Smoked salmon holds a special place in the memories of all our children, but not exactly in a good way. When Baby Girl was about 4 years old, Hubby had a two-week business trip to London so I decided to pack up my gang and go with him. Hubby traveled a lot in those days so we traded in his zillions of miles for business class seats and off we went.
The children were having a splendid time and the flight attendants were loving my young trio who were asking questions, accepting every dish served and then trading foods with each other. Firstborn Daughter liked most everything so she was willing to share whatever came across her plate. One and Only Son liked nothing so he ate everyone’s bread rolls and possibly all the butter. Baby Girl ate the smoked salmon. I mean ALL the smoked salmon. She ate hers. She ate mine. She ate her brothers and her sisters and her dad’s and she likely got second servings from the delighted flight attendants who thought it was adorable that this tiny 4-year-old toe-head could eat more salmon than most adults.
At the end of Baby Girls salmon fest, I wiped her down the best I could with damp napkins and let her drift off to sleep. But let’s think about this–which clearly I didn’t at the time because I was probably a tiny bit exhausted from the packing and traveling–smoked salmon is oily. It is oily and fishy. And 4-year-olds eat with their fingers and they are messy. It didn’t occur to me that there might be many places she wiped her hands while eating, like, for example, her clothes and hair.
Imagine wiping smoked salmon all over a towel and then sitting that towel in a warm place for a good eight hours. How do you think that towel might smell? Poor Baby Girl. The flight attendants woke everyone up for landing and it wasn’t more than a few minutes before one of my children said to Baby Girl in a loud and not pleasant voice, “You SMELL!” They were unhappy, she was unhappy and it was a long cab ride to the hotel where we tried desperately to remove the smell from her hair by numerous washings. I remember thinking I needed tomato juice or whatever you use for skunk removal because the smell just wouldn’t go away. I tossed her clothes in the trash, doused her with some fragrance and tried to make light of the situation.
But kids can be so mean. They teased her and teased her and teased her some more about her fishy hair. And when she finally started crying and said she couldn’t help it, they stopped. But only for awhile. Once the smell was gone, they brought out the story again. And again. And fifteen years later, a year doesn’t go by that one of them doesn’t talk about Baby Girl and her fishy hair. Whenever we travel, they announce that they hope there is no smoked salmon on the plane. She doesn’t cry about it anymore, but I’m not sure Baby Girl eats smoked salmon to this day EXCEPT for this recipe which I acquired a decade before she was born. It is so good that I crave it and it is so easy that I occasionally just make it for Hubby and I as a nice way to kick off the weekend.
Kate’s was a tiny restaurant in an old house tucked away near downtown Austin, Texas. It served fresh, modern, simple food and we loved the ambience and the owners and their cuisine. I don’t think Kate’s was there very long because I remember being sad when it closed and we only lived in Austin for two years. But we went at least a handful of times and we always ordered the Potted Salmon. Potted Salmon was served in a little ramekin and it was a lovely pale salmon color. It tasted rich, and salty, and sweet, with just the right amount of salmon flavor. It was perfect with a glass of champagne. We may not have had much money in those early years of our marriage, but we spent it well. We would have a glass of beautiful French Champagne and split the Potted Salmon.
Kate told me how to make it one night and I was so happy she had after making it at home a few times after the restaurant closed its doors. Then years later, we prepared it with our friend Court, a friend from Austin who had also frequented Kate’s restaurant. Court has an incredibly precise palate and is very analytical when it comes to food preparation. He suggested that some cognac might really improve the flavor. Court was spot on and I have never gone back to my original recipe without the cognac. Kate’s Potted Salmon with the addition of cognac has been served to many of our guests, at many cocktail parties over the years. I don’t know where Kate is today but I hope she is still cooking somewhere and creating beautiful, simple food that creates happy memories.
“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring, quite often the hard way.” -Pamela Dugdale
Kate’s Potted Salmon
2 oz. butter, softened
4 oz smoked salmon
8 oz cream cheese, softened
juice of 1/2 lemon (1 T)
1 T. cognac
fresh dill for garnish
crackers or cucumbers to serve
Put the butter, salmon and cream cheese in a food processor and process until smooth.
Add the lemon juice and cognac and pulse until incorporated.
Spread into ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or more before serving. Spread onto cucumbers and garnish with dill or serve in the ramekin with crackers on the side. Don’t forget the champagne!