Sunday, October 21, 2007

Smoked Salmon Tartare

Here's a delightful appetizer I worked out for an upcoming cooking class on tapas and antipasti. Two things in the interest of full disclosure: first, the idea for this dish came from an ad I saw in a cooking magazine, second the class did not make. But guests I've guineapigged this one on have enjoyed it, as did I, so I'm putting it on the blog.

"Tartare", in culinary French "à la tartare", literally in the Tatar (or Tartar) style, means finely chopped raw beef, usually combined with raw egg, onion, and capers. The tradition of serving raw chopped beef was picked up by the Russians from their nomadic Mongol-Turkik Tatar neighbors. Steak tartare is now a well-established French dish, but sliced, chopped, or pounded raw meat is used for appetizers in Italian (carpacio), German, Lebanese (kibbeh nayeh), and Ethiopian (kitfo) cuisines, and raw fish is the height of elegance in Japanese (sashimi and sushi) and South American (ceviche) traditions.

My smoked salmon tartare is made with raw salmon, though cured and smoked, is chopped, contains capers, onion, and egg, albeit hard boiled. It is, I hope, a far cry from chopped tough cow of the Russian steppes. (Capers, by the way, are the pickled flower buds of a Mediterranean bush, and are imported bottled with vinegar, primarily from Spain.)

The recipe serves six as an appetizer, when spooned onto thin-sliced baguette, rye-crisp bread, or unsalted crackers.

Smoked Salmon Tartare Tim

1/2 pound smoked salmon, finely chopped on a board with a chef's knife
2 tablespoons finely minced onion, red or white
1 hardboiled egg, white only (use the yolk for another purpose), finely minced
6 hearty grinds of black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon drained capers, coarsely chopped if larger than peppercorns
1 tablespooned snipped or coarsely chopped fresh dill
Extra dill sprigs for garnish

Combine all the ingredients, except for the garnish. Taste, but generally salt is not needed because the salmon is salted. Refrigerate, covered, at least half an hour -- but this is better if made the day ahead.

Serve either in a decorative bowl or heaped up on an attractive plate or small platter. Garnish with dill sprigs.

Spoon onto thinly sliced baguette, rye-crisp bread, or unsalted crackers.


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