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Salmon and Fennel en Croute with Watercress Sauce

We (literally, rather than ‘royally’) had the pleasure of making this together recently — and all we can think to say is, “Lucky us!” in more ways than one. Working together, we found the preparation simple and very ‘do ahead-able,’ but we’re certain that even one cook would find the same. And then there is the pleasure of the dish itself: upon cutting open the handsome parcels, one is treated to a bed of slow-cooked onion and fennel nestled beneath the tender pink salmon, the bright watercress sauce providing such a lovely counterpoint, both visually and flavorfully, as to render the whole a supreme treat. Don’t miss this one!

You can assemble these and freeze them on a baking sheet, then transfer to a rigid container, interlining them with paper to avoid sticking. Return to the baking sheet to thaw in the fridge for five hours before baking.

Salmon and Fennel en Croute with Watercress Sauce

For the salmon:

2 bulbs of fennel, halved, cored, and very thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, halved and very thinly sliced
2 tbs. butter (add more if the mixture seems dry)
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 oz. watercress leaves (¾ cup packed), chopped
1 pkg. frozen puff pastry, defrosted
4 skinless salmon fillets, seasoned with salt and white pepper
1 egg, beaten

For the sauce:

3 oz. watercress (1 cup packed), plus a few sprigs to serve
7 oz. crème fraîche  (¾ cup)

Sauté the fennel and onions in the butter for 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté for 5 minutes more until the veg is soft, then stir in the watercress.

Cut the pastry into four pieces then, on a lightly floured surface, roll each piece to approx. an 8 inch square. Spoon one quarter of the veg onto one half of the pastry and spread to roughly the size of a salmon fillet. Place the salmon on top, then brush around the pastry with the egg, fold over the pastry and seal. Trim the parcel edges, then decorate with the trimmings and brush all over with the egg. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

To serve, whizz the watercress and crème fraîche, along with a little seasoning, in the food processor. Transfer to a small saucepan and heat until bubbling and slightly thickened.

Bake the salmon at 425°F for 15 minutes* until golden brown. Serve on a pool of watercress sauce, garnished with a few watercress sprigs.

*If using organic Dufour puff pastry, cook the salmon for 20 minutes at 375°F.

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