Time was when “pop-up” was a term you’d apply to your kitchen toaster.
These days, you’re more likely to hear it used in reference to something more substantial, yet less enduring than your average toaster, namely pop-up restaurants.
Pop-up restaurants are, by definition, transient. Perhaps not as transient as, say, news on Twitter, which can be old within hours but, nevertheless, they have, by their very nature, a short and limited life-span. In a way, they’re a product of the internet era, where attention spans are short, the volume of information is high, and you can only hold people’s attention for so long before they demand something new or at least different. In the case of the recent Jacob’s Creek pop-up wine and dine experience, which took place for four evenings at the end of June, attendees got both, through a combination of new wines and an unusual venue that was guaranteed to captivate.
The crypt underneath Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral is almost as old as the city itself. Having been renovated over the past few years, it is now open to visitors and, it seems, the occasional pop-up dinner guests. For the Jacob’s Creek event, each evening saw the very knowledgeable David Whelehan lead guests into the world of wine-tasting, with a three-course dinner cooked by Clodagh McKenna to match the wines being tasted.
How much of David’s wine lore sank in, I don’t know, though we certainly sank a goodly range of sparkling, white and red wine the evening that I was there. I do remember David’s comment about the Irish being longtime appreciators of wine, and, to judge by the level of banter and general good cheer, the wines in general, and the evening in particular, were greatly appreciated by those in attendance. Especially enjoyed were some of the new regional reserves, in particular the Reserve Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2009, which was the standout wine of the evening. It’s not available here in Ireland just yet, though it should be appearing on shop shelves nationwide soon and, might I say, is well worth popping out (or even popping up) for.
Roasted Lemon and Dill Salmon
This dish from Clodagh McKenna was the hit of the evening, foodwise.
A very simple dish, really, and one which had everything to do with the quality of the ingredients used, namely fine, thick fillets of wild Irish salmon. Clodagh stuffed the fillets with dill and very finely sliced lemon and then roasted them. The lemon cooked beautifully inside the salmon and was eaten along with it.
Recreating the dish at home, my salmon fillets were not as thick as I would have liked, so I made cuts at an angle along the length of the fillet in order to create pockets for the lemon slices (to which I also added some slivered garlic, just because). If you have a fillet that’s, say, 5cm thick, you can just slice into the salmon along the length of the fillet in order to create a pocket for the lemon. Also, depending on the lemons you use, you might find that the pith just underneath the skin is still a bit bitter to be eaten after cooking.
You’ll need, per person:
- fillet of salmon (around 150g-200g), use thick fillets if possible
- approx. half a lemon
- approx. 1 tsp finely chopped dill
- small clove of garlic, slivered (optional)
- olive oil for frying
- coarse salt
- freshly ground black pepper
You’ll also need:
- A roasting tin or tins, large enough to accommodate the fillets.
- Preheat your oven to 180C
- Slice the lemon into very thin half moon shapes. Use slices from the middle of the lemon rather than the top or bottom, which will have a greater proportion of bitter pith.
- If your salmon fillets are fairly thick, cut into each fillet along its length, cutting about 2/3rds of the way across the fillet in order to make a pocket for the lemon slices. If your fillets are thinner, you may find it easier just to make a few angled cuts into the fillet along its length. In either case, you want cuts deep enough to fully accommodate the lemon slices.
- Insert slices of lemon, some chopped dill and slivered garlic (if using) into the cuts so that they are covered, top and bottom, by the salmon flesh.
- Place a frying pan over a high heat and add olive oil to coat the pan. Sear each salmon fillet on the skin side, then place in a foil-lined baking tin. Dot with butter and sprinkle with some coarse salt and a few twists of black pepper.
- Bake until cooked through – 15 minutes or less, depending on your oven and the thickness of the salmon fillets.
- Serve immediately – I had mine (surprise, surprise) with some new potatoes, which I can highly recommend, while Clodagh served hers with a basil hollandaise sauce and roasted asparagus.
- You could certainly replace the dill with other herbs, perhaps some parsley or coriander. I’d even think of popping some slivered root ginger in there.
- Dinner for as many people as you have salmon fillets