When I started doing research on vermouth and specifically what kinds of snacks would be served with the taking of the vermouth, I came across a really interesting, if surprisingly simple combination from the people of Quimet i Quimet. Located in the Poble Sec neighborhood of Barcelona, this tiny tapas bar specializes in tapas featuring tinned seafood–a delicacy in Catalunya–and serves many kinds of vermouths to boot. It’s long been on my list of places to visit but unfortunately we’ve yet to make it there, and I hope a third visit will be the eventual charm to finally bring us to that part of the city. (I have a feeling that a vermouth crawl will be in order now that I’m equipped with a list of all of the must-visit places to go thanks to Vermut.)
One of the tapas that they are best known for is a montandito (essentially a small, open-face sandwich) of cream cheese, smoked salmon, and then topped with a honey-soy sauce, and it sounded so good that almost as soon as I read about it, I decided I had to try the combination for myself. The first time I used rye crackers much like I did for one of our New Year’s Eve dishes from December, which was tasty, but not long after I had the thought to make little roll-ups much like I made the prior New Year’s Eve in Stamford. Unlike those, though, I decided to keep the stuffing plain and instead focus the flavor on the fish and the sauce, and instead of cream cheese I chose a more flavorful goat cheese that would be a little more interesting but wouldn’t overwhelm the other ingredients.
Instead of picking up some smoked salmon, Michael noticed some gorgeous Alaskan sockeye fillets in the fish counter that were reasonably priced, so we got a pound of it and decided to make some gravlax with it. Unlike the farmed Atlantic stuff, though, the piece we got was very thin; fortunately, I have a really good cure for Arctic char that is much faster and meant for a much more delicate fish via Gramercy Tavern’s cookbook. The cure went on in the morning and then we went about our day until the cocktail hour chimed.
Truthfully, I have yet to fully master the art of slicing cured salmon into clean strips consistently, but I can tell you that a sharp knife is absolutely essential and you’ll need a little practice to get them the right amount of thickness. But honestly, it’s so worth the trouble: these wraps are even more flavorful than the ricotta-stuffed ones of yore, and the honey-soy sauce glaze just adds even greater dimension and complements the vermouth beautifully. It doesn’t even matter if the salmon strips aren’t perfectly even, because they hug the goat cheese so nicely and stay affixed to the toothpicks or skewers so effectively that even the imperfect ones look good, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Seriously, though, these take some work but the results are SO worth the effort, and frankly, I want to make them my signature summertime amuse bouche because they look so nice and taste so good. You could absolutely just cure the salmon and put them on some crostini to make a simple montandito, but I like these because these take a little more effort but are far easier to eat.
Cured salmon wraps with goat cheese, soy, and honey
Inspired by Quimet i Quimet with help from the Gramercy Tavern.
- 3/4 pound cured Alaskan sockeye salmon (recipe below), sliced into thin strips
- 1 4-oz package of soft goat cheese (I prefer Charvie in the pyramid for this)
- Usukuchi soy sauce
On each slice of salmon, carefully spoon about a teaspoon or so of cream cheese, then roll up and secure with a toothpick. Assemble as many as you like and then make the sauce.
The sauce is definitely a taste-as-you-go kind of deal–start with about two tablespoons of soy sauce and a couple squidges of honey and whisk together, adding a little more of each and tasting as you go along. You’ll want to end up with about three tablespoons in total, or enough to drizzle over all of the rolls. Do so and serve immediately, preferably with vermuts.
Cured Alaskan Sockeye Salmon
adapted from The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook
- 1 lb Alaskan salmon (Sockeye works well here)
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp star anise, crushed
- 1 tsp coriander seed, crushed
- 1 tsp fennel seed, crushed
- Zest of half a lime
- Zest of half a lemon
- Zest of half an orange
To make the cure, combine the salt, sugar, spices, and citrus zests in a bowl. You are then instructed to inhale the aroma, and it’s pretty freaking fabulous so definitely do so a few times. On a plate lined well with a long strip of plastic wrap, sprinkle half the mixture onto the plastic wrap, place the salmon skin-side down, and then cover with the remainder of the mixture and then wrap well with two additional pieces of plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight, turning once halfway through. Rinse off well and then use as prescribed above.
Note: if you have a thicker slice of salmon (think King salmon), you should allow for more time for curing. This is specifically meant for thin sides of fish. A thicker slice works better with this preparation.