Amateur Holiday Cook-Off

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  Slow-Roasted Ancho-Chili-Cured Wild Salmon in a Red-Pepper-and-Leek Sauce With Braised Spinach

The Chef
Nancy Verdolini

Serves 6

1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon ancho-chili powder
6 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons honey
6 thin 3-ounce squares of wild salmon, skin removed
3 sticks celery, cut in 3-inch batons
1 bunch fresh thyme
French sea salt and cracked Tellicherry peppercorns

Braised Spinach:
1 tablespoon butter
2 packets baby flat-leaf spinach
2 tablespoons chicken stock (preferably homemade)
French sea salt and cracked Tellicherry peppercorns

Red-Pepper-and-Leek Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium leek, white part only, washed and sliced thin
2 red bell peppers, deveined, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade)
French sea salt and cracked Tellicherry peppercorns

Cooking Instructions
Melt butter in a 1-quart saucepan, add the tomatoes and ancho-chili powder, and sauté until the tomatoes are soft. Stir in ketchup and honey until combined, cover pan, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, and purée. Strain through a fine sieve, and set aside to cool. Pour this mixture into a large Ziploc bag, and add salmon. Cure overnight in the refrigerator, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a small baking pan with parchment. Place celery batons in one layer at the bottom, then cover the celery with sprigs of thyme. Remove salmon from bags, season with salt and pepper, and arrange atop the thyme. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until barely cooked (the salmon will be just warm).

Braised Spinach:
Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add spinach leaves, and cook until wilted. Add stock, and reduce over high heat until the stock is only a glaze. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Red-Pepper-and Leek Sauce:
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 1-quart saucepan, add the leeks and peppers, and sweat over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Purée in a food processor, and strain through a sieve. Return to the saucepan, and reduce over low heat until it is the consistency of thick cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and whip in the remaining butter. Assembly: Place portions of spinach in the centers of 6 large plates. Place a piece of salmon on top of the spinach, and spoon the sauce in an arc around the plate.

Photograph by Matthias Gaggl