Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Salmon with Basil Mashed Potatoes and Sweet Red Onion Sauce

Salmon and bacon are made for each other. A really easy way to cook them together is to put fresh basil leaves on top of a salmon fillet, cover with bacon strips and lots of freshly cracked black pepper, and cook in a hot (preheated) broiler. The salmon comes out moist and perfumed with basil and the flavors of the bacon. As perfect as that is, this dish, which adds basil mashed potatoes and red onion sauce, is my new favorite.

Ingredients

  • 4 6-ounce pieces salmon fillets, boneless, skinless
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, stemmed, stems saved, leaves washed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 slices apple-wood smoked bacon, -inch thick
  • 2 large red onions, peeled, cored, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 equal pieces
  • ½ cup fish or shellfish stock
  • 6 medium boiling potatoes, peeled, quartered
  • 1 cup milk, or more if needed
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 4 drops sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup mixed fresh herb leaves (Italian parsley, chervil, tarragon)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Chop the basil stems, and moisten them with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Put the salmon in a shallow dish or bowl and pack the oiled basil stems around them. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Take the salmon out of the dish and wipe off the basil stems, saving them to put on the fire when you are grilling the salmon. Flatten the pieces of salmon slightly with the palm of your hand, and then with your hands form a 3-inch circle with each of the salmon pieces, the side of the salmon that held the skin on the inside of the circle. When the salmon has taken on a “medallion” shape, wrap 2 slices of bacon around the outside edges of each salmon medallion, securing them with wooden toothpicks.

Put the onions in a saucepan with the thyme and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add 2 tablespoons water, cover, and sweat 5 minutes over low heat. Remove the thyme sprig, add the stock, and simmer until reduced by half.

Blanch the basil leaves in boiling water for 1 minute, pushing the leaves under the water surface so that they do not blacken. Drain and refresh under cold water for a few seconds, and then puree immediately in a small blender with a tablespoon of the blanching water. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and blend until a smooth green. Remove the basil butter and put it in the refrigerator.

Cook the potatoes and mash them through a ricer or food mill into a saucepan. Add the milk and beat it into the potatoes until just incorporated. Then whip the cream and fold it into the potatoes, and keep warm over a double boiler, for no longer than the time it takes to cook the salmon.

Grill or broil the salmon, turning once, for 3 to 4 minutes each side. Heat the onion sauce and whisk in the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter. Season and keep warm. Whisk the basil butter into the potatoes, season them, and put a bed of the potatoes on each of four warm plates, the salmon on top and the onion sauce over the fish.

Mix the oil and lemon juice together and dress the herbs, season, and put the herbs on top of the salmon.

Variations

Serve with a warm spinach salad, and a sauce of sabayon made with fish stock and flavored with a tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper; the garnish could be polenta finished with blue cheese, made into sticks and grilled. The salmon is also wonderful with buttered white beans flavored with chopped sage and a whisper of cardamom, then mixed with an equal quantity of cooked and sliced artichoke bottoms and 2 tablespoons of chopped cooked bacon, and sauced with a preserved lemon vinaigrette. Or you could flavor the white beans with just white truffle oil and nothing else. Or make a shellfish essence with mussels and chop up the cooked mussels to put in a mussel hollandaise made with the essence. Or serve grilled salmon with cooked black beans, your favorite fried Thai rolls, and a buttered curry sauce, as we did at my first “fusion” restaurant in 1990, Speedo 690.

Variations

On the mashed potatoes: Use bell pepper purees, red, yellow or both (separately), to flavor the mashed potatoes, and accompany the basil-flavored ones. Or use basil mashed potatoes side by side with ones flavored with mushroom hash.

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