Salmon Rillettes (One Good Thwack)

The sun loses itself behind a scrim of melted butter-clouds.

I move a mason jar filled with wildflowers so they catch the caramelly light. They die so quickly. The hardwood glows amber-gold. The sun burns beauty into our shoulders and thighs. We try to make the most.

I’m embarrassed to find myself these days writing mostly about weather. It can’t be helped. Last week I wrote about not writing, of all things, about the feel of quiet. What I meant then was not that I have nothing to report from that quiet. I meant I’m troubled about what to possibly mean.

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The Salt Cure

Making good food is mostly about salt.

Great chefs have an inborn intelligence for this, and in each seemingly careless sprinkle or pour is a measure of their animal instinct. Mortals like you and me have to be more careful with our seasoning. Because salt is pure taste–it’s the only thing that can make food taste more like itself–and it’s the foundation on which everything good and holy and savory is built.

Take the salt cure. Curing meat and fish is a timeless thing, born once of necessity and sustained now by the unassailable logic of pleasure. I can think of nothing I’d rather eat than a fatty, paper-thin slice of prosciutto or lox with a hunk of good bread. Better than sex? Maybe. Sometimes. It’s enough to make my day, anyway. This food is magic. Maybe it’s the raw, luxurious texture, maybe the seductive chemistry of salt and fat, that can explain my gut-deep hunger for it. Maybe explaining a hunger is beside the point.   Continue reading

Salmon, Leek, Canellini Bean

salmon1

Let’s talk about writing recipes for a minute.

It’s easier than you might think. More than anything, it’s about knowing what tastes good to you, and what doesn’t. My favorite way to come up with recipes is to re-invent dishes I don’t like very much. For example, ever since I was little, I never really liked salmon. Cooked salmon, I mean. The raw stuff is, has always been, heavenly. It was something about the way the fatty bits would form strings of white film on the surface of the broiled meat, like membranous seafoam or toothpaste. It turned me off.

So when I ordered a salmon dish at an Italian restaurant in Evanston, I was a little out of my comfort zone. Pan-seared salmon with canellini beans, pancetta, and sundried tomatoes. I figured pan-fried was better than baked, and I would at least escape that white stringy stuff that grosses me out so much. The meal was good. Not great, but good. I thought I could do it better. Continue reading

Put an Egg on It

eggs benedict

Is there any meal more indulgent than brunch?

I don’t think so. It’s an excuse to drink hard liquor before noon, an excuse to fry pancakes and eggs in bacon grease and eat too many bagels. Do I need to say it? I love brunch.

My favorite brunch meal is Eggs Benedict. I order it at restaurants whenever I can, but for me there’s nothing quite like the homemade version. Because at home, even despite the famous fussiness of Hollandaise sauce, I can make it the way I like it.

And that is with salmon cakes. Not Canadian bacon, not smoked salmon, but salmon cakes. You know–like crab cakes, but… with salmon. It has the richness of a crab cake but not the overwhelming saltiness of smoked salmon. The recipe I used is based on Ina Garten’s salmon cake recipe here. This recipe makes four gargantuan servings.

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