My friend loaned me a really cool book called “Culinary Artistry”. He said it was basically a textbook that he used when he was first employed as a cook. It’s seriously cool. The first part has a lot of articles about the author’s philosophy about the nature of food and art, and about how he grew up around it, and how he learned to love to experiment. He talked about how we all grow up wanting to try things, but we keep being told "Don't play with your FOOD!"
So, now that I'm a grown-up, I can play with my food!
Anyway, a large part of this book is basically a reference book. You can look up any primary ingredient, and it will tell you a list of other ingredients and spices and flavorings that "go with it". Some of them go together so well, that they're considered "classic combinations", and they put those in the list in bold face.
I had some frozen salmon left over from the cookoff, so I decided to try something. Rather than find a salmon recipe that spells out exactly how much of everything to put in, I was going to look at this list of compatible ingredients, see what things I already had in my pantry and fridge, and combine them in amounts that made sense!
So, I looked over the list. A few things jumped out at me from the beginning. Potatoes, onions, even bacon. I thought of one of the early dishes I had made with just those three, adding in chicken and cheese. An idea was taking shape.
So, here was my final list:
- mushrooms (fresh)
- Green onions
- Lemon (zest and juice)
- Parsley (fresh, if you've got it)
- red pepper
- black pepper
- And, for fun, some commercial salmon seasoning I had
I started off with the bacon. I cut about a half a pack of it into some small pieces and put them in a 12" dutch oven over about 20 or so coals. Once they were pretty brown and crisp, I drained off most of the grease and added some sliced and separated onions, the sliced mushrooms, and the garlic. I let the onions cook until they were getting clear and a little brown.
Then I quartered and sliced a few potatoes, really thin. Not potatoe-chip thin, but thinner than I usually slice them. Why? I dunno. Just trying something different. They went into the dutch oven. I also added in the parseley, the sliced green onions, the lemon zest (and the juice). Then I added in the salmon. I put all that on top of about 8-9 coals, and put about 17 on the top. I was going for the basic baking temperature of about 350 degrees.
Then, as it was cooking, I added the seasonings. I also added a little bit of water to help steam the potatoes.
I figured it would cook about 40 minutes or so. I had to keep adding coals because there was a pretty strong and steady breeze blowing and it kept stoking up my coals. Also, I ended up going almost an hour before the potatoes were fully cooked. I stirred it occasionally, to distribute the seasonings. That broke up the salmon, too.
For those of you that understand Utah Mormon culture, my wife is the Relief Society Compassionate Service director for the ward. What that means is that if someone's family has a crisis, she gets to step up and coordinate some help. Sometimes that means cooking some meals while the wife is recovering from an illness, or watching the kids while the mom and dad are at the hospital with another child. It's a cool calling for Jodi, because frankly, that's the kind of stuff she does even when it's not her gig.
Well, I got to help out today. Part of the reason I cooked was to make enough not only for my family, but also for a family down the street that had just had a miscarriage. We've been there, and it's not fun, believe me. So, I got to use my dutch ovening to help lighten someone else's load.
And where was Jodi during all this? Well, like I said, that's the kind of person she is. She spent the afternoon and evening with another good friend up at the hospital. My wife is amazing.