Saturday, January 21, 2012

Honey Lemon Salmon

I think it's good to have two repertoires: a go-to repertoire, and a special occasion repertoire.
It's not the best plan to try something spur-of-the-moment new for an important celebration or when the Queen comes to dinner.

What of you don't end up liking it at all? What if something in the recipe completely throws you off and you end up wasting time trying to figure it out?  What if it ends up being something more complex than you'd like to deal with? What if you never actually read the recipe and realize two late that you should have started making it two hours ago?

Anyway, within the repertoires, it's good to have some variety. While it's good that you have five different chicken recipes, do you have any fish or beef recipes? Perhaps just one of each type of your main mains is good to have if it's all you can handle. It seems better to have that type of variety than a variety of only chicken recipes. Then, once you have your collection, you can make it much more convenient if you keep them all together in one place.

Salmon isn't too difficult, it's fairly easy to find, and can be played with quite easily using whatever you can find. For example, just last night I sprinkled salmon with a little salt and pepper, and brushed it with a mixture of  grainy mustard and honey. It was good.
(Another plus for salmon is that it looks quite nice on the plate with that flashy color- I can't say I'm a fan of a tilapia-rice-cauliflower plate... appetizing as it may be).

This happens to be my go-to salmon recipe.

I've pretty much posted it for purely selfish reasons. See, it WAS my go-to recipe, but I lost it (gross negligence) and have no idea where it could be. I know it came from the March 2008 issue of Bon Appetit (the cover has a dark green background).  This way I *hopefully* won't lose it again.

Since I'd made it many times, I was aware of what went in it, but wasn't sure of the amounts. These are my approximations.

Mostly, I like it because it's a different take on salmon. It's a little sweet and a little savory, and the lemon cream sauce is a fantastic accompaniment. Any sauce leftovers would be great as a spread for sandwiches or with a little gravlax.

Honey Lemon Salmon with Lemon Cream Sauce
serves 6
Based on a recipe from Bon Appetit, March 2008

6, 6-8 oz salmon fillets
1 1/2 T honey
2 T finely minced shallots
zest of one lemon
2 1/2 T lemon juice
1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 c crème fraîche (alternatively, you can use 1 c sour cream smoothed with a couple T half and half or light cream)
1 t kosher or sea salt
3/4 t freshly ground black pepper
zest of one lemon
1 T lemon juice

kosher or fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a 9x13 inch pan, whisk together honey, shallots, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil. Place the salmon fillets top side down in the pan. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. 

While the salmon marinates, make the sauce. Combine crème fraîche (or sour cream) with salt, pepper, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small bowl. Whisk together, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour so the flavors meld. 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
Line a pan with foil and lightly grease with vegetable oil. Place the salmon skin side down on the pan, leaving marinade clinging to the fish. Discard the rest of the marinade. Sprinkle each piece of fish lightly with salt and pepper.
Bake the salmon for about 15 minutes or until done. Serve with lemon cream sauce. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Pomegranates are an interesting fruit- slightly intimidating perhaps, but interesting nonetheless. The name means "seeded apple" in Latin- appropriate enough since inside the fruit are hundreds of seeds covered in sweet-tart, pulpy juice.
It looks more like a garden of faceted garnets than anything edible.
And although I'm talking about pomegranates, I sit here and eat grapefruit with a spoon for breakfast while I type. Now that I've done it, I wouldn't recommend it since I have grapefruit juice splashed on the screen.

Pomegranates originally came from the Middle East, and are in season during the fall and winter months. If you're able to take advantage of one or two before the end of the season, they're a fantastic addition to your culinary repertoire.  The jewel-like arils are great for eating out of hand or as a garnish for chicken, pork, or used as a festive pop of color and flavor to a salad.

Before pomegranate juice was available in most groceries, grenadine was (and is) readily available as a pomegranate syrup used in drinks. 
Pomegranate juice and fruit is readily available in the Middle East and India, and probably as prolific and "normal" as you might say orange juice is in the U.S.

The fruit is more valued than just it's use as fruit- the city of Granada in Spain is named after the fruit and garnets may be named after the fruit for their shared deep shade of red, and it's a very symbolic fruit in many cultures. 

Perhaps we can call this a pomegranate primer.

I'm only saying this because I don't think many people try to use pomegranates at home... and I'm trying to encourage it. It's something like pomegranate advocacy.

The easiest way I've found to deal with a pomegranate is this:
Cut the pomegranate in half, or alternatively, score it, remove some of the peel, and break a piece off.
Fill a bowl with cold water, place the piece of pomegranate in the bowl, try to bend the peel inside-out, and use your fingers to remove the seeds from the peel and pith.

The seeds will fall to the bottom of the bowl relatively undamaged and any peel and membrane will float to the top.
The floating bits can be removed by hand or skimmed off, and the seeds are easily retrieved when the water is drained.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Rosemary Caramels

Maybe it's a little late to say this, but rosemary is a flavor reminiscent of Christmas.
I guess it's the resiny piney-ness of it. And since I'm not accustomed to using pine needles in cooking, rosemary will have to do in this instance as a stand-in. Really, can you imagine getting pine needle stuck between your teeth? Even just a bit sounds painful, not to mention embarrassing.
(I recently saw a Scandinavian cook use some chopped pine needles in the crust of a cheesecake, so yes, somebody IS doing this. Other than that, I don't know how common it is, but it would be interesting to know.)
Yes, rosemary is different than the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg of freshly baked anything this time of year
...but it's still Christmassy and wintry.

I was discussing savory flavors and chocolate the other day with a co-worker... actually we do it quite a bit, thinking of and talking about flavor combinations (and it could have pretty much been any day at all that we were discussing said topic).
We both really like to try new things, have some similar tastes, and enjoy the pairings of normally savory flavors with chocolate- and sometimes they can be unexpected surprises.
I think chile in chocolate is a good and fairly common one of these combinations.
Chile with chocolate is usually mild in flavor, but in the end it's warming- to me, it's more of a feeling than an actual taste.
And with the original Mayan/Aztec chocolate drink, sugar was not used, but chile was.
Thick and completely bitter chocolateyness with the heat of chiles. Tastes have changed.
While 70% chocolate is certainly edible, 99% is difficult to consume in measurable quantities.

Like chile, sage seems to have both a flavor and a feeling, the feeling being something antiseptic and  astringent, but earthy too.
Thyme has the same flavor and feeling components, but it's a musky astringency to me.
For some reason, rosemary and caramel seemed to be a great combination (lavender, too, but I haven't gotten to that yet). 
Yes, I have eaten one or two before... but they were the almost-liquid type of chocolate-coated caramels, more like a filled truffle. I most certainly hadn't actually made any rosemary caramel up to this point.
There was the problem of the rosemary flavor vs. the rosemary texture. I wanted the flavor, but not the texture. And so, it turns out fresh rosemary infused into cream prior to cooking the caramel will yield a  rosemary flavor that's not too overpowering, but still enough for someone to know there's something different in the finished product. The question is whether everyone will be able to identify what that extra flavor happens to be. 

My important recommendation of the day is that you have a good, working candy thermometer.
Candy temperatures are higher than meat temperatures, so they generally require different thermometers.
The first time I experimented with this I quickly found out that the thermometer was broken. Well, I thought it was broken, but the real truth (as I've come to find) is that it just might need to be re-calibrated.  Anyway, it was too hot for the temperature to be reading as it was, so it was cooked to long and too hot and in the end it turned out to be hard candy that called for an ice pick to break it up.  The ice pick was readily available- there was no mallet or meat pounder.
Although I should probably check to see if the ice pick is an antique (only because the ice man doesn't seem to be dropping off blocks of ice from Lake Michigan these days).

The caramels are quite nice as they are, but they're also great with a coat of dark chocolate.
Honestly, if you happen have a huge chunk of bittersweet Callebaut laying around that you happened to buy at Whole Foods once upon a time, you're in good shape.
I have to say that (to me) milk chocolate is much too sweet to be combined with caramel.
Caramel, of course, is very sweet itself, and the slight bitterness of good dark chocolate helps to counter it. Plus it makes things a little more interesting.

A pinch of sea salt or fleur de sel on top is also an option...

Rosemary Caramels

1 c heavy cream
1 1/2 T fresh rosemary, slightly crushed and chopped
1 c granulated sugar
1 c light corn syrup
1/4 c sweetened condensed milk
4 T salted butter (if using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt with the sugar)
2 t vanilla extract

In a small saucepan bring the cream to a boil over medium heat with the rosemary leaves (and any stripped branches you might have). Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and let steep 15 minutes. Strain the cream into a medium saucepan, pressing on the leaves to make sure you remove as much liquid and flavor as possible. Add the sugar and corn syrup and stir to combine. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. 
When it reaches 230 degrees F, add the condensed milk and continue to stir and cook until the caramel reaches 243-245 degrees F. 
Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and vanilla (which will probably make the caramel sputter a bit). Stir until the butter and vanilla are completely incorporated into the caramel. 
Pour the finished caramel into a greased and lined pan (with sides!) and let cool completely.
Cut into pieces, place on waxed paper squares and twist ends or dip in melted chocolate.