May 31, 2011

Salmon in Puff Pastry with a Memorable Italian White

I recently thumbed through Eric Ripert’s cookbook “Avec Eric” and stumbled across a recipe that caught my attention. Salmon, wrapped in dough, with a horseradish cream. Sort of a Salmon Wellington… That reminded me, I still had a sheet of frozen puff pastry in the freezer that I did not know what to do with…
The recipe calls for phyllo dough, but I figured that puff pastry should work, and I could just bake it in the oven, which was easier than having to worry about stuff sticking to a frying pan, anyway. For the herb used on the salmon I decided on dill rather than basil. I love dill, and the two main uses I have for it are with salmon and also with cucumbers, so I couldn’t pass this chance up.

The horseradish cream which served as a condiment was very easy to make and very delicious and lemony. Many of the recipes in this cookbook look a little intimidating to me, but this one really gave me a boost to try more of the seafood recipes in this book.

As my wine pairing, I selected the 2008 Tenuta Luisa Friulano, which is a white wine from Italy. The grape type Friulano is somewhat obscure (oh well, aren’t most Italian white wines, except for Pinot Grigio…), and until recently it was actually known under the name Tocai Friulano, or just Tocai. But then the European Union decided that this name could easily be confused with a Hungarian wine that has a similar name, and made the Italian winemakers change the name of their white wine grape…

Wines made from the Friulano grape are difficult to find here in the U.S., but every now and then you can run across one. Since I have fond memories associated with this grape type, I can’t resist picking up a bottle every time I see one. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed with my first two finds. Actually, I was beginning to think that the surroundings associated with my very first encounter with this type of white wine had pushed my positive rating way off the scale. A replication of those flavors seemed to be completely unattainable in hindsight.
I know you are just dying to hear where I enjoyed my first glass of Friulano. It was on the outdoor terrace of a restaurant in Venice, Italy. Picture a perfectly sunny day. We are sitting in the shade of a large red umbrella, overlooking the Grand Canal, with a virtually unobstructed view of the large round dome of the church Santa Maria della Salute. Gondolas and boats with beautiful and happy people are floating by… (Yup, it's the place with the red umbrellas where we ended up... I snapped the picture from the other side of the canal, on the steps of the Salute church.)

During the meal, there was no time for picture-taking. In front of us was a big plate of the most perfectly cooked risotto you could ever ask for. The waiter had suggested to pair a Tocai Friulano with it, from a region to the north of Venice. Hm, never heard of that, but when in Venice, do as the… oh wait, that was Rome… To cut a long story short, it was one of the most memorable meals I have ever had in my life. Simple, but definitely memorable…
But back to my salmon and the Tenuta Luisa Friulano. This Friulano did not disappoint. It was wonderful. The aroma was of ripe apples, white flowers and hazelnut, and it had a nice acidity and surprisingly full and round mouthfeel. It was a very nice match with the salmon dish, I think it particularly complemented the fresh lemon zest flavors. Final verdict: a good combination!

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