Salmon and pasta and dill (Courtesy The Cashew Tree)
It was a weeknight meal, something I had planned for its simplicity, flavor, and, well, because I love smoked salmon. There were shallots, and dill, and some butter and cream (not too much), and the salmon, smoked delicately, wild Sockeye of a beautiful orange hue. Plus asparagus. We were set.
But what about a wine? We looked in the Eurocave, and what we settled on made the evening a delight: a Lambrusco from Cleto Chiarli, a storied Italian brand that dates back to 1860. It was Cleto Chiarli’s “Vecchia Modena” — Lambrusco di Sorbara — and today, four days later, I am still appreciating the way the wine married with the salmon and dill.
It was not the first thing I had in mind to serve, but, as I’ve noted before, happy accidents such as this are something to be savored.
Let’s get to the recipe, then I’ll tell you a bit more about the Lambrusco. (I’ll now give credit to Florence Fabricant, whose recipe I used as a base.)
Salmon, Asparagus, Fettuccine, and Dill
3/4 pound fresh asparagus (select slender stalks)
1 tablespoon minced shallots
8 ounces smoked salmon (Costco has wild Sockeye, and it’s sliced to a perfect thickness)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1.5 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
16 ounces spinach fettuccine, fresh or dry
Wash and drain asparagus, then snap the ends off where they want to naturally break (if you’ve not done this before, it’ll take a stalk or three to get the hang of it); peel the lower ends of the stalks, and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Steam the asparagus in an inch of water; I used a stainless steel skillet, covered, the same one in which I prepared the rest of the dish. (You’ll be done in three minutes or so… you want the asparagus to be bright green and still crisp.) Rinse thoroughly in cold water to stop the pieces from cooking.
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Melt the butter in the skillet, then add the shallots; cook them for several minutes, stirring a few times. Do not brown them. Add the cream (I drizzled a touch of olive oil in as well) and stir. Add a frond or two of dill. Heat on low, stirring occasionally.
Slice the salmon into pieces about an inch wide, then cut into bite-size pieces; add it to the cream, and allow to heat for a few minutes, stirring. Taste for seasoning. Remove dill stems.
Drop pasta into water, stir, and cook as called for, minus one minute. Drain, then add pasta to the salmon and cream and gently stir.
Serve in shallow bowls, and top with the minced dill and a squeeze of lemon juice.
As I wrote, the Vecchia Modena was excellent with the salmon and dill; its creaminess and dry fruit profile made the dill into something special on the back of the palate, and its acidity cut through the cream with style.
Lambrusco di Sorbara grapes have thin skins, and the pale color produced here attests to that. It’s a rosé, and you can find it for around $15 a bottle. Chill it a few hours before dinner, and you and your guests will dine well.
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