The General Muir is a great eatery near Emory and the CDC in Atlanta, known for its New York Jewish deli inspiration and modern twists on old favorites. I order the matzoh ball soup almost every time I go, my easy and simple comfort food. The poutine is some of the best I’ve had. There is an ever-changing menu of housemade soda and their anchor of fabulous coffees. Fried chicken Fridays — um, yes! Why I haven’t tried the fried egg sandwich or latkes yet (because I like latkes for every celebration, even my birthday) is a huge oversight in my eating around Atlanta.
And then there is the smoked trout salad. I NEVER miss ordering this dish. The smokiness of the fishy, salty trout mixed with the earthy, sweet and sour pickled beet made it a winner the first time Eat and I tried it. We often order it as an appetizer to share. The brightness of the lemon is so important in this dish. Without it, it’s fairly flat, despite interplay of sweet beets and creamy salmon. Lemon ties them together: that is key. A hum-drum vanilla cake that needs a punch of flavor? Lemon can help. A colorful salad that doesn’t seem to hit the spot? Maybe lemon. Bipartisan politics solved by a squeeze of lemon? I wish.
I didn’t try to find The General Muir’s recipe but concocted one myself, based on simple roasted beets and a tuna salad recipe. Why use canned tuna when you can use fresh salmon? It’s prettier, for one, and easier to find than trout where I live. Plus, this recipe a great way to use up overcooked fish as mixing with the mayonnaise combats the dryness. If not up to the task of making the salad, be sure to visit The General Muir instead, and support a local business.
The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for the cooked components to cool completely before using. Plan accordingly.
2 pounds of beets (see directions below for roasting)
24 ounces salmon fillet (I prefer skin on)
4 tablespoons celery, chopped
4 tablespoons green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
⅔ cup mayonnaise (use full-fat, good quality, not the "light" versions -- yuck)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sour pickle relish
85 grams sliced almonds (a good handful)
2 teaspoons dried dill
¼ teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (Very important! Only use the fresh!)
FIRST, ROAST THE BEETS: Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Put washed beets in a small roasting pan or loaf pan, add a little water, and cover tightly with foil. Alternatively, I also wrap each beet in foil and bake in a loaf pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until fork-tender. How long you roast depends on the size of the beet. Allow to cool and the skins will slip off without much hassle. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside to cool completely and chill. (Sometimes I do this step the night before.)
CONCURRENTLY, BAKE THE SALMON: Oil and salt salmon, place on sheet pan, then cover with foil. In the same oven you used for the beets, bake for about 20 minutes. Again, the size of the fish fillet will determine the cook time. Aim for flakiness without dryness. However, if you go too far, the save of this recipe is that the dry fish can be revived with a good dollop of mayo.
Allow to cool completely, then flake with fork and remove any stray bones. (I also do this step the night before.) Set aside and chill.
MIX THE SALAD: In a large bowl, mix together the shredded salmon, celery, green onion, parsley, mayo, mustard, pickle relish, almonds, dill, and cayenne. Give the salad a good squeeze of the lemon, mix, and taste. Adjust salt and pepper.
ASSEMBLE: If serving family style, tumble the beets into one layer on a large platter. Top with the salmon salad with another squeeze of lemon. Serve immediately. Keep well in the fridge for a few days. If beets and salmon are mixed already, the beets will color the salmon purple within minutes of cuddling up next to each other.