Is the asparagus better than ever this year? Or is it just more welcome than ever? How did it manage to poke its heads through ground that remained frozen far later this year than last? And, once thawed, how did those same shoots survive when they were immediately covered with six inches of snow? Perhaps it’s not just more welcome, it’s to be applauded for getting here at all. I cannot use enough asparagus now. And when I saw Florence Fabricant’s recipe, it went to the top the what-to-cook-now list. Ms. Fabricant is the longtime food critic for the New York Times. She’s also the author of no less than eleven cookbooks. Her beat at the Times includes gathering information on everything from Restaurant Openings to Chefs on the move to the latest in food trends and products. ( I am proud to say that Monte’s Ham was one of those when we first came to market. ) In addition to all her writing, she is an inspired cook and her recipes produce wonderful results. This one is an excellent example of that. In addition to supplying us with ample reason to eat more asparagus, Ms. Fabricant adds the sumptuous flavor of smoked salmon to a shallot cream sauce. Then the sauce is poured over fresh green fettuccine noodles and sprinkled with dill. And all this happens in just over 30 minutes. But first, a little about that smoked salmon.
|Salmon Fishing in the Gaspé|
And then there is Nova. Nova is so ubiquitous that many New Yorkers lump all smoked fish together as Nova. This is the smoked salmon you find in any little deli in the city. Like Champagne, Nova is a regional name restricted to fish from the waters around the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. There’s also Gaspé Nova from my home province of Quebec. This is the classic: hardwood-smoked and silky, it’s got a little bite and just hint of fish flavor. This was the smoked salmon I chose to make Ms. Fabricant’s recipe. It comes in packages of 4 oz. which is exactly the recipe calls for. And it falls about in the middle of the smoked salmon lexicon: Not as mild as Norwegian, not as strong as Scottish Salmon, which form the two ends of the smoky flavor scale. Gaspé Nova is cold-smoked after spending time in a mild brine. The smoking is a slow process and a very exacting one. The heat of the oven must never rise above 83 degrees and the fish is infused with a ‘secret blend’ of wood essences. But it is sure worth the wait. The result is a silky-textured smoked salmon that was just right for this recipe. And here it is.