FOOD: A feast of salmon and a happy reunion
It’s been a decade since I cooked my first salmon, when I lived in Alaska – three large chinook fillets that I had caught and kept, frozen, to impress my parents in Michigan on their first trip to visit me. .
I baked it in foil with garlic and lemon, and when we were done my mom put her fork down on her clean plate, looked at me across the room. table and said, “I hate salmon.
She doesn’t. But until then, his experiments with “fresh” salmon involved overcooked, overseas prepared, and extremely “fishy” preparations that came from, well, I don’t know. They weren’t good. Turns out she loves salmon. And why shouldn’t she? It’s rich, flavorful, and just perfect with just salt, pepper, and maybe a little garlic or lemon if the mood strikes you, although the real deal doesn’t need it.
Frankly, I was in awe of myself for doing anything appetizing at all.
The first time I cooked for my parents, when I was 8, I made hotdogs with a slice of melted American cheese on it, like I did on a visit to the cafeteria at a museum earlier that summer. Such dazzling flavors! A cheese hot dog! I was amazed by its brilliance. Mom complimented my work, although in retrospect she was probably just relieved that I didn’t burn the house down. And I’m pretty sure she threw a frozen Stouffer’s dinner in the oven afterwards, while she cleaned the dishes.
My cooking moves have improved since then (and so has the museum cooking), but as a home cook I’m still a hobbyist. Besides a good salmon, I can make a good steak, I’m almost where I want to be on cream sauces, and I almost have the courage to cook. (That scares me – about equal parts chemistry and confidence.)
Most of the time, I’m just curious about food, enjoy new flavors and experiences, and am deeply interested in how people connect with what they eat. This is how I approach it: Excited to know more, from people who have many different experiences.
And that’s why I’m so happy to know Nancy Leson. She also advertises herself as a home cook, but with years of experience, first as a waitress in fine dining restaurants, then as a longtime food critic and food columnist for the Seattle Times and, of course. , right here at KNKX. .
For 14 years, Nancy co-hosted Food for Thought with Dick Stein. He retired from KNKX at the end of last year and the segment ended. But we promised Nancy would be back.
So here we are! We call this new segment âFoodâ and our aim is to explore this word from every possible angle. We want to talk about what we eat and where we get it, explore how it connects to our sense of who we are, and learn as much as possible about the food culture of the Pacific Northwest. We will learn from as many people as possible. And we will cook from time to time, including in this month’s segment.
Nancy and I are both from the eastern United States. She’s from Philadelphia and I grew up on the Detroit subway. But we both ended up in Alaska in our twenties, two decades apart.
I was in Sitka for four years and Nancy was in Anchorage for seven years, working at the famous Marx Bros. Cafe, one of the best restaurants in Alaska. It was in Alaska that we both learned to love salmon. So we’re making it today in Nancy’s kitchen. (Listen to the audio at the top for the full experience.)
No time to fish, so we go shopping. The Kuzma fish market is just a few minutes from Nancy’s front door, and its premier place for fresh fish and knowledgeable service. Ken “Kuzma” Hewitt opened this place in March 2018 after years in the seafood business, starting with his grandmother’s store in West Seattle. His career included 15 years at Seattle’s Mutual Fish on Rainier Avenue, then 18 years at Uwajimaya, where he was manager of the iconic store’s vast seafood department.
Nancy asks for three little fillets and notes that you shouldn’t hesitate to specifically ask for what you want or need – a leaner tail cut, a bigger belly cut – these are routine requests from a good fishmonger.
Below are two easy ways to cook fresh salmon fillets.
- Remove the ridges from the pins. You will be able to feel them in the center of the net. A good tweezers will do. Clean pliers work, in a pinch. Find? Pinch? Sorry. To facilitate access to the bones, place the salmon on the dome of an inverted bowl. Not hard ? You can also leave them in there, if you don’t mind choosing them while you eat. But if you have company, we suggest removing them first.
- Leave the skin on if using the stovetop method below. If you are using the parchment method, remove the skin. You can do it yourself, but a good fishmonger will do it for you if you ask nicely.
SIMPLE ON THE STOVE
- Heat a little olive oil in a pan (Nancy prefers nonstick) over medium-high heat. They say not to cook at super hot temperatures with olive oil, but Nancy shrugs her shoulders at “them” – using non-fancy stuff and big bottles from Costco.
- Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the pink flesh of the fish, to your liking. Just a little will do; you can add more later if you need to.
- Lightly dip the salmon in the flour. Anything will do, but the Wondra flour (the kind in the blue can that people use to thicken the sauce) is good. Rice flour too. This step is optional and will be useful if you are not using a non-stick pan.
- Place the tenderloin flesh side down to begin. If you are cooking more than one tenderloin, do not overcrowd the pan.
- And don’t move the fish at first, just let it sear against the heat of the pan for several minutes. It’s normal if it sticks a bit. When it is ready, it will dislodge from the pan at the slightest nudge. When that happens …
- â¦ Turn the salmon skin side down and leave for a few more minutes.
- It’s done when it crumbles easily with a fork. Transfer to a plate, let cool for a few minutes, then enjoy.
SALMON IN PARCHMENT: This method is ideal when you have company, as you can prepare the salmon earlier in the day, store it in the refrigerator until guests arrive, and then put it in the oven shortly before sitting down to eat. . It also makes for a showy presentation. You’ll need parchment paper for this, and it works best with thin salmon fillets. Our version is quite simple, but you can dress it up a bit too.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (400 if using a toaster oven). Remove a good-sized square of parchment paper from the roll and fold it in half.
- Starting with the folded side, cut half a heart, âlike you’re in kindergarten and preparing for Valentine’s Day,â Nancy says. When you unfold it, you should have a full heart.
- Place the salmon fillet against the fold of the heart so that it can be folded easily. Add any seasoning that makes you happy. We used a crushed garlic clove, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a little lemon zest.
- Fold half of the parchment over the fish and, starting with the curved end of the heart, crimp the edges together, as if you were making a paper calzone.
- Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes. Thicker, fatter cuts will take longer than thinner, leaner cuts. Look for the telltale swelling of the parchment as an indicator it’s done.
- When finished, open the parchment and serve in the bag. Listen to your guests say âOooh! Before the satisfied silence of people eating good food settles around the table.
Nancy Leson is the KNKX food commentator and Seattle-based food writer, cooking teacher and speaker. Find her at nancyleson.com. Ed Ronco hosts All Things Considered weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. âFoodâ is broadcast monthly on KNKX.