Sunday, January 25, 2015

Poached Salmon Balls with Cucumber Dill Yogurt Sauce

Salmon Balls are funny to think about. Lets get it clear, these are pureed salmon made into balls, not anything weird! These taste very much like the poached salmon you know, only more light and airy. They are almost without texture and melt in your mouth. Much like a French quenelle, if you have ever eaten those. 

Delicate pink dumplings of fish are held together only by egg and just a tad of potato starch. They take only moments to cook, literally two minutes in hot water.

Some might wonder, why bother making balls when plain salmon is so good itself? Novelty, great texture, interesting party food!

If you have family members who don't enjoy fish much, fish balls may be an easy way around that. Often texture or flavor is the offending characteristic. By pureeing it, both of those change. We all have heard that fish is an important food to include in our diets. Wild salmon especially has great nutrients and Omega 3's that make it a super healthy choice.

Most children should be eating more fish that they probably do, if they are not big fans of fish filets, try these poached fish balls. Changing the presentation makes fish accessible and fun, you can even eat them with your fingers!

It would be a very sophisticated choice for a party appetizer, served warm. I really enjoy them served just above fridge temperature as a luncheon dish. or stuck with toothpicks at pot luck. Once poached, they keep in the fridge for a day or two. So it would be possible to make the salmon balls one evening, stick a platter in the fridge and bring them to the afterwork party the next day, drizzled with sauce.

The first time you make fish balls you may feel that you are committing a crime. When you put the nice fillet into the food processor, your heart may catch in your throat and you wonder if you should just pan-fry the thing. I know the feeling. But I urge you to take a deep yoga breath and just trust in trying something new. The paste may look terrible at first, just keep calm and fish-ball on

The cream sauce in my book is made with sour cream. But here I would like to share my yogurt sauce recipe, which is what I gravitate to. Plain yogurt, greek yogurt, goat yogurt, and sour cream are different but would be totally interchangeable here. Though plain yogurt will result in a thinner sauce. 

They are dead easy to make, fish and other ingredients go into the food processor. Get a big pot of salted water at a rolling boil. Then, very important, turn the heat on the water down, so it is no longer boiling. A very light simmer means the water is moving but not aggressively at all. (If the water boils, your fish balls will break apart.)

I use a mini scooper, it holds near to 2 teaspoons. If you don't have one use two small spoons to fashion ball-like portions. 

As each portion of fish-paste is scooped up, deposit it into the very-lightly-simmering poaching water. Continue, working in batches, each ball will fall in the water, puff up a bit, and then rise to the surface when it is near done. I find mine require about 2 minutes total in the water to cook. 

Remove them with a slotted spoon to a plate. Much of the excess water will steam off. Repeat with all remaining fish paste.

Mix up the dill sauce, chopped dill, peeled diced cucumber, yogurt, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon. 

Poached Salmon Balls
makes 25 fish balls

Cucumber sauce:
  • 1/2 cup peeled, diced cucumber
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • squeeze of lemon as needed

Salmon balls:
  • 1 pound salmon, skin and bones removed
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (goat milk or non-dairy milk)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (12g) potato starch
To make the sauce, simply mix the peeled and diced cucumber with the yogurt, dill, salt, pepper and squeeze of lemon as liked. 

Cut the salmon into chunks small enough to fit into a food processor. Puree the fish until it becomes a fine paste. Add the milk and remaining ingredients. Puree about 10 seconds or as long as necessary to make the mixture very smooth. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on the stove. Turn the heat down to a bare simmer. With a spoon scoop up a small bite sized portion of the salmon paste. You can form egg shapes with two spoons, or use a mini scooper. As each is formed, drop it into the poaching water.

Each salmon ball will sink before floating. Allow to cook another minute or two on the surface (total about 2 minute cooking time depending on size of the balls.)

With a slotted spoon, remove the poached salmon to a warm plate. Cover with the dill sauce and serve warm or at room temperature. If you have leftovers, they are good chilled.

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