Two-salmon savory bread

How to drown a fish

Do you know someone who can drown a fish ? You might – without even knowing it. This expression – noyer le poisson – took me a long time to understand. I actually had to experience working within what should be a very precise system to learn exactly what it means to drown a fish.

When I worked in French restaurants, the hierarchy was always very clear : most restaurants throughout France, and the world, reproduce faithfully Auguste Escoffier’s brigade system. Everyone knew who was the head of the kitchen – this person is appropriately named the head chef, or in French, simply, chef de cuisine. And everyone else’s role was also clearly defined, all the way down to the apprenti, or more and more often, the apprentie.


But outside the kitchen ? Sometimes things weren’t so clear. In some of the larger restaurants, we’d have kitchen managers – people who didn’t actually work in the kitchen, but who would be in charge of organizing special events, like catered private parties. Sometimes these special events would happen outside the restaurant.

And that’s where things would go south. The problem wasn’t the events themselves – most were fun, and a great way to develop a sense of camaraderie among culinary and pastry colleagues, since working in a different setting would shake the routine. The difficult part ? Getting information about the events from our supérieur hiérarchique, or manager.

Traditional cooking togs

I’d knock on our manager’s door with what seemed like a few (apparently a few too many) questions pertaining to the protocol for an upcoming event. Do all kitchen staff members attend this event ? What time should we be there ? Should we wear our traditional cooking togs (chef’s jacket, hounds-tooth pants, and those glamorous safety shoes) ? Or would we be working in front of the people attending the event, necessitating black pants, white shirt, and a special apron ?

The manager would start off by telling me all about the history of the event : that part of the monologue would last about 10 minutes. Then she’d go on to explain the former manager’s policy of attendance or non-attendance. My eyes would begin to glaze over, and I’d glance at my watch discreetly, hoping I still had time to finish the mise en place, or prep work and setup, before lunch.

Brick wall

Then my boss would tell me about what the event was like when she joined the team back in 1998. Finally, I’d leave my manager’s office, feeling absolutely frustrated, because I didn’t have answers to any of my questions. THAT, dear reader, is drowning a fish. Evasion of the question, clouding the issue, a snow job, avoiding the question, sidestepping the issue.

I just didn’t understand why this happened – politics have never been my strong suit. And as long as I tried to understand, the frustration continued. Then one day a colleague asked me why I kept going to our manager with questions when it was like talking to a brick wall.

Drowning the fish

It hadn’t occurred to me that I could just accept that I wouldn’t get answers, and live with the artistic blur (or flou artistique), or better yet, just ask colleagues instead. Once I decided I could deal with our manager not doing her job, it just didn’t matter anymore. Who was I to judge ?

And I decided maybe this fishy business could actually be entertaining. After all, there’s always a bit of creativity involved in drowning the fish. So now, in any situation, when I hear the beginning of a long story in place of a simple answer, I just smile, take a deep breath, and think of eating fish for dinner.

Two-salmon savory bread

This easy, salmon-studded bread is what we call un cake salé in French – not a sweet cake, of course, but a savory one. There are many variations on a theme, but during the time of year when we’re automatically thinking of smoked salmon recipes, this cake is perfect for passing around during the holidays, either before dinner at the aperitif hour (or hours, depending on your dinner company) or as an edible gift if you’re going to a holiday meal.

Usually, I’d suggest buying good-quality smoked salmon, maybe even wild salmon, which I explained in a previous post. But since this will be cooked, you can definitely buy ordinary supermarket variety smoked salmon.

ingredients :
- 4 eggs
- ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (95ml) white wine
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- a bit of white pepper
- 1½ cups (190g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 red bell pepper (140g), finely diced (1 cup packed)
- 10.5 ounces (300g) cooked salmon, flaked (2 scant cups)
- 3.5 ounces (100g) smoked salmon
- 4-5 sprigs dill, or more to taste, chopped
- butter, for greasing the pan

how to make it :
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, wine, and oil.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, pepper, flour, and baking powder.
4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, stirring just to combine.
5. Then add the diced red pepper, the two salmons, and the dill. Stir everything to combine.
6. Grease a medium cast-iron oven-proof pan, or a loaf pan. Fill the pan with the mixture and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a knife poked into the middle comes out clean.
7. Let the bread cool for about 20 minutes, then unmold and/or cut slices. You can also cut a loaf into 1-inch (3-cm) cubes and serve them on a platter with toothpicks if you’re making this as a party appetizer.

serves 4 as a side, or 8-10 as a holiday bite

Tags : fish , smoked salmon , salmon , Auguste Escoffier


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Paul Dymond 7 décembre 2015

Will make it. Quite original.

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