I used my May sabbatical to get a few articles in the can, as it were, to be able to roar back as fresh as, well... a very fresh thing. At the time of writing I was fairly unsure what the rules would be about entertaining, but it surely can't be too long before we can get back to the delights of entertaining a crowd. Today's dish has a wow factor, but I fear it may incur the wrath of her indoors.
Why? Because it's a staple of L's, but, whisper it, pretty simple. Very much my sort of dish, maximum swank for minimum effort. Now, you can poach fillets of salmon, and very nice they are too, but the impact of a whole fish as a centre piece of a buffet is considerable. You do, however, need a fish kettle and the size of your fish is dictated by that. Take it with you when you go to your fishmonger, and buy accordingly. Sourcing a wild fish is nigh on impossible, but you should be able to rely on a good fishmonger to sell you a beast that isn't unduly flabby or peely wally.
Get your fishmonger to gut the salmon, but leave on the head, tail and skin. For a special occasion it's worth making your own mayonnaise, and you can simply serve it with that; however, the green version adds another dimension, as does the cucumber garnish. The recipe given will convert about half of your mayo into green sauce, If you want to use the lot, adjust the quantities of herbs accordingly. For your mayonnaise the choice of oil is up to you but don't use 100% olive oil, as the flavour will be too strong. A neutral flavoured oil is best. My preference would be 2 parts rapeseed oil to 1 part olive.
A whole salmon, cleaned, head, tail and skin on; cucumber and lemons for garnish.
For the court bouillon
Enough water to cover the fish completely; ½ small onion, peeled and very finely sliced; 1 stick of celery, sliced; a few parsley stalks; 1 bay leaf; half a dozen black peppercorns; 50ml white wine vinegar.
For the mayonnaise
2 egg yolks (at room temperature); 2 tsp Dijon mustard; juice of ½ lemon; 2 tsp white wine vinegar; about 300ml vegetable oil (see above); salt; white pepper; (this will make about 330ml of mayonnaise).
For the green sauce
150ml mayonnaise (you could get away with shop bought, as the tarting up will fool most people); 1 tbsp crème fraîche; ½ small bunch of each of parsley, tarragon, chervil (if you can find it) and chives; s & p to taste.
Take the salmon out the fridge in time to bring it to room temperature, and lay it in the fish kettle. Make up the court bouillon by mixing all the ingredients together and completely cover the fish. Bring the liquid to the boil. Remove from the heat, lid on and leave to one side until it is completely cool. Refrigerate till needed, but take out about an hour before serving and lay on a platter. Remove the skin from the top half. Slice the cucumber as thinly as possible using a mandolin or a grater with a slicing blade and arrange over the salmon as "scales".
You can make the mayonnaise either by hand or by using a blender. Combine the egg yolks, mustard and vinegar in a bowl or blender and mix well. If making by hand you need a balloon whisk. Whisk fiercely as you add the oil very very gradually. If using a machine, keep the motor running and drizzle the oil in steadily. If the mixture becomes too thick, whisk in a few drops of cold water. Season with salt and white pepper (you don't want it to look like a fly has laid eggs in it). You may want to add a little more lemon juice.
To convert this into green sauce, take the prescribed quantity of mayo and mix in all the other ingredients. You will probably need some more s & p.
Voilà! Perfect with some nice new potatoes and a green salad.