Asparagus in Hollandaise Sauce with Crusted Salmon
Crack the ‘double emulsion’ method of making hollandaise with this surprisingly simple asparagus and salmon recipe.
Serves: 4-6 • Prep Time: N/A • Cook Time: 30-40 mins
Asparagus in Hollandaise Sauce with Crusted Salmon
This salmon and asparagus main course combines complementary flavors with contrasting textures to create a visually appealing dinner party dish that tastes great, too. The salmon’s crunchy crust contrasts beautifully both with the flaky smooth texture of the meat and the al dente firmness of the asparagus. Traditionally, my experience with hollandaise sauce would only go as far as my totally addictive brunch time eggs benedict. Far too early on a Sunday morning I would psych myself up to do battle with the art of fine sauce-making, begrudgingly. The fresh acidity of the lemon in the hollandaise works really well with the grassy notes of the asparagus and the salty lightness of the salmon. Getting the consistency right with the perfect coagulation of the eggs and water and avoidance of any curdling is seen as an exact science, not really for Sunday mornings, but is actually really easy if you follow two golden rules – proportion accuracy and low-and-slow heating.
Salmon skin helps retain the overall shape of
the fillet during and after roasting.
Perhaps the main reason hollandaise sauce is considered tricky is because it is subject to the ‘double emulsion’ method. The mixing of egg yolk, water and lemon juice to form an initial emulsion requires some whisking for aeration in a rounded pan. This is followed by the gradual whisking in of melted (but not warmed) clarified butter over a low temperature to create the second emulsion. Using a low temperature avoids any risk of curdling once the butter has been added in stages. I prefer to use clarified butter over regular butter as clarified – or ghee as it is often called in India – is the product of pure butter fat and non milk solids, and hence less water. Clarified butter generally produces a fuller, nutty flavor to the sauce. Because of the extra weight of clarified butter, the emulsion needs to be diluted with water otherwise the sauce would be too thick. Some recipes for hollandaise sauce do not require the egg yolk to be heated but I prefer to play it safe and always cook my eggs, plus it makes for a creamier texture. If your sauce ends up too thick, it is possible to save it by adding a tablespoon of cold water and whisking vigorously.
White wine vinegar is sometimes used as an alternative to lemon juice by acidifying the egg yolk during the first emulsion process. Either are fine depending on the type of flavor you are aiming to achieve and the other ingredients in the recipe. In this recipe I chose lemon juice because it complements the salmon and asparagus flavors so well.
When selecting and preparing your salmon fillets, although skinless is tempting, I would recommend choosing and keeping the skin on. Salmon skin helps retain the overall shape of the fillet during and after roasting, as well as concentrating the salmon flavors within the fillet. It took me a long time to realize the benefits of salmon skin through the messy trials and tribulations of skinless fillet transfer from the oven dish to the dinner plate. At the point where your kitchen endeavors are close to completion, the last thing you want is a mutilated salmon fillet. I’m all for minimizing the chances of culinary visual disaster!
If, like me, you enjoy a glass of wine with your fabulous creations, I would suggest a New World Sauvignon Blanc such as from New Zealand or South Africa. These fuller bodied equivalents to the lighter, more mineral French Sancerre have the forward gooseberry and asparagus-type flavors needed to complement this weightier dish. They also have enough acidity to cut through and balance out the creamy texture of the sauce.
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Here’s how to make this delicious recipe
Prepare the skinned salmon fillets: wash under the tap and pat-dry with kitchen towel.
Heat a pan of water to boiling and parboil the potatoes for 10 minutes. Drain and add to a baking dish with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Evenly pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil onto an oven proof dish.
Position the prepared salmon onto the dish skin side down and season with a pinch of salt and 1 grind of pepper.
The salmon prepped for the oven
Add the croutons or cornbread cubes into a plastic bag and partially bash with a rolling pin to get a mix of differently sized cubes and crumbs.
In a mixing bowl, add the bashed croutons/cornbread or the bread crumbs if using. Mix in the finely chopped chives, melted butter and lemon juice.
Mixing the ingredients
Layer the bread and lemon mix on top of each salmon fillet to create a crust. Add a foil layer over the dish and set aside.
Set the oven to 400 degree F / 200 celsius and position the potatoes in the top of the oven and shake every 10-15 minutes. Roast for 30 minutes or until browned.
Meanwhile, position the salmon in the lower part of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes to brown the crust.
To make the hollandaise sauce, add the egg yolks, lemon juice and water into a smooth sided pan and whisk relatively vigorously over a low heat to produce a smooth emulsion. Gradually add in the clarified butter and continue to whisk to avoid any coagulation. Once the sauce has started to thicken, depending on desired sauce thickness either take off heat or continue heating on low until thickened further. Briefly set aside.
Meanwhile, add the prepared asparagus stems to the steamer with ½ inch boiling water and steam for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat immediately.
Position each baked crusted salmon onto the dining plate with the roasted potatoes and approx. 6 steamed asparagus stems.
Pour or spoon the hollandaise sauce over the asparagus and add a pinch of cayenne pepper on top of the sauce. Lay 3 chive stalks on the crusted salmon, then serve immediately.
The finished masterpiece!
- 4 x salmon fillets with the skin on
- 3 cups cornbread cubes (preferred), un-flavored croutons, or bread crumbs
- Approx. 15 fresh chive stalks, finely chopped and a further 12 stalks for decoration
- 1/2 cup lemon juice for the crust
- 1/2 cup melted butter for the crust
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 2lb fingerling potatoes
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 24 asparagus stalks
For the hollandaise sauce:
- 6 egg yolks
- 3 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup clarified butter
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
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Who’s Cooking Today
I’ve sampled exotic and unusual foods on my travels, but nothing beats coming home and sharing my experiences in the kitchen and in my writing. I love the sticky leftover goo of barbecued pork ribs that my kids can’t quite polish off on their own; I yearn for the safe and homely aroma of roast chicken as I pull it from the oven; I adore the sizzle and smell of broiled bacon on a wet Sunday morning. Food will always be my friend as it is meant for sharing. You can enjoy my written and visual translation of taste at jambip.com or via the various social media channels.
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