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If you have ever watched an episode of “Hell’s Kitchen” or “MasterChef”, you know that Gordon Ramsey is famous for his impeccable beef Wellington. This is a distinctly British dish that is a premium filet of beef coated in liver pate and mushroom duxelles that is wrapped in puff pastry and baked to golden brown perfection. The pastry is buttery, flaky, and crisp while the beef is a perfect medium-rare.
Beef wellington is a decadent and rich dish. It isn’t easy to get right, especially if you are making the pastry, pate, and duxelles from scratch. This was a dish for those of means and stature. It is believed to have been created in celebration of the Duke of Wellington following his defeat of the Napoleon Army in the early 1800s. It is a take on the French “en croute” method of cooking protein wrapped in pastry dough.
This dish is very popular both in Europe and the United States. However, due to its costly ingredients, there have been many adaptations to make it more accessible to those with limited means. In South America, empanadas are pastry-wrapped packets of ground meat and vegetables. In village pubs of the UK, pasties are pastry-wrapped lesser cuts of meat and poultry with potatoes. In the US, we like to wrap pastry around fish fillets, especially salmon. Salmon Wellington is still pretty upscale but crazy delicious and full of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, making it a healthier version of the classic Wellington.
Salmon Wellington doesn’t have pate. Instead, the dish is layered with fresh spinach, a nice thick salmon fillet, and a mushroom mixture that resembles pate. The mushrooms are well-seasoned with butter, wine, mustard, and crème fraiche. Everything is stacked, wrapped in prepared puff pastry, and baked at 400°F for about 15 minutes. The Wellington is served with a creamy dill sauce.
The quality of the salmon does matter for this dish. I would encourage everyone to use king or chinook salmon because it is so tender and buttery in texture. It is expensive, but you only need 3 ounces per serving. Atlantic salmon is also a good choice. It is available wild-caught and sustainably farm-raised. Sockeye and Arctic Char are not as well suited for Wellington because they are less fatty and the flesh is firm and dry. I normally try to avoid farmed fish but have discovered some very good farmed salmon that is raised in open waters and fed an organic, hormone and antibiotic-free diet with plenty of room to exercise. You need to read the labels for the best products.
This recipe also includes a dill and caper crème fraiche sauce that you can make ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Some Ideas for Side Dishes
If you want some fairly classic sides to accompany your salmon Wellington, you can make a creamy potato mousseline about 45 minutes before the Wellington packets go into the oven. You can rewarm that just before serving. While the salmon is baking, you can pull together a creamy parmesan salad.
- ¾ cup crème fraiche
- 1 ½ Tbsp heavy cream
- 1 ½ Tbsp fresh dill leaves minced (1-1/2 tsp dried dill)
- 2 tsp brined capers drained
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 medium garlic clove
- 1 medium shallot peeled and diced
- 10 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp dry white wine
- 2 tsp crème fraiche
- Hefty ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 six-ounce skinless salmon filets sliced in half crosswise
- Pinches of salt and pepper
- All-purpose flour for dusting
- 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry defrosted and stored in the fridge
- 1 ½ cups fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1 large whole egg
- 1 Tbsp water
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- In a small bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, cream, dill, and capers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Remove the salmon fillets from the refrigerator and slice each in half crosswise. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- To the bowl of a food processor, add the garlic, shallots, and mushrooms.
- Pulse to mince everything.
- In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the mushroom mixture and cook until softened, approximately 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the wine has evaporated, about 2 more minutes.
- Turn the heat off and stir in the crème fraiche and mustard. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
- Lightly season the salmon fillets on both sides with pinches of salt and pepper.
- Dust a flat work surface with a little flour. Place one unfolded sheet of puff pastry on the surface and lightly dust the top with a little more flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the pastry out to about an 8-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Cut the pastry sheet into 4 quarters. Do the same with another sheet of pastry.
- Place equal amounts of spinach leaves in the center of 4 of the rectangles of pastry. Top each layer of spinach with a salmon fillet. Spoon 2 tablespoons of mushroom paste over each fillet.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and water.
- Brush the edges of each topped pastry sheet with some egg wash. Place another rectangle of pastry over the salmon fillets and seal the edges together with the tines of a fork. You want a good tight seal.
- Transfer the filled puff pastry packets to the parchment-lined baking sheet with a spatula or bench scraper. Brush the tops of each packet with the remaining egg wash. Make 3 small slits in the top of each packet with a sharp paring knife.
- Place the baking sheet inside the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the Wellingtons to rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer the dill sauce to a small serving bowl with a spoon.
- Arrange the salmon Wellington packets on individual serving plates with your favorite side dishes and sauce on the side. Serve while still warm.
Notes & Tips
- It is best to defrost your puff pastry in its package in the refrigerator the night before you make this dish. Don’t take them out of the fridge until you are just ready to roll them out, otherwise, they will become too soft and sticky.
- Your mushroom and shallot mixture should be at room temperature before assembling the Wellington packets.
If you aren’t really a fan of salmon, you can make this dish with other thick fish fillets, such as halibut or cod.
When choosing the leafy greens for the base layer of the Wellingtons, you can use a mix of baby spring greens or baby kale. More mature leaves will be a little too chewy for the amount of time they bake.
Not everyone keeps a container of crème fraiche on hand. Feel free to substitute with plain yogurt or sour cream.
No baby bella mushrooms around? Try button mushrooms or you can even chop up a portobello mushroom.
Other Salmon Dishes to Try
Salmon Wellington is definitely an elegant dish. It is perfect served for an early afternoon brunch with champagne or for a spring supper with some super fresh garden vegetables. If it seems a bit fussy, you might want to try some of these other popular salmon dishes: