and cook until the broth is nearly gone. Repeat until all broth is used and lentils are tender–about 20-25 minutes– adding a bit of water (and even covering the pan) if needed to finish cooking the lentils.
3. Stir in the cream and mustard. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a bit more cream, mustard, salt or pepper, if needed. The risotto should be tender and soft, loose and creamy–not gloppy, but also not soupy. Add a little extra broth or cream if needed. Stir in 1/3 cup of the reserved chopped hazelnuts along with the celery and scallions. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
(below: making the broth)
MUSHROOMS WITH SHALLOTS, ZUCCHINI, AND SUMMER SQUASH
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 pound sliced mushrooms (any sort or mixed)
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 each: small zucchini and summer (yellow) squash, small dice
- Kosher salt, fresh-ground black pepper, crushed red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
Add olive oil and butter to a deep skillet and sauté sliced mushrooms with chopped shallot for two or three minutes or until nearly soft. Stir in the diced small zucchini and summer squash and cook briefly; the squash should retain a bit of crunch. Set aside until you serve the mushroom mixture on top of the dressed greens.
(Below: Salmon grilled by Sean Morgan on our gas grill.)
There are many ways to cook salmon* and you can take your choice; here’s what we did:
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh-ground pepper
- 2 1/2 pounds fresh, wild-caught salmon, pin bones removed, cut into 8 approximately 5-ounce servings
Preheat a gas grill. In the meantime, place the fish pieces on a greased, rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Turn two of the burners off, place the baking sheet with the fish on the grill, and close the lid. Cook the fish over the indirect heat for 8-10 minutes, keeping the temperature at 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit, or until the salmon pieces are firm to the touch but pink and moist at the center. (We also used a small pan of red-wine marinated cherry wood on the grill just for a few minutes to provide a tish of smoke–no more.) Remove and serve hot or at room temperature.
*Oven method: You can cook whole oiled and seasoned (salt and pepper) fillets topped with lemon slices and wrapped and sealed tightly in foil on a baking sheet in the oven at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes, and slice them into 5-ounce pieces after a 5-minute rest.
Fix the greens just before serving.
- 8 cups mixed greens or fresh spinach
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
In a large bowl, toss together greens with lemon juice and a tiny sprinkle of salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss again. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- 1 cup fresh pea tendrils or chopped parsley
- 1/3 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts (included in lentil risotto ingredient list)
TO SERVE the Salmon on Lentil Risotto with Mushrooms and Fresh Greens:
For each serving, spoon about 3/4 cup of the lentil risotto into a pasta bowl or onto a dinner plate and top with a piece of salmon, pushing the salmon down into the lentils a little bit. Leave some room at the side where you’ll add a cup of dressed greens topped with a spoonful of the mushroom mixture. Garnish the dish with a few pea tendrils or a sprinkle of chopped parsley and some chopped hazelnuts. Serve hot or at room temperature. Pass the pepper mill at the table. Wine: Oregon Pinot Noir, please!
(below–the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains as we drove west, away from Black Forest-just north-east of Colorado Springs- after Drew’s race)
Sing a new song when you drink Oregon Pinot,
Bordeaux photo courtesy Jill Robinson.