Saturday, December 04, 2004

Segue From a Cook (part 1)

I really can't understand people who have an aversion to the kitchen. People just seem fucking TERRIFIED of going anywhere near a stove, or cutting board, or trying to prepare anything more difficult than fried eggs. Food is EASY, people. Don't get intimidated by, oh...hell, I don't know...salmon cakes.

Bard's Benificent Salmon Cakes
1 can of tinned salmon (remove skin)
1 potato, cut into small pieces so it boils quickly
1 egg
1-3 pinches cumin (literlly pinch a bit and throw it in)
1 small palmful of fresh dill, finley chopped (dried will do)
1-3 pinches of chili powder
1-3 dashes of Worchester Sauce
1-3 dashes of tobasco sauce (to taste)
fine bread crumbs (see recipe, this is really a thing of testing the consistency)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil the potatoes until they're a bit past fork-tender (a fork sticks easily, and softly, into them). Mash finely, without butter or milk, and set aside to cool (you may want to just run the potatoes under cold water before mashing them).
2. Chop the dill very finely. Don't bother taking it off the stalk, just chop it all up till you have a rough palmful. If you really want to, do the same to a single leaf or two of sage. For the stoners in the audience, you could, in theory I suppose, add in some pot, but I can't guarantee on the taste and you'd probably be better off just making hash-brownies with it if you're intent on incorporating it into a meal.
3. Mix the potatoes, salmon, spices, sauces, and egg together in a mixing bowl until everythings well incorporated. Test the smell and the taste (a little crumb or two will do), and consider adding another pinch or two of one spice or another. For this you don't need a fancy masher, a big ole fork will do just fine. Don't be too worried if it looks really, really mushy or goopy once you add the egg, that's fine...there's nothing to worry about. This is natural. Its OK.
4. Now, start adding bread crumbs. The object of this is to soak up some of the moisture and give some texture and binding to the cakes. Start with a few palmfuls and see how it looks. The mixture should allow you to form rough, slightly fragile cakes in your palm with very little effort. It should not be dry, and it should not be goopy. Feel free to experiment, because you can always solve either problem with more bread, more salmon, or more eggs.
5. Take balls of the mixture and gently shape them until they fill the middle of your hand (so a very large palmful). Cover each on both sides in bread crumbs, gently patting to make sure that they stay in.
6. Heat some oil in a pan, and fry the cakes. They should be golden brown, slightly going towards black, on each side. Be careful, as they make come apart. Don't worry too much about this...just fry the pieces. Lack of presentation doesn't destroy taste.
7. Serve with a sauce made from cocktail sauce and balsamic vinegar. One part balsamic to two parts cocktail sauce.

This is a simple recipe that looks intimidating. It looks tough to do, but its not. Do it once or twice, and becomes second nature.

The key to good food is to make it taste good. Forget presentation. You don't have to make every meal look like Wolfgang Puck took the day off to help. Simple food is good.

My best advice to those with a phobia of cooking:
Don't be afraid. You'll fail. Probably a lot. All of us did. No chef was born with a silver knife in one hand and a steaming hot platter of home-made beef tenderloin with fois gras and a truffle-port sauce. First thing I ever cooked on my own? I microwaved bread with butter, garlic powder, and dried sage powder on it when I got home from school. I've botched a few major dinners that I cooked for the family (I will never live down the horribly failed attempt at jambalya). But everyone makes mistakes. Move over them. Start simple, not complex. Don't worry about sauces on pasta, just give them some garlic in olive oil, a bit of lemon juice, and maybe a dash of white wine. Throw some coarsly chopped carrots, zucchini, and asparagus into that and you're laughin.

Anyway...yeah. That is the end of my fantastically sage advice for the day. Remember:

Eat good food. Enjoy good food. And at some point, cook good food.


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