Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fish are Friends...and Food! (Salmon with Honey-Mustard Glaze)

Today I tackled something familiar yet new. Familiar, because I have cooked it before, under the watchful eye of my mother, but new because I had not cooked it myself or in this manner. The meat? Salmon. I'm not sure of the variety, because it was a gift of one of our parishioners- but it was fresh caught! I was very excited about the prospect of eating salmon, though slightly daunted, but my husband was not. He is not a huge fan of fish in general, so I haven't really been motivated to cook any thus far. But, as it was a gift, and as I love the beautiful pink fish, I was determined to have a go at it.
I have had the salmon thawing in my fridge for the last few days, and today I knew it would have to be done. Cooking it didn't scare me too much, it was the prospect of preparing it that was getting to me.
Problem #1: I know what a "ready-to-cook" fillet looks like and this fish did not look like that.

It was whole (save for head and tail and thankfully had been gutted), complete with skin and fins. FINS! Even now I shudder. Yuck! So, I searched all over the internet for instructions on how to fillet a whole salmon. Finally I found very detailed, very simple directions (with pictures!) on a fly fishing website! This did not look like it was going to be a pleasant task. I have no "fillet knife" but my "slicing" knife worked just fine. Aided by a towel and grimacing quite frequently, I sliced my fish into acceptable fillets. Having no needle nose pliers at hand, I plucked the remaining bones free with the tips of my kitchen scissors. I was so relieved when the fish began to look familiar.

Tucking the salmon back into the fridge till dinner time, I thoroughly cleansed my hands of slime and scales and went on with my other morning tasks.
Later in the afternoon, armed with my Betty Crocker Cookbook, I mixed up a recipe for a Honey-Mustard Glaze for my salmon, which was to be broiled. While the fish swam in it's yummy looking marinade, I double-checked the recipe and ran headlong into Problem #2: a broiler pan. I don't have a broiler pan. So, again, Google was my savior. I found from reading several online recipe chats that a broiler pan can be easily substituted with a cooling rack perched on top of a sided baking sheet. Whew! Those I have! That problem solved, I transferred the salmon to the greased cooling rack (which was now posing convincingly as a broiler rack).
Problem #3: I was still a little bit uncomfortable with the thought of broiling my fish. I had heard of it being done, but was raised only with the methods of baking and grilling. I am very inexperienced at using my oven's broiler for anything but browning toast or rolls. Just this afternoon, I burned a few innocent leftover french fries by leaving them too long in its clutches. My smoke alarm is often comically oversensitive. It usually goes off whenever I open my oven door, which leads me to believe it has some sinister purpose in mind, trying to convince all my neighbors that I burn everything that goes in the oven or on top of it. But today its ringing rang true, as the broiler, left to its own devices, did indeed burn my poor french fries. All this to say, my confidence in the broiler was low. So turning to the internet once again to research the success of those gone before me, I stumbled upon an article from an Alaskan newspaper! It stated that broiling was ideal for fish like salmon because it cooks at such a high heat that a crust is quickly formed on the fish that seals the moisture and flavor inside. My courage bolstered by this discovery, I surrendered the glazed fish to the red hot broiler. Checking it every 3 minutes or so to brush on more glaze, I was hopeful. It looked beautiful and smelled heavenly! When it flaked obediently after 12 minutes or so, I removed the salmon from the oven and stared at it proudly. I sneaked a bite. WOW. My first thought was, Man, if only I could transport a piece of this to Mommy! She'd think she'd died and gone to heaven! My mom is a salmon fanatic. :)

My husband walked through the door and sniffed appreciatively. As we sat down to dinner, I watched him as he tried it..."Wow," he said, "this is really good!" It did taste superb, if I do say so myself, and it was such a wonderful treat! The fish was a pleasing light pink, and perfectly moist. The glaze had formed into somewhat of a crust under the broiler and the blend of flavors in it were a lovely complement to the mellow flavor of the fish. I paired it with baked yams and steamed spinach, which made for a meal of pretty colors!

When, after several minutes, my husband helped himself to a large second serving, and when, by the end of our meal (and despite the accusing glares from my goldfish) we had nearly consumed both large fillets, I considered my fish foray a success!

Salmon with Honey-Mustard Glaze (Betty Crocker)
makes 4 servings

Honey-Mustard Marinade:
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I just used reg yellow)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 salmon fillet (1 lb)

1) In small bowl, mix all marinade ingredients
2) Place salmon, skin side down, in shallow glass or plastic dish. Pour marinade over salmon. Cover and refrigerate at least 15 min, but no longer than an hour.
3) Set oven control to broil. Remove salmon from marinade; reserve marinade. Place salmon, skin side down, on rack in broiler pan. Broil with top 4-6 in. from medium heat 10-15 min, brushing 2 or 3 times with marinade, until salmon flakes easily with fork. Discard any remaining marinade.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cabbage Capers (Hearty Beef and Cabbage Soup)

No, I have not cooked with capers. I still don't even know what capers are, actually. This post is not about capers! It's about adventures- with cabbage!
Until about a week ago, my only experience with cabbage was to slice it up VERY small for my mom's world-famous oriental chicken salad. The salad is to die for and my brother has confessed that he thinks he could eat it every day for the rest of his life.
But, as I said, until recently, this wonderful salad was my only foray into the world of cabbage. I am not a saurkraut fan, and I always had this picture in my mind of cooked cabbage being kind of like spinach. Wilted. Green. Mushy. Not very appetizing. But, my husband seemed to think it was good. So, I thought, why not? I am really into trying things I've never tried lately, so why not add cooked cabbage to the list? Good heavens, I just tried sushi the other night with some friends- cooked cabbage can't be scarier than that!
So, my first recipe was one for the crock-pot. A safe-looking "Pork & Cabbage Dinner" from the Fix It and Forget It cookbook. I must say, I was nervous when I put in the pot in the morning, though it was very simple. I was heartily convinced that a tablespoon of parsley was far too much, but in it went.
Hours later, we came home from being out all afternoon and boy, did the house smell good! (That is one of those things I absolutely LOVE about the can leave the house all day and come home and it smells like you've been slaving away all afternoon!!) That seemed to be a positive sign. I wasn't sure what goes with cabbage, so I played it safe and whipped up some instant mashed potatoes. When we finally sat down and tried it, it was delicious! The pork chops were tender and full of flavor (guess that over-abundance of parsley had it's place!)- fairly falling apart, and the cabbage and mashed potatoes complemented each other perfectly. But, despite the wonderful flavors, I was right. It was ugly. You know, I absolutely love good food. But I also love pretty food. It bothers me when food is ugly. And this was ugly. The cabbage, just as I suspected, was green. And mushy. Very unappealing. But, I suppose you could consider this test a success, for it was tasty! But the unattractiveness of it still gnaws at my artistic sensibilities.
My second cabbage caper was met with better success. It was a hamburger and cabbage soup (from the same cookbook) and it was yummy. It was also a crock-pot supper, which I paired with Sweet Cornbread (divine, thanks to the added moistness of sour cream!) from The Taste of Home Cookbook. It reminded me a lot of chili (probably because of the whole tablespoon of chili powder and the can of kidney beans...)- but with cabbage! We dressed it up with a dollop of sour cream, and judging from the contented noises that came from my husband's corner of the table, I think it's safe to call it a "hit"! :) The pork may or may not be on the repeat list (due to it's unattractive qualities) but the soup is definitely a keeper. But you know what all this talk of cabbage has me itching for? Mom's Oriental Chicken Salad! There's a lot to be said for standbys, you know...

"Hearty Beef and Cabbage Soup"
submitted to "Fix It and Forget It" by Carolyn Mathias

1 lb ground beef
1 med onion, chopped
40 oz can of tomatoes (I used about 28 oz because I only had 2 cans!)
2 c. water
15 oz can of kidney beans
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 c. chopped celery
2 c. thinly sliced cabbage

1) Saute beef in skillet; drain.
2) Combine all ingredients except cabbage in slow cooker.
3) Cover. Cook on low 3 hours (or 4, or 5...I think I did mine a bit longer). Stir in cabbage. Cook on High 30-60 min. longer. (I forgot to turn it up, but it turned out just fine!)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spaghetti Pie

Well, to start us out...tonight I made a Spaghetti Pie (Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook). Very different than anything I have ever done with spaghetti. For several reasons. The spaghetti was mixed with egg (weird!) and then used as a "crust" (which it adapted to better than I thought it would...). Then cottage cheese and a meat sauce were layered in that. I thought it looked very interesting, so I had to try it! My favorite part of the whole process was still what is usually my favorite part of cooking...frying up the meat with the onions and garlic (except this time it added green peppers, which I don't particularly care for)...ahhhh, always smells so heavenly! Anyway, the "pie" turned out kind of funny, because, though cooked in a pie plate, it doesn't hold together very well, so you can kind of throw out any thoughts of pretty presentation (which I had!) or even just getting it to stay in wedges. It just kind of falls apart and looks like a cross between mixed up spaghetti and mixed up lasagna. :( But, on the brighter side- it tastes good! It is certainly not exceptional, and I haven't decided if it's good enough to earn a place on my "keeper" list, but it is rather tasty, especially for a girl who salivates over all things Italian!

Anyway, I hope to use this blog as an outlet for myself and to inform you of my raptures over a particularly marvelous recipe or experiences in the kitchen as I learn the art of really cooking, lament a dish that didn't quite turn out to be just what I expected, and maybe even mistakes I make (if I'm brave enough to share!).
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