Eric Akis's Sunday Dinner: Shellfish makes salmon dish sublime

Eric Akis

Baked salmon fillets can taste wonderful on their own, but they’re sublime when accompanied by shellfish.

Today’s Sunday Dinner recipe begins with salmon fillets that are brushed with a little olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and baked.

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I kept the seasoning simple because once it’s cooked and set in shallow serving bowls, the salmon is topped and richly flavoured with a creamy leek sauce, spiked with wine, tarragon and Dijon mustard.

Swimming in that sauce are mussels and clams. Before adding them, I quickly cooked them, then removed their top shells.

The bottom parts of the shell, containing the mussel and clam meat, were then set in the sauce and simmered a short while, until hot again.

You could serve this sumptuous seafood dinner with asparagus, miniature potatoes and sliced baguette, for mopping up any sauce left in the bowl.

Salmon with Mussels, Clams and Creamy Leek Sauce

Baked salmon fillets topped with a sumptuous sauce, rich with shellfish.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: About 25 minutes

Makes: Two servings

1/2 cup water

8 fresh mussels, rinsed, with any beard-like material removed (see Note 1)

8 fresh manila clams, rinsed (see Note 1)

4 tsp olive oil (divided)

1/2 cup diced leek (white and pale green parts only)

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon

2 tsp Dijon mustard

• salt and ground white pepper to taste

2 (5 to 6 oz/140 to 170 gram) salmon fillets

Place the water in a small-to--medium pot and bring to simmer over medium, medium-high heat. Add the mussels, cover and cook until they just open, about one to two minutes.

Take pot off the heat, lift mussels out of the pot and set on a wide plate.

Set pot back on the heat and bring liquid to a simmer again. Now set the clams in the pot.

Cover and cook them until they just open, about two to three minutes. Take pot off the heat, lift clams out of the pot and set on the plate with the mussels. Pour the cooking liquid in the pot into a small bowl and set it aside for now.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. When they’re cooled, remove the top shell from each mussel and clam and discard. Set the meat-filled half shells back on the plate. Cover and set aside until needed.

Place the salmon, skin-side-down, in a parchment-paper-lined baking pan. Brush the top of each fillet with 1 tsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through (see Note 2).

While the salmon bakes, heat the remaining 2 tsp of oil in a nine- or 10-inch skillet set over medium, to medium-high heat.

Add leeks and garlic and cook until tender, about three to four minutes. Pour in the wine, bring to a simmer and reduce by half.

Add the reserved cooking liquid and whipping cream, return to a simmer, and cook until mixture has lightly thickened.

Mix the tarragon and mustard into the sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Set the clams and mussels, meat-side-up, and also any liquid on the plate, in the sauce, then cover and heat them through a minute or two.

When they’re baked, set a piece of salmon into each of two wide and shallow serving bowls. Set four on-the-half-shell clams and four mussels in each bowl, spoon over the sauce and serve.

Note 1: Mussels and clams are sold fresh at seafood stores and some supermarkets. I bought them at Market on Yates in Victoria. Before cooking the mussels and clams, examine them and discard any that do not close tightly when squeezed or tapped, a sign they are dead and should not be eaten.

Note 2: When cooked, the flesh of the salmon will become opaque and feel slightly firm, not hard (a sign it’s overcooked) or soft (a sign it’s not cooked through).

When cooked, the fish will also start to separate slightly into flakes and a white protein will seep out from the flakes.

Festival Celebrates Fine B.C. Shellfish

The 13th annual B.C. Shellfish Festival takes place from June 7 to 16 at various locations in the Comox Valley.

The Discover Comox Valley website (discover comoxvalley. com) says hatchery tours, wildlife tours, crabbing experience and oyster farm/plant tours are just a few things you can see and do during the festival.

During the festival, a number of themed local seafood- and drink-oriented events will also take place. For example, on June 12, Prime Chophouse & Wine Bar (theprimechophouse.com), with the support of Cascadia Liquor (cascadialiquor.com), will host a seafood and beer event. The same day, Wayward Distillery (waywarddistillationhouse.com) will dish up another event called slurp, a gin and oyster social.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Shellfish Festival Signature Weekend takes place June 15 and 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park in Comox.

On both days at this family-friendly event, chefs will give cooking demonstrations, and others will compete in competitions, such as a chefs battle, oyster-shucking competition and chowder challenge.

If you come to the Signature Weekend hungry, don’t worry. There will be numerous tasting stations set up in the park selling seafood and other dishes.

If you’re thirsty, other stations in the park will be selling B.C. craft beer, wine and spirits.

You can buy tickets to obtain the food and drink using cash at designated ticket booths, or pre-purchase your food and drink tickets online (see website below). Organizers note that each food ticket costs $1, while drink tickets cost $6.

Food items generally cost between one and six food tickets, while one drink costs one drink ticket

During the Signature Weekend there will also be a kids’ zone, offering all-day crafts, activities and demonstrations, including youth cooking classes.

To learn more about the B.C. Shellfish Festival, see a full list of events and buy event tickets, go to bcseafoodfestival.com.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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