When I lived in the UK I was always making some sort of bake or other (Vegetable bake, chilli pasta bake, tuna pasta bake, fish bake) You name it and I would layer it up, pour a sauce over it and pop it into the oven to – well ‘bake’!
The French do not do ‘bakes’ (they are very good at ‘pot au feu’ and casseroles though) They also do not do ‘pies’ The idea of having all that pastry surrounding their meat is bizarre to them. The do use pastry of course, they are the quiche and tart makers of the world; but this is only a very light layer on the bottom and is there primarily to serve as an edible plate for the filling (albeit an extremely delicious one)
‘En croute’ I hear you screaming, but originally this was a method of cooking where the food was wrapped in a light pastry crust in order to preserve* the moisture of what was inside (fish/beef/chicken etc) and was not intended to be eaten – a bit like a sophisticated pasty! But the idea evolved into making the pastry lighter and more edible et voila!
This posed a bit of a problem for me as I loved bakes, but my French partner could not quite understand them, particularly fish – ‘why do you not just serve the fish whole with the sauce and the potatoes on the side instead of mixing it all up’ or words to that effect……
This next dish however is my ‘piece de la resistance’ and there is never a scrap left in the dish, maybe it is the reminiscence of ‘au gratin’ with the breadcrumb and parmesan topping that won him over, but whatever it is, it is a surefire hit.
Serves 2 generously
4 medium ‘waxy’ potatoes
1 medium head of broccoli
2 boneless skinless salmon fillets/steaks
250ml single cream/crème liquide
4 tablespoons of milk (8 cuillers de soupe)
2 tablespoons of green pesto (4 cuillers de soupe)
1 tablespoon (2 cuillers e soupe) of olive oil.
2 tablespoons (4 cuillers de soupe)of freshly grated parmesan
2 tablespoon (4 cuillers de soupe) of fresh breadcrumbs
30g of salted butter cut in to small squares.
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre heat the oven to 200/gas mark 6
Generously butter an oven proof lasagne dish or similar
Peel the potatoes and par boil until almost tender, drain and leave to cool a little
Brush the salmon with oil and place on a piece of aluminum foil turned up at the sides to catch the juices, sprinkle with a little salt and bake for around 12 minutes until just cooked through, set aside to cool and then flake gently with a fork
Separate the broccoli into bite sized florets and steam for 4/5 minutes until just tender
Mix the cream with the pesto in a basin and season with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
In another basin mix the parmesan and the breadcrumbs
Slice the cooled potatoes into ½ inch/1cm disks and line the bottom of the lasagne dish sprinkle them with a little salt and pour over the milk
Arrange the broccoli in an even layer over the potatoes
Finish by adding the cooked salmon flakes in an even layer
Pour over the pesto and cream mix, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and parmesan and dot with the butter
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is just crisp and brown and serve immediately.