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The Breakfast Salmon

July 21, 1994|MAUREEN SAJBEL

LLYSWEN, WALES — Welsh cooking is often a cuisine of mistaken identities, so it's no surprise when salmon shows up in interesting new concepts.

For background, just take a look at some of the national dishes of Wales:

Welsh cakes aren't really cakes, but rather scones made on a griddle.

Welsh rabbit is simply cheese and toast.

Laver bread is seaweed and oats, with no bread in sight.

And Glamorgan sausage isn't sausage at all but a tasty tube-shaped roll of breading, leeks and cheese.

Salmon is the beneficiary of a similar kind of switcheroo. It takes the place of other traditional fish and meat dishes, especially at the breakfast table. And the hearty, savory results make getting up for breakfast worth the effort.

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In faux eggs benedict, smoked salmon replaces the slice of Canadian bacon. In kedgeree--the Indian/English hybrid of curry, rice, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and cream sauce--the traditional bit of haddock is replaced with a tastier chunk of poached salmon.

Cooking like this--along with a deft approach to Welsh lamb, partridge and free-range ducks raised in a nearby apple orchard--is what made Nigel Morris this year's Welsh chef of the year, according to the national Cookery & Food Assn. He's the celebrated head chef at Llangoed Hall, near the town of Llyswen in the middle section of Wales, where sheep, hedgerows and castles dot rolling green hills.

Llangoed Hall, a 17th-Century manor house with Edwardian additions, was lavishly remodeled and opened as a country house hotel in 1990 by Sir Bernard Ashley, widower of Laura Ashley, who founded the world-wide fashion and interior design fabric empire that bears her name.

It's a place where a hearty breakfast is appropriate. Here, gentlemen gather to shoot clay pigeons, form parties for hunting wild game in the fall or fish with a river guide, called a ghillie. Morris, a Brit who has cooked throughout Britain and Ireland, will occasionally go along on a hunt, then use what he has bagged in the kitchen.

As he slices into a salmon caught 200 yards away on the River Wye, he explains the advantage of the wild Welsh salmon over farmed Scottish, which will do in a pinch in the off-season.

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"These blokes have to work for a living," he says of the wild salmon. "The tail fin is wider, the head is longer and they have a much firmer flesh with less fat. They have a smoother, richer flavor and the texture is meatier, denser--more like tuna."

Morris uses salmon in every which way, from braised to poached to grilled. He makes a salmon tartare with lime, chives, mustard and creme fraiche. His own version of smoked salmon is cured with salt from French oyster beds, herbs and zest from lemons and oranges.

His appealing breakfast dishes can be easily reproduced with good results using high-quality smoked salmon from a deli and fresh salmon in season. The home cook can choose her own degree of difficulty in the faux eggs benedict, which is called "English muffin with smoked salmon, poached egg and Hollandaise sauce" on the breakfast menu. All the ingredients, with the exception of the poached eggs, can be purchased ready-to-use. More ambitious cooks can make their own English muffins using Morris' recipe below. The most accomplished can also make the always-tricky Hollandaise sauce from a favorite recipe.

FAUX EGGS BENEDICT

2 English Muffins

4 strips thinly sliced smoked salmon

4 eggs, poached

1 cup heated Hollandaise sauce

Split and toast muffins. Place 2 halves on each plate. On top of each muffin half, place slice of smoked salmon and poached egg. Glaze each with 1/4 cup heated Hollandaise sauce. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

English Muffins

4 to 4 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 package active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees) water

Combine 4 cups flour, salt, butter and sugar in mixer bowl.

Combine yeast and very warm water. Set aside 5 minutes for yeast to dissolve. Mix yeast mixture with flour mixture until well combined. Remove dough from bowl and place on lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, adding as much of remaining 1/2 cup flour as needed.

Place dough in oiled bowl and cover with tea towel. Let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Set metal muffin rings (greased on inside) on baking sheet and place equal portions of dough in each, half-filling each. (If not using muffin rings, press dough to 3/4-inch thickness and cut muffins with 3-inch-diameter round cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on baking sheet.)

Cover and let muffins rise again in warm place, about 30 minutes. Cook on greased griddle until browned, 5 to 10 minutes on each side. Makes 10 muffins.

SALMON KEDGEREE

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1 teaspoon butter

4 ounces salmon, poached (dice half and reserve other half in 2 equal portions to top kedgeree)

1 egg, hard-boiled and diced

2 cups hot cooked rice to which 1/4 teaspoon curry powder has been added during cooking

Curry powder

1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

1 teaspoon chopped cilantro

1 small tomato, diced

Salt, pepper

Butter

Lightly Curried Cream Sauce

In skillet saute onion in butter until tender. Remove from heat. Add 2 ounces diced salmon, egg, rice, chives, cilantro and tomato. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more curry powder to taste if necessary.

To serve, press warm mixture into individual buttered timbale forms and unmold on plate. Place reserved 2 ounces salmon on top. Surround with Lightly Curried Cream Sauce. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Lightly Curried Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1 cup milk

Salt

Melt butter in skillet. Stir in flour and curry powder. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Bring to boil and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt.

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