Salmon Roulade Appetizer Recipe

I’ve been able to work with some very good up-and-coming chefs and then they work with other chefs, and they become better than I am as time goes on. That’s how progress is made in the industry.  – Late Chef and Culinary Innovator, Patrick Clark, 1955-1998.

Salmon roulade drizzled with gazpacho sauce (photo credit: Chuck Douros)

It is in his spirit of sharing great food and a passion for teaching innovative uses for fresh ingredients, that I share my take on Patrick Clark’s recipe for Salmon Roulade. Served as a chilled appetizer, the coin-shaped roulade is drizzled with a light and breathy gazpacho sauce.

Ingredient Requirement
I’ve made this appetizer for years, tweaking and improving it along the way. There is one “thou shalt” that I consider to be an absolute requirement; thou shalt use only fresh ingredients. Ignore this golden rule, and you’ll be sadly disappointed with the outcome. The palate-cleansing, light “breathiness” of the gazpacho sauce depends on fresh cucumbers and ripe tomatoes. You’ll be gently pounding the salmon, so a firm, fresh fillet is required. Previously frozen salmon will pulverize and fall apart during this step.

Skill Requirement
It takes average knife-skills to complete this recipe. While it’s not meant for a stone-cold beginner, it’s also not so advanced that you should be intimidated to try.

Time Requirement
Can’t rush this. While the food prep-time is minimal, the salmon needs at least a couple hours to firm up in the refrigerator after it’s assembled and formed into a roll.

INGREDIENTS (Will Make About 20 “coins”, 1/4″ thick)

1 large leek, 0ne-inch or greater diameter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1/4 cup cracked black pepper
Kosher salt
2 1/2 pounds fresh salmon fillet, net weight after rectangle-trim
1/4 cup peanut oil
10 ripe roma tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 pound queso fresco (whole-milk cheese)

For the Garnish
1 red pepper
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
A few leaves of whole, fresh basil
Table crackers


Wash and julienne the white part of the leeks. Sauté until tender on medium-heat, using 1 teaspoon of olive and 1 teaspoon of butter. Set aside. Reserve a couple 8″ sections of the green part of the outer leaves of the leek (intact). These makes a visually stunning serving platform to put the roulade on, at the end of the process.

Place the salmon fillet on a large piece of parchment paper and remove any pin bones, using your fingers or pliers. Now, butterfly the fillet, starting at the long side. Make a horizontal cut with a very sharp knife and “open” the fillet like a book. Continue through the fillet, to within one-inch on the opposite side. Don’t cut all the way through; the fillet should be in one large piece.

Cover the surface of the “open” salmon fillet with plastic wrap. Pound the fillet evenly to flatten to 1/2-inch thickness. Pay particular attention to evenly flatten the thick part that was uncut in the previous step.

Discard the plastic wrap and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a pinch of cracked black pepper over the surface. Spread the leeks evenly over the surface of the salmon.

The parchment paper will now serve as a mat or surface to help you roll up the salmon. Grab the edges of the parchment paper and lift the end of the salmon. Begin to roll it up on itself and tightly, but evenly, make a roll or cylinder out of the salmon. Be careful not to roll the parchment into the salmon. Gently squeeze and elongate the salmon roll by placing your hands on the parchment paper and pressing outward along the roll. Do this a few times, then unwrap and discard the parchment paper.

Wrap tightly, the newly formed salmon roll in heavy-duty aluminum foil, taking great care to keep its oblong shape. Twist the ends of the foil to seal the roll. It should now resemble a fat tube of cookie dough.

Refrigerate the roulade for at least two hours.

Make the Gazpacho Sauce

Wash and cut the tomatoes in half. Put them in a food processor and blend for several minutes until completely pureed. Pour through cheesecloth into a sieve and extract all juice out of the tomatoes, pressing into the cheesecloth if necessary. Set aside. Repeat this step with the cucumber. Set aside in a separate bowl.

In a mixing bowl, incorporate the mayonnaise, lemon juice, cayenne and white pepper, red wine vinegar. Stir in the tomato juice. Stir in the cucumber juice. Whisk, making a loose but velvety sauce, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

You can do everything, up to this part one-day in advance.

When ready to cook, take the roulade out of the foil and cover the whole surface in cracked black pepper. Re-roll the roulade in heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Mince the red pepper and peeled/seeded cucumber for garnish. Cut the queso fresco into 1″ cubes. Wash the basil and pat dry. Set everything aside.

Preheat a large sauté pan to medium hot. Add the peanut oil and let it heat up. Carefully lay the salmon roll (still in foil), in the peanut oil. Continuously roll the roulade around in the pan for four to 6 minutes, coating all sides with peanut oil. It may spatter at this point, because of the moisture in the roulade. After the roulade feels slightly firm to the touch, remove it from the pan and let it cool to room temperature, still in the foil.

Salmon Roulade platter with queso fresco, crackers and fresh basil.

When ready to serve, leave the salmon in the foil and cut off and discard the two end pieces. These are inedible. Now, slicing right through the foil with a very sharp knife, cut coin-shaped slices 1/4″ thick. Arrange the green leek leaves on a serving platter and place the sliced salmon coins on the platter, removing the foil as you go. Once the sliced roulade is re-assembled on the platter, ladle a generous amount of the gazpacho sauce on top of the roulade and decoratively, around the platter. Sprinkle the red pepper and cucumber garnish delicately on the platter. Put the queso fresco on the platter. Assemble the crackers. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Put the remaining gazpacho in a small bowl and service spoon, available for your guests to help themselves to more.

Editor's note: Photo, courtesy C. Douros

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