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Smoked Trout and Apple Salad with Polenta Croutons

Golden polenta croutons flavored with Parmigiano-Reggiano add sweet crunch to this elegant salad of delicate flaked trout and crisp sliced apples. You can try other smoked fish in place of the trout, such as sturgeon or whitefish. Serve as a first course at your next dinner party.

Ingredients:

For the polenta croutons:

  • 2 cups instant polenta
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 Tbs. grapeseed oil

  • 2 small Gala or Fuji apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb. smoked trout, skin and bones removed, flaked with a fork
  • 4 cups loosely packed mâche
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh chives

Directions:

To make the polenta croutons, in a large, heavy saucepan, cook the polenta according to the package instructions. Remove from the heat and vigorously stir in the butter and cheese until evenly distributed. Quickly rinse a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cold water and shake it dry. Immediately mound the polenta in the pan and, working quickly and using a spatula repeatedly dipped in hot water, spread the polenta in an even layer about 1/2 inch thick. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Bring the chilled polenta to room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. Cut the polenta into 1/2-inch cubes.

In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Working in batches as needed to avoid crowding, add the polenta cubes and sauté until lightly browned on all sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Arrange the apples on a platter. Scatter with the trout, mâche, walnuts and polenta croutons. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, scatter with the chives and a grinding of pepper and serve immediately. Serves 10 to 12.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Salad of the Day, by Georgeanne Brennan (Weldon Owen, 2012).