Warm smoked salmon is pretty awesome, says Bart Vandaele. The Belgian-born chef-owner of Belga Cafe and the new B Too in Washington, D.C., was referring to the clever way he has managed to bring that to customers’ attention: inside a waffle made of puff pastry. We agree.
It takes hardly any time to put together. Vandaele has been serving smoked salmon waffles, called gerookte zalmwafeltjes in Belgium, at Belga for about six years. At B Too, he has kicked up the presentation with wasabi-flavored yogurt.
The restaurant roasts its own tomatoes (romas, peeled), which are soft and offer deeply concentrated, almost-tomato-paste flavor.
On a high-powered, commercial-quality Belgian waffle iron, the chef’s smoked salmon waffles took about 6 minutes. A key point in the cooking: He gave the puff pastry room to do its thing by propping open the waffle iron with a sideways spoon.
That worked for us at home as well, but our waffle irons don’t put out enough heat to cook the puff pastry through. So this recipe calls for finishing them in the oven; marked with the waffle-iron grid, the effect is the same as on the lovely golden specimens you see in the accompanying photo.
It’s preferable to use a large waffle iron designed to make Belgian or deep waffles. But with a bit of judicious trimming around the edges, you can make these puff pastry packets fit into just about any large waffle iron.
To turn this recipe into hors d’oeuvres, see the variation below. Small portions will make this dish less of a nutritional splurge.
Serve with a salad of arugula and fresh herbs. The chef recommends a hoppy, fresh beer pairing such as Poperings Hommel Ale or a Belgian saison.
One 10-by-10-inch frozen Dufour brand puff pastry sheet
2 or 3 stems dill
8 to 10 fresh chives
2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
4 to 6 oven-roasted or oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, preferably peeled
4 to 8 ounces good-quality thinly sliced smoked salmon
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup low-fat Greek-style yogurt
1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste (may substitute 1/4 teaspoon powdered wasabi)
Cover a cutting board with parchment or wax paper. Lay the puff pastry sheet flat on the paper; the dough should be cold but not stiff. From the way it was folded, the puff pastry sheet will have four quadrants; each of those will become one portion.
Heat the waffle iron; use a little cooking spray if needed. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and have a baking sheet at hand.
Finely chop the dill fronds and chives, then whisk them together with the sour cream in a small bowl. Spoon 4 dollops on one of the pastry sheets, positioned slightly off-center in each of the quadrants. (You will be folding over the dough to create sealed packets.)
Pull apart the tomatoes into bite-size pieces, laying them on top of each portion of herbed sour cream. Use the smoked salmon to completely cover each pile. Sprinkle lightly with pepper, then use a microplane zester to grate a little lemon zest over the salmon.
Use a sharp knife to divide and separate the 4 pieces of puff pastry. Dampen your fingertip with a little water, then use it to wet the pastry around the filling on each one. Fold over the dough on each portion, using your thumb to form a wide seal around the edges.
Place one or two sealed puff pastry packets on the waffle iron. Use a heatproof spoon to keep the waffle iron from closing all the way; you’re looking to create no more than a half-inch gap; this will allow the puff pastry to expand as it cooks. After 3 to 5 minutes, the waffles should be slightly puffed. You may need to cook them a bit longer, still using the spoon to partially open the waffle iron.
Carefully transfer the waffles to the baking sheet; bake for 10 to 15 minutes. The waffles are done when the edges are slightly caramelized and the pastry is golden brown.
While the waffles are in the oven, repeat the waffle-iron process with the remaining two sealed puff pastry packets. As soon as they are ready, transfer them to the baking sheet in the oven with the other two waffles.
Whisk together the yogurt and wasabi paste in a medium bowl.
Plate the first two waffles while the other two finish in the oven, by cutting them in half, on the diagonal. Divide among individual plates, with a dollop of the wasabi yogurt.
Repeat with the remaining waffles. Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.
Variation: You can easily adapt this recipe for hors d’oeuvres by cutting the puff pastry sheet into equal halves instead of four quadrants. Spread the herbed sour cream across the surface of one piece (all the way to the edges), then arrange the tomatoes and salmon evenly as a final layer. Top with the remaining piece of puff pastry. Cut into small squares and cook in the waffle iron, using the spoon technique to allow the pastry to expand. Cook until the pastry is done; the squares will get nicely browned edges.