Friday, January 3, 2014

Salmon Pasta with Tarragon Sauce

Yeah, I know, I know:  whose kid eats salmon?  I mean, really, right?

Fair enough.  While Will and James will do due diligence and eat more or less most of the salmon that arrives on their plate in this dish, Lucy, my fearless go-to eater, pretty much refuses to eat more than one piece or two of the salmon, picking through the noodles instead.  She does this, I'm pretty sure, more out of principal than out of taste:  fish has always been the one food item at which she draws the line, and the more her older brother teases her about it, the more she insists she hates it.

So when I serve this, two of my kids do fairly well, one of my kids eats pretty much only the noodles and sauce, and Ellen and I CHOW DOWN!

Because you know what?  This dish tastes GREAT--so great that I'm not really bothered if my kids don't like it and/or don't eat that much of it.  Hell, serve them a couple carrot sticks to round off their appetites if that's what it takes.  This meal is delicious, and it deserves to be placed on the table at every possible opportunity.


And just for the record, tarragon is THE most underrated herb ever.


A few notes:

  • Always used the thin sliced smoked salmon--also known as lox.  And if you can, get the hardwood apple smoked, as I find this adds a little extra sweetness and . . . um . . . smokiness . . .
  • Use fresh tarragon.  And rather than plucking the leaves off the stem one by one, just hold the stem firmly in one hand, pinch the fingers of the other hand together, and pull along the stem in one smooth motion, tearing the leaves off that way.  Much faster. 
I took this recipe from the Betty Crocker Easy Italian book, pretty much word for word.  Betty rocks, even if she is just the imaginative product of an anonymous corporation.  

Salmon Pasta with Tarragon Sauce

16 oz. bow-tie or similar pasta
1 TBSP olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 TBSP chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1.5 cups half-and-half
2 tsp stone-ground mustard
1-2 packages (3-4 oz. each) of sliced smoked salmon lox
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook and drain your pasta following the directions on the package
  2. Prepare your herbs
  3. Pealing off each layer of the salmon separately, cut it into 1/2-inch wide strips using a cooking shears (this is to prevent the salmon from clumping together, something that will undoubtedly turn off any kid)
  4. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat.  Cook the onion, tarragon, and parsley for 3-4 minutes, until onion is tender.  
  5. Add the wine
  6. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the wine has almost evaporated
  7. Stir in the half-and-half and the mustard
  8. Heat until just boiling, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 7-8 minutes, until the sauce has thickened
  9. In a large serving dish, mix together the pasta, the salmon, the sauce, and 1/4 cup of the cheese, then toss gently until the pasta is coated
  10. Serve with remaining cheese

Family Ratings: 

Lucy, who insists she hates fish even though she once gave a tuna steak a "10" before realizing what it was:  6
Jamie, who still kind of assumes all meat is chicken:  8
Will, who likes to like fish because his sister hates it:  8
Ellen, who herself isn't too crazy about smoked fish:  10
Paul, who never ate salmon until he was 35 and now loves it:  10