Salmon Mousse with Sour Cream Dill Sauce

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Boston Globe, May 16, 2007

If you’re hosting a crowd for a graduation party or wedding shower, you might want to turn the oven off and keep things light. Stash away the stew and lasagna recipes for fall — it will be here soon enough. A flavorful fresh salmon mousse makes an elegant addition to the buffet table or offer it as a spread during the cocktail hour.

Similar recipes to this have been around for decades and they often call for canned salmon, which was all that many cooks could buy at the time. Fresh salmon gives the mousse a subtler flavor. If you prefer canned salmon, it has to be scraped of its dark skin and picked over for bones. A skinless, boneless salmon fillet can be microwaved with lemon juice in less than 10 minutes.

There is just enough gelatin in the mousse to make the mixture set without becoming rubbery. Beat heavy cream and fold it into the salmon puree for an airy texture. Then pour it into a mold before chilling.

In the ’50s, the mold you used would have been fish-shaped, and once turned out, slices of olives would form the eyes, thin slices of cucumber the scales, and dill fronds a tail. Today, use any ring or loaf pan, or individual molds, and skip the hokey fish theme. But scatter similar garnishes — sliced cucumbers, quartered cherry tomatoes, and fresh dill — around the turned-out mousse.
Add a basket of sliced French bread and plain English crackers. To complete the buffet, make a crunchy grain salad, such as tabbouleh; steamed asparagus, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and served at room temperature; and deviled eggs. Arrange your menu on platters, tuck it all into the fridge, then hang up your apron, and join your own party.

Serves 8


1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless salmon
6 tablespoons cold water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 cup heavy cream, beaten until stiff


1. Have on hand one mold, loaf pan, or individual molds (total capacity 5 cups).

2. In a microwave-safe dish, place the salmon and 4 tablespoons of the water. Cover with parchment paper and microwave on high for 8 minutes. If the salmon is not firm, microwave for 2 minutes more. With a slotted metal spatula, remove the salmon from the dish.

3. In a bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining 2 tablespoons cold water. Set aside for 5 minutes.

4. Pour the boiling water over the gelatin mixture and stir until it dissolves completely.

5. In a food processor, combine the gelatin mixture, lemon, mayonnaise, hot sauce, paprika, onion, and salt. Pulse several times.

6. Add half the salmon mixture and pulse until smooth. Add the remaining salmon with the capers. Pulse several times until complete ly blended. Transfer to a bowl.

7. Stir 1 large spoonful of the whipped cream into the salmon mixture. Fold in the remaining cream.

8. Moisten a paper towel and wring it out. Wipe the inside of your mold or molds. Add the mixture to the mold, cover, and refrigerate for several hours or over night.


1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 pickling cucumber, thinly sliced
Extra fresh dill leaves (for garnish)


1. In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream and lemon juice until the mixture is smooth.

2. Add the sugar, salt, and dill. Cover and refrigerate.

3. To unmold the salmon mousse, run a thin-bladed knife carefully between the mousse and the mold. Invert a plate onto the mold. With your hand on top of the plate, flip the mold and plate over.

4. Dampen a dish towel with hot water; wring it dry. Place the hot towel on the mold for several seconds to loosen the contents. Give the mold a gentle shake. You should hear the mousse release. Lift the mold from the mousse.

5. Garnish with dill, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. Serve with French bread and sour cream sauce.

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