Whisky and Food - Focus on Fish

Whisky and fish, who would have thought it?  But why not?  Whisky is such a versatile ingredient that it has to have its place both in a fish recipe and alongside it as an accompanying dram.  Getting the match right is the key.  What sort of fish is it?  Is it oily fish, smoked, firm fleshed or more delicate like halibut?  What about the flavor?  Is it light and delicate like sole or does it have robust flavors like a spicy seafood chowder or a balanced marriage of flavors like Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes?  You can find whiskies that work with them all.

fish chartWhere to start?  So many distilleries now have such a vast range of expressions that it is not possible to match each expression, so start with the classic single malt of each distiller to begin your pairing journey.  To get you started we have a few suggestions below.  This table can be read from left to right if you start with the food, or from right to left if you start with the whisky in your cupboard.

This month's recipe follows the focus on fish with Graham's award winning dish from The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival as featured in our book "The Whisky Kitchen - 100 ways with whisky and food". The smooth Aberlour and orange sauce is a great hit in the restaurant and the dish is a WOW at dinner parties, although there seems to be a daunting list of ingredients and the methods look tricky.  But don't be put off, have a go and you will have learned quite a few straightforward culinary techniques - enjoy!

Roast Spey Valley Salmon with Aberlour 16 year old Single Malt Whisky and Orange Jus, Served with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Baby Asparagus, Garnished with Nuggets of Black Pudding.

spey valley salmonServes 4

For the Dauphinoise Potatoes

Unsalted Butter

1 clove garlic peeled and finely sliced

26 oz. (750g) waxy potatoes peeled and finely sliced

1 large shallot finely sliced

3 oz. (100ml) vegetable stock

1.5 oz. (50ml) double cream

For the Salmon

4 fillets fresh Salmon (6 oz./175g each), skin on with scales removed

Plain flour

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Olive oil and unsalted butter for frying

Wild salmon roe for garnish

Orange jus sauce

3oz. (100ml) Aberlour 16 year old single malt whisky

3 oz. (100ml) fish stock

3 oz. (100ml) vegetable stock

Juice of one orange

Pinch of orange zest

Honey to taste

Salt and pepper to season

Vegetables and Garnish

12 baby asparagus spears - hard stalks removed

6 oz. (175 ml) Spring field greens washed and sliced

Pinch grated nutmeg


For the Dauphinois Potatoes - Take a shallow 8 inch/20cm baking dish and butter all sides and rub in the garlic. Arrange the sliced potatoes and shallots in alternate layers, seasoning each layer and ending with a layer of potatoes.  Add the vegetable stock and cover with tin foil.  Place in preheated oven 375 degrees F/gas 5/190 degrees C for 35 to 40 minutes until potatoes can be easily pierced with a sharp skewer.  Remove foil, add double cream and brown in the oven for a further 10 minutes then set aside.

To cook the Salmon - Scale fish but leave skin on.  Wash and dry salmon.  Dust with a little seasoned flour and pat off any excess.  In a non-stick pan, heat a little olive oil and unsalted butter over medium heat.  Place salmon skin side down and fry gently until the skin has browned.  Seal the salmon on remaining sides, then transfer to an ovenproof dish and place in oven 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees F/Gas 5/190 degress C.  The time will vary according to how well you like your salmon cooked.

To make the Sauce - In a heavy based saute pan reduce whisky by 1/2.  Add fish stock and reduce by 1/2.  Add vegetable stock and reduce by 1/2.  Add orange juice and reduce by 1/2.  Add honey to taste to balance bitterness of whisky and reduce orange flavor.  Season.  Whisk in a little unsalted butter to emulsify the sauce just before serving.

Cook Greens - Steam asparagus for 4 minutes.  Just before serving place the field greens and nutmeg in a hot pan with two to three tablespoons of water and stir gently for a couple of minutes to wilt the greens.  Season, drain and set aside.

Black Pudding - If you have black pudding, slice and cut into diamond shapes then fry until lightly crisped.  Set aside.

Assembly - Slice the Dauphinoise potatoes into slabs about the same size as the salmon fillets.  Place the wilted greens on top the dauphinoise.  Place the Salmon, skin side up on top of the greens and season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with the salmon roe.

Dress the plate with sauce.  Add asparagus and fried nuggets of black pudding.

If you have a chance to travel to Scotland, visit Graham and Sheila at Craggan Mill Restaurant in Grantown -On- Spey, Moray, Scotland and enjoy this dish created by the master chef, himself.

All rights reserved: The Whisky Kitchen - 100 ways with whisky and food, this website article text copyright 2008/2010

Graham Harvey and Sheila McConachie, photographs reproduced with permission - copyright 2008 Graeme Wallace.

"The Whisky Kitchen - 100 ways with whisky and food" GW Publishing 2008, ISBN  978-0955414572 2nd edition (9 Dec 2008).

Sip Smoke Savor is proud to publish this second in a series of articles developed exclusively for our website by Sheila McConachie and Graham Harvey, distinguished chefs, restauranteurs and authors of the award winning cookbook "The Whisky Kitchen - 100 ways with whisky and food".