Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nesting Instinct

These little potato nests have become my current favorite finger food or appetizer to serve with drinks. They're easy to make, provided you budget a few minutes to assemble them before serving. They're delicious, and a great combination of flavors and textures: crunchy potato nest, aromatic sour cream, smoky salmon, fresh greens.

The recipe comes from a very appetizing blog containing many recipes in French and English, and I'll reprint the recipe here with [my comments in brackets].

Recipe: Potato Salmon Nests
Source: La Tartine Gourmande

Nids de pomme de terre au saumon fumé - Smoked Salmon Potato Nests

You need:

- 200 g grated potatoes
[About 4 small to medium potatoes if I remember correctly. Even when I double the recipe I grate them quickly by hand, too much of a bother to get my food processor out for this small a job.]
- A few slices of smoked salmon
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche
[Sour cream]
- 1 tbsp chopped dill
[I used chives once by mistake, which was good, but dill is better]
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
[It's not entirely clear from the recipe whether the lemon juice is meant for the potatoes or the crème fraîche]
- A bunch of alfafa sprouts (type watercress, larger green leaves)
[I can't seem to find these here, I used "mache" or roquette]
- 1 egg
- 30 g melted butter
- Salt and pepper
- Dash of paprika
- Fleur de sel


Preheat your oven at 400 F (200 C).
Peel the potatoes and grate them.
Squeeze the juice out.

[On squeezing out the juice of the potatoes: I haven't yet figured out how thorough I should be at this stage. I hand-squeezed the grated potatoes on two occasions, which isn't much fun, and tried wringing them with my salad drier another time, after letting them soak in salty water for 15 min., as I remember reading once that soaking potatoes makes french fries crispier. Every time, once I mix the egg and condiments in with the potatoes, I get a lot of liquid separating out from the potatoes. But when I push the potatoes away from the liquid and try to avoid putting liquid in the muffin molds they come out fine. Though perhaps not as uniformly brown and crispy as they seem to be on the original recipe.]

Mix one egg and add 1 tbsp lemon juice

[This is where I get confused: the lemon in the potatoes? Then what about the crème fraîche? To be safe I use a bit in both.]

Add salt and pepper.
Take a mini muffin pan (I used a silicone one, all molds are 1.5 inch or 4 cm) and grease it.

[I used the same apparently, though I didn't measure it]

Place a small amount of the grated potatoes at the bottom of each mold, as if to make a nest.
Melt the butter and place 1/2 tsp in each.

[This is almost too much butter, it works with 1/4 tspn too, and I believe I once forgot the butter entirely and still got crisp nests. Maybe make some tests before believing that though.]

Place in the oven for 20 mns, or until brown. Remove and cool down.

[I usually had to bake them for longer and in a hotter oven to get brown nests. Perhaps I don't squeeze out enough water from my potatoes.]

Mix together the crème fraîche with the chopped dill, and the lemon juice

[Don't put too much lemon juice or the cream will get runny].

Add salt and pepper.
In each potato nest, place a few alfalfa leaves, some cream, a dash of paprika and a slice of smoked salmon.
Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

[Careful my first attempt was a bit too salty.]

How and when to assemble them
I've tried to serve them so that the potato nest is still warm under the cold cream, but I never seem to be fast enough. It doesn't matter, they're good cold. If you bake them a few hours earlier, perhaps warm them up in the oven to make sure they're crisp before filling them. I haven't tried assembling them too far ahead of time as I don't want the nest to get soggy, but it's perhaps worth a try as you don't really want to be assembling them in the kitchen while your company is having interesting conversations in the living room (I hate to miss out on that beginning of the evening catching up on everybody's news moment)...

Here you see the nests at various stages of their assembly:

From left to right the empty nest, with the addition of the mache leaves, add the cream, the paprika and finally the salmon.


peabody said...

Those look almost to pretty to eat...almost.

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favourites. I could eat them all as a meal.


Astrid said...

Peabody - Thanks for dropping in!

JED - Thanks for the encouragement. Rest assured, there's more of these in your future...