With a unique, sharp, unmistakable taste, dill works well with salmon, transforms lemon. Eastern Europeans sprinkle it over basically all their soups.
To my mind, dill is the forgotten herb.
I mean that literally. Whenever we plant it in the garden, I forget all about it until it bolts and has to be cut down.
I don’t know why this is. I like dill. That’s why we plant it. I like its unique, sharp, unmistakable taste. I like the way it goes with salmon. I like what it does to lemon, and what lemon does to it. I like the way Eastern Europeans sprinkle it over basically all their soups.
And yet, I can go weeks without once thinking of dill. Months, maybe.
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So to remind myself of what it is about dill that makes it so alluring, I decided to use it in an assortment of dishes. One, obviously, is salmon; the fish and the herb were meant for each other. Another is one of those Eastern European soups, though in this one dill actually comprises the main flavor. A third is a chicken dish, because I don’t usually think about dill going with chicken (when I think about dill at all which, as we have seen, is rare).
And the fourth is potatoes. And cream. And dill.
We’ve probably all had potato salad with dill; as the potato luxuriates in the creamy mayonnaise, the dill asserts itself as a fragrant culinary counterpoint. It’s good stuff, but it can’t compare to creamy dill potatoes.
Creamy dill potatoes transcend the ordinary pleasures of a dill-flavored potato salad because of one basic, indisputable fact: mayonnaise is good, but cream is better.
First, boil baby potatoes or small red potatoes until they are fully cooked. As they are simmering, you sauté a sweet onion in a lot of butter and then you add cream. Good, thick, heavy cream. You could use light cream or half-and-half if you wanted to, but why bother? The whole dish is made by the way the heavy cream decadently blends with the onions.
The dill that is added makes the flavors pop even more. And when this sauce coats the potatoes, it is superb.
Next up was the salmon, perhaps the most natural pairing that exists for dill. In general, dill cuts through the silken richness of salmon while the two flavors play merrily off each other.
But the version I made adds a couple of other ingredients that effortlessly complement the combination. Foremost of these is sour cream. The extravagance of the sour cream is then tempered with a few mildly astringent ingredients: shallot or onion, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and the dill.
Part of this mixture is spread over the salmon before baking, with the rest of it served on the side. But you may want to hold off on using it all with the fish because it has another excellent use — it makes an incredible dip for potato chips. Seriously. The blended flavors perk up even more when introduced to fried thin potato slices and salt. You could use it for crudités, too.
For my chicken dish, I chose a recipe for lemon and dill chicken from EatingWell magazine. The dish employs what I like to think of as a culinary syllogism.
Chicken goes well with lemon. Lemon goes well with dill. Therefore, chicken goes well with lemon and dill.
The secret is the sauce. Onion and garlic are sautéed in the same pan you used to sear the chicken breasts. Add chicken broth thickened a bit with flour, and stir in the dill and lemon juice. Continue cooking the chicken in the sauce, garnish with more dill (of course) and you have a delicious dinner.
Finally, I made a zupa koperkowa, a dill soup from Poland. This is a flavorful but thin soup made richer by sour cream and embellished with batter dumplings.
The soup is good by itself, and this is the only dish in which the dill gets a chance to shine by itself. But what really makes this soup sing are the batter dumplings.
You simply whip together an egg, some flour and some salt and drizzle it into the simmering soup. In one minute, you have delicious dumplings that are remarkably easy to make.
The soup can also be made with potatoes or hard-boiled eggs. I added a couple of baby potatoes left over from making the creamy dill potatoes, and they were great. I’m sure the egg would be equally delicious.
But make the dumplings. They are so good, and they are so perfect with the soup, that you will find yourself remembering always to use dill.
LEMON AND DILL CHICKEN
Makes 4 servings
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 to 1½ pounds total)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sear until well-browned on both sides, about three minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil. Do not clean skillet.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring for one minute. In a separate bowl, whisk together broth, flour, 2 tablespoons of the dill and lemon juice and add to pan. Cook, whisking, until slightly thickened, about three minutes.
3. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan; reduce heat to low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about four minutes. Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter. Remove the garlic cloves. Season sauce with salt and pepper and spoon over the chicken. Garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon chopped dill.
— Adapted from a recipe from EatingWell
CREAMY DILL POTATOES
Makes 5 servings
2 pounds new baby potatoes or small red potatoes, the largest ones cut in half
2¼ teaspoons salt, divided
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
½ cup whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup (or ¾-ounce package) dill fronds, chopped
1. Put potatoes in a large saucepan and just cover with water. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt, and stir. Over high heat, bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, stir, and partially cover the pot. Simmer potatoes until they are fork-tender, five to 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about three to five minutes. Stir in the cream and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Bring the cream to a boil, stirring constantly.
3. Remove from the heat and add the dill. Drain the potatoes and add them to the skillet, turning them over in the cream sauce until covered.
— Adapted from cookthestory.com
DILL SOUP WITH DUMPLINGS (ZUPA KOPERKOWA)
Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons butter, divided
¾ cup finely chopped dill, divided
6 cups of stock: chicken, veal, beef or vegetable
6½ tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
½ cup cold water
1 large egg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Note: Along with the dumplings, this soup can also be served with boiled potatoes or hard-boiled eggs cut into wedges
1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet, add ¼ cup dill and sauté gently over low heat for one to two minutes. In a large pot, heat stock to boiling and add the dill and butter mixture. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of the flour in the cold water and add to the stock. Bring the stock back to a simmer.
2. To make the dumplings, combine the egg, the remaining 3½ tablespoons of flour and the salt, and beat with a whisk or fork for two minutes until smooth. Drizzle batter slowly into simmering stock from a spoon or fork and cook for one minute. Keep the soup at a simmer to avoid disintegrating the dumplings.
3. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, place in a small bowl and beat in the egg yolk. Gradually add 1 cup of the boiling stock and stir well. Stir in the sour cream until the mixture is smooth. Return this mixture to the soup pot and simmer for one to two minutes, but do not boil.
4. Turn off the heat, add the remaining ½ cup dill, stir, cover and let stand for two to three minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
— Recipe by Laura and Peter Zelanski of polishclassiccooking.com
BAKED SALMON WITH MUSTARD-DILL SAUCE
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot or onion
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Juice of a half a lemon
1½ pounds center-cut salmon fillet with skin
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Whisk sour cream, dill, shallot or onion, mustard and lemon juice in a small bowl to blend. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for an hour.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Place salmon, skin-side down, on prepared sheet. Sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper; spread with 1/3 cup sauce. Bake salmon until just opaque in center, about 20 minutes. Serve with remaining sauce (or use sauce as a dip for potato chips or crudités).
— Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appétit