I’d go back to Ireland in a New York minute, but it wouldn’t be for the food. Aside from a wonderful Thanksgiving feast that we prepared ourselves, a dinner at Fallon & Byrne in Dublin and an Irish Breakfast at Merv Griffin’s St. Cleran’s Hotel, we basically had dreadful food. So imagine my surprise at discovering that when Tyler Florence was working on the recipe for Salt and Pepper Salmon, his reference point was “Colcannon”. According to LaRousse, “Colcannon” is “a very popular Irish dish made from mashed potatoes and green cabbage, mixed with butter or milk and strongly flavored with chives, parsley and pepper”.
I strayed a bit, both from Colcannon and Tyler but the result was spectacular and very Spring-like: Crispy seared salmon liberally seasoned with salt and pepper on a bed of new potatoes, sweet peas and crunchy pearl onions topped with fresh mint, all of which was on the table in a little over 30 minutes.
There’s something so lovely and green about this whole meal
that it does remind me of Ireland-- so beautiful and, as these pictures taken in November show, so green! We stayed only a night at now defunct St. Cleran’s Hotel in County Galway. The place was formerly the home of John Huston, whose daughter Anjelica Huston, grew up there. Merv Griffin re-imagined the place as a lavish country house hotel. It was, as you can see from these pictures, a glorious Georgian house. It also had a kitchen of some renown, run somewhat incongruously by a Japanese Chef. For some ridiculous reason, even though we were hotel guests, we couldn’t be accommodated in the Dining Room and instead were hustled off to a truly dreadful meal at a second or third rate hotel nearby. But my Salt and Pepper Salmon almost makes up for the hotel’s gaffe and brings back a lot of happy memories of the Auld Sod. Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Salt and Pepper Salmon with Smashed Potatoes, Peas, Lemon, Pearl Onions and Mint
4 Salmon Filets, 8 ounces each, skin on, 11/2 -2 inches thick
2 lbs of new potatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground Black Pepper
2 10-ounce packages of frozen peas
1 10-ounce package of frozen pearl onions
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup of fresh mint leaves
Put the potatoes into a large pot, cover them with cold water, and add a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain. Stick a fork into the potatoes, 1 at a time, lift them out of the colander and peel with a paring knife. Toss the potatoes into a bowl and roughly crush them. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Put the frozen peas and onions into a colander and run then under cool water until they are just thawed. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil with the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts. Add the shallots and lemon zest and cook until the shallots are softened but not browned – about 2 -3 minutes. Then add the pearl onions and peas, season with salt and pepper, and toss to warm the vegetables. Add the vegetables to the potatoes in the bowl, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, add the mint leaves and taste for salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
Heat a 2-count, about 2 tablespoons, of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is almost smoking. Season the salmon with pepper, and rub about 1 1/2 tablespoons butter on the skin side of each fillet. Add the salmon to the pan, skin-side down. To get super crispy skin, cook the salmon almost to completion, about 6 minutes.
Flip the salmon and cook until flesh side is nicely seared, 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer the salmon to a platter and serve with the Smashed Potatoes. Almost makes me want to go back to Ireland to try the Colcannon.