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Smoked Salmon Absorption Pasta

Smoked Salmon Absorption Pasta

Here in Maine we're lucky to have Ducktrap River up the road. When the Ducktrappers apply their smoke, salt and herb magic to various varieties of fish and shellfish the result is a flavorful luxury. 

The reason I say we're lucky to have them up the road -- their distribution is a lot wider than just the local area -- is that they routinely sell one-pound pouches of salmon trim (the odd-shaped pieces left on the cutting table after they've prepared the perfect slices that characterize their other smoked salmon products) to the area markets, who sell them to me for $6.99 a pound, which is a fraction of the cost of the perfectly-sliced version. (I've written about this before and readers have reported that they can't find this product outside of Maine. It's also not available in the Ducktrap on-line store.)

A pound of smoked salmon is nice to have in the kitchen, especially when the cost and cut of it encourage you to go beyond the beautiful delicately-folded-slice-on-a-cracker routine. After my success with the Smoked Fish Risotto a few weeks ago I decided to try an absorption pasta with the salmon to see how that worked out. (Absorption pasta is a cousin of risotto, in that instead of boiling the pasta in salted water and then mixing it with the sauce, the pasta is cooked slowly in a smaller amount of flavored broth, which allows the pasta to more fully absorb and incorporate the flavors in the broth. Click HERE for another absorption pasta post if you're interested.)

For this preparation I used Rustichella D'Abruzzo pasta in the Cannolicchi shape but any short pasta works well for absorption pasta (since there's a lot of stirring involved I'd avoid the longer spaghetti and fettucine, since they are more likely to break). The result was a creamy, flavorful dish, with plenty of smoked salmon taste but everything (lemon, capers, cheese, red peppers) in delightful balance. As you might expect, a fresh salad of spring greens, a crusty baguette and a bottle of pinot grigio rounded out the meal.

Smoked Salmon Absorption Pasta   

1/2 lb smoked salmon
1/2 lb pasta (dry weight)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 C heavy cream
4 tsp dried dill weed
zest of one lemon
3 T capers
1/4 C roasted red peppers, sliced
3 C fish broth
1 C dry white wine
1/4 C shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
2 T parsley, minced
2 scallions, shredded
salt, hot sauce to taste

Place the broth and wine in a saucepan and stir in the dill weed. Boil to reduce by 1/4. 

Set the cream in a small saucepan over low heat and simmer to reduce by half.

Sauté the onion slowly in the oil and butter, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add the reduced broth/wine mixture and adjust the heat to a slow simmer. Chop a couple of pieces of the salmon (about 1/4 cup) and add to the pot. Cover tightly and cook for 10 minutes. Open the pot and give the pasta a stir. There should still be liquid in the bottom of the pot....if it's starting to dry, add some water (pastas differ so the exact amount of liquid cannot be specified). Cook another ten minutes on simmer, stirring occasionally and making sure that the bottom of the pot stays wet.

Taste the pasta for doneness. When it is nicely al dente, add the cream, peppers, shredded scallions, and parsley.  Stir to combine, and cook a few more minutes if the sauce is still thin. Stir in the remaining salmon, the capers, the lemon zest and the cheese. (Thin with a little water if the sauce is too thick.) Season to taste with salt and hot sauce.  Serve immediately.

To serve, garnish with a few shreds of scallion, some parsley or a few strands of zest if desired.


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Sounds amazing! Just checking the amount of dill--sounds like a lot. Also, is there a commercial source of fish broth that you'd recommend?

Hi Dee...thanks for that note...the "T" got in there instead of the "tsp" on the dill weed quantity...good get...! (I corrected it.)

On fish broth, for this I did what I usually do...pulled a baggie of fish skin, trimmings, etc., out of the freezer and threw it in a pot of water with some leek tops, a bay leaf, a lemon slice and some parsley stems and simmered it for about 20 minutes while I got ready to cook dinner (which means get into my cooking clogs, feed the cats, kiss the wife and riffle through the mail - not necessarily in that order). I'm lucky to have a fish market that sells such scraps for 79¢ a pound, but I also save them up when I'm prepping other fish.

I think the usual commercial product recommended in this case is bottled clam juice, but for something like absorption pasta you have to be careful with that since it has a high salt the water evaporates the salt becomes concentrated and can overpower the dish...

Jeez that looks good.

Hi Stephen! I love my pasta this way, it's so much more flavourful. Instead of using broth, I use its diluted gravy instead. Never knew it was called 'absorption pasta'. Lovely!

this sounds fantatsic stephen. and in a happy coincidence i've just discovered some fish stock as part of a freezer clear-out so i'll be giving it a try this week.

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