Confit Salmon with Spinach and Tomato by George Calombaris (revisited)

We tried this one before and it definitely deserved another go. It also was a great excuse for getting the sous-vide out the storage again.

The recipe was originally featured as a Masterclass from George Calombaris in the 6th season of Masterchef Australia.

The salmon only gets cooked until 38℃ / 100and results in a perfect melt-in-your-mouth piece of fish with a tangy yet buttery tomato sauce and sautéed spinach balls. It doesn’t get any better!

Again, the title of the recipe is accurate but sells the other components short as they are quite refined.

  • The “spinach” are basically wraps made from a single layer of steamed spinach filled with sautéed spinach with some garlic and shallots. The wraps are molded using cling film and then kept in a steamer to keep warm before serving.
  • The “tomato” is a tangy/sweet soup due to the addition of orange juice. The soup is brought together by butter and olive oil, but despite the amounts used it was not heavy at all and even very enjoyable on its own.

George Calombaris has a ‘proper’ oil confit salmon recipe in his 2015 Greek cookbook by the way. The confit oil – infused with bay leaves, fennel seeds, garlic, juniper berries, lemons, star anise, and white peppercorns – definitely imparts more flavor to the salmon than this sous vide version (just a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and that’s it), but the tomato sauce from this recipe is more refined than the one in Greek, which is a quick and dirty combination of some cherry tomatoes, tomato ketchup and loads of butter.

As the Masterchef site appears to be geoblocking Europe now, I have taken the recipe up below (it still has the same errors as 4 years ago!) with a couple of minor adjustments.

  • From a portion perspective, the suggested 160g / 5oz piece of salmon is spot on to serve as a starter. This time I used two 300g / 11oz  slabs of fillet for main course, which was suitable for big appetites.
  • As you get micro bits of butter when blitzing the cherry tomatoes and butter in a food processor, passing it through the sieve was quite a pain last time. Therefore, I opted for a 7-minute blitz which integrated the cherry tomatoes and butter sufficiently and only a few very small pips were still visible.
  • Once the spinach cooled down, I put a piece of clingfilm on top of the spinach circles, turned it upside down and then peeled back the baking paper. That way you immediately have them ready to be filled, shaped and reheated.
The Recipe (serves 4)
  • 4 x 160g / 5oz salmon fillets, skin off (or 4 x 240g / 8 oz for mains)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 360g / 13oz spinach leaves, washed and stems removed
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 600g / 1¼ pound cherry tomatoes, core removed
  • 100g / 6 tbsp butter
  • 80ml / 5 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1 orange
  • sea salt, black salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat water in sous-vide machine to 38℃ / 100℉.
  2. Place each salmon fillet in a sous vide bag with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch sea salt. Place in sous vide machine until cooked through, about 40 minutes. Remove from water and set aside.
  3. Bring some water to a boil in a wok or pan set over high heat. Line a (bamboo) steamer with baking paper and form a circle with spinach leaves, all overlapping slightly.
  4. Reduce heat to low. Place steamer in wok or pan, cover and allow spinach to steam until wilted and soft. Remove steamer from the wok or pan and remove the paper with spinach from the steamer. Repeat to form 3 more cooked spinach circles.
  5. In 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil, sauté the garlic and chopped shallots and remaining spinach, until wilted.
  6. Remove spinach from heat and transfer to a (cheesecloth lined) sieve. Squeeze spinach to remove all liquid and set aside.
  7. Divide the cooked and drained spinach into 4 balls and squeeze and shape each into a ball. Put a piece of clingfilm on top of the spinach circles, turn it upside down and then peel back the baking paper. Lay each ball in the middle of the steamed spinach circle and tightly wrap the ball in the steamed spinach and return to the steamer to keep warm.
  8. Place the cherry tomatoes and remaining butter in a blender and process until smooth. [Pass through a sieve] into a saucepan and place over low heat. Whisk until butter melts. Add remaining olive oil and orange juice and whisk to combine. Prevent the sauce from getting too warm as it may split. Season to taste.
  9. To serve, remove the salmon fillets from the sous vide bags and place on the plate. Add the spinach ball and drizzle with olive oil. Add sauce and season with black salt.
We paired the salmon with this full-bodied, buttery Chardonnay from Rutherford Ranch.

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