I'm in New England, again! This visit has been too short, largely because I've slept through so much of it; I had to have unexpected surgery last week to remove my gall bladder, which was apparently the source of many of the stupid-headed ailments I couldn't shake. Here's looking to better health. Anyhow, I've been hopped up on the narcolepsy-inducing wonder-drug Vicodin for a good deal of my trip. I have, however, managed to do some cooking, which is a favorite activity to do when I'm out here. Particularly cooking with fish. It's so
So, Will and I visited the grocery store Wednesday evening in search of good food to welcome me to New England for my second visit. Also, because of the aforementioned surgery, I'm on a (lower sodium) diet that's not terribly compatible with a good deal of his pantry. On our trip, we purchased:
- white wine (Sauvignon Blanc - cheap stuff)
- red potatoes
- olive oil & black pepper triscuits
- lots and lots of jello
- a bar of dark chocolate (Chocolove Extra Strong Dark 77%)
We also stopped by the seafood counter to ask for fish heads, hoping to find a good bunch to make fish stock. They had none. "Have anything you want to get rid of soon?" I asked.
"Well, if we keep it between you and me..." said the man manning the stand. And so we wound up with four nice looking salmon steaks that were just going to be thrown away about an hour and a half later, for a total of under ten bucks (about half price). Win.
Salmon is not traditionally a choice for making fish stock. It's too fatty. But you know what I say to that? POOEY. I for one am willing to try (and fail) once.
Using four perfectly good salmon steaks just to make fish stock seemed like kind of a waste, or as we say where I'm from, a freaking travesty. So after the stock was suitably stocky, we decided that there would be a salmon salad made afterwards. That's how we roll.
Without further todo:
Leek & Potato Soup with Salmon Stock
- Four salmon steaks
- One bottle cheap Sauvignon Blanc (or other relatively dry white wine)
- Four large red potatoes, cubed to about 1 inch
- Four large leeks, thin-sliced, dark green parts discarded
- About 8 oz portabella mushrooms, finely diced
- 10-12 leaves fresh lemon basil
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
- black pepper
- Heat some extra virgin olive oil (to cover pan bottom) in a large saute pan over medium heat. Bruise lemon basil by rubbing it between clean hands (or however you like to do it); toss in the pan. Stir in with the olive oil to flavor the oil well. Cook until leaves are a little brown but not crispy.
- Put salmon steaks directly into lemon basil olive oil. Pan will be crowded. Don't worry about it. Let the steaks brown very slightly on one side (about a minute). Turn, allow to brown for a minute, then add a quarter bottle of the wine.
- Turn down the heat and allow the salmon to gently cook through. This takes a little bit, about 15 minutes.
- Transfer everything in the pan to a stock pot. Add the rest of the bottle of wine. Crush fish a bit without completely destroying it to release some flavor. Allow to cook another 15-20 minutes.
- Strain fish stock off using a fine mesh strainer, reserving the fish and other solids. If you don't have one of those, a collander lined with cheesecloth works. In case of utter stock-making fail (i.e., no fine mesh strainer and no cheesecloth), paper towels work for lining the collander, but will absorb some of your fish stock and will also pass the stock very slowly.
- Back in the stock pot, put the fish stock along with an equal part water, your potatoes, leeks, and portabella mushrooms; allow to cook for an hour on low heat, long enough for potatoes to become tender. (Posterity note that is absolutely not advised: This is the point at which we also added milk. I like milk in my leek/potato soups; it matches well with the mild onion flavors and such. What I had failed to remember is that we had started this culinary adventure with wine, which is acidic enough to (upon addition of heat) make young cheese out of milk. Our milk started foaming after about 30 minutes, and by the time we got the heat turned down, we had a lot of cottage cheese in our pot. I think this soup might well have been very good with paneer in it, but cooking it this way also left all of the whey in our broth, and the cheese was not compact and well-made. We skimmed off and discarded as much as we could.)
- Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread - regular old Italian works great.
Sweet Salmon Salad
- Salmon steaks left over from leek & potato soup
- Two medium apples, finely diced
- One heart of celery, thin-sliced
- 1 tbsp nutmeg
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- mayonnaise to prefered texture
- The salmon steaks, after pulled out of their bath of extra virgin olive oil, lemon basil, and white wine, were still delicious-smelling and ready to be used in another recipe, but somewhat unfortunately still full of bones. We washed our hands well and manually deboned the entire mass of salmon. A number of the bones were soft enough that simply amounted to extra calcium, but some were still firm and pokey, so this step was necessary.
- Mix apples, celery, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a half cup or so of mayonnaise in with the salmon. You will probably need more mayonnaise to acheive a lumpable salad, but mixing in a half cup at first is more manageable.
- Serve, either on bread or on crackers. We had ours on Olive Oil & Black Pepper Triscuits, which was optimal - the sweet flavors from the apples and celery played very, very nicely with the savory flavors from the cracker. The salmon flavor was present and well-represented without being overpowering.
Having shared both dishes with self-proclaimed foodies, I can confidently say they were good and it's not just me liking my own cooking. Recipes approved for general release.
P.S. Go Sox!