Blanc de Blanc: In New Zealand, we tend to drink bubbles before dinner, or with canapés, rather than with a meal. But a glass of elegant and dry Blanc de Blanc is really lovely with a light crisp dish, so I’ve chosen ingredients for this match which would make a delicious lunch or starter, but could also be pared down as a canapé. The acid in the grapefruit is a great foil for the richness of the salmon. The dish is citrusy, dry and refreshing.
By Debbie Crompton
2 ripe pink grapefruit
Half a small red onion
450g good-quality cured salmon, sliced thin
1 fresh fennel bulb (stalk and fronds trimmed)
2 stalks celery, peeled to remove stringy outer
Half a small telegraph cucumber
1 tablespoon capers per person
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 Tbs water
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of the grapefruit squeezed after segmenting (see below)
salt & pepper
To prepare grapefruit, slice off the ends to remove the stalk and base (the poles). You will be able to sit the grapefruit on the board and then use a sharp knife to start slicing off the skin vertically. Working over a bowl to catch juices, remove segments by slicing between membranes. Squeeze remaining grapefruit pulp and membranes to release juices. Set aside juices.
A mandolin slicer works beautifully but if you don’t have one, use a really sharp knife and try to slice as thinly as possible. Slice onion with the grain and plunge into a bowl of icy water for 30 minutes. This will make the onion super crispy and it’ll remove the raw oniony bitterness. Afterwards, drain and pat well with paper towel to dry fully. Slice peeled celery on an angle. Slice the apple into julienne (the thinnest sticks you can possibly slice!). Slice cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, discard and slice the cucumber on an angle. By slicing the vegetables this way, they’ll be long and thin and similar in appearance to a ‘slaw’. Put all vegetables together in a bowl and mix well to incorporate them all.
In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, mustard, and water. Add any reserved juices from grapefruit segments. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and fresh ground pepper, keep in mind that the capers are salty. Continue whisking and slowly add oil in a small stream. I often just throw everything into a jar and shake vigorously until the liquids are all totally emulsified. When you are ready to serve, dress the slaw vegetables by placing them in a bowl and tossing them in a good splash of the vinaigrette. Always taste before serving, it will need salt and pepper.
Arrange slices of salmon onto the plate first: A classical presentation would be to slightly overlap the salmon around the outer edge of the plate, and arrange the slaw in the centre. Scatter grapefruit segments and capers over the salmon. Finish with an extra drizzle of vinaigrette. Likewise, you could use a rectangular plate and arrange the slaw in a line down the full length of the plate. Add some height and texture by arranging the salmon in soft folds along the top of the slaw, then place grapefruit segments here and there amongst the folds, along with the capers and the extra drizzle of vinaigrette. Micro-greens add a touch of sophistication, but don’t be fooled by their prettiness, they can pack a punch of flavor! Sprigs of dill would be nice, and roasted almonds too. A garnish of shaved radish would also be great.
If you wanted to serve as a canape, go for a plain base such as white bread, rolled flat with a rolling pin and stamped into small rounds with biscuit cutters. Toast in the oven and keep airtight before using. Arrange the salmon followed by the slaw and top with grapefruit and a caper. Be sure to drizzle extra vinaigrette before serving.