Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dear Salmon and your Braised Turnip Friends,

I'm at that point in my life where shopping for discounts and sales is not only a necessity, but becoming a competitive sport. I'm not one of those aggressive crazies that you'll see out on Black Friday (I'd prefer Giving Tuesday instead...check it out!), but I do love seeing those yellow sale tags on my trips to the supermarket. When I found salmon on sale, 2 fillets for $5!!!, I thought I hit the jackpot! It was so beautiful. Just looking at the fillets before the seafood guy came over to help me take my pick, I had the cogs moving on how I would prepare it, if I was going to use a sauce or not, what side would I whip up, etcetera, etcetera. There are so many things you can do with salmon because of its heartiness under a sauce or glaze, its beautiful color, and its filling nature.

My greatest salmon story actually took place in Texas of all places. We were staying at the house of a family friend, and the father was a pilot. That weekend they decided to fly up to Alaska and go fishing. They came back the same day with a bounty of Alaskan King Crab and Alaskan Wild-Caught Salmon. I have never had a fresher meal in my life from those amazing fruits of the sea (save for maybe Hawaii, but that's a different category). Nothing compares to the richness of the meat from fish and seafood out of the frigid Alaskan waters. The crab was served simply with garlic butter and the salmon baked with lemon with a sprinkle of salt. You can't get any better than that. I think I was 12 when I ate this meal, and it is still a serious part of my culinary memory...this is probably one of the pinnacle moments where I caught onto what really fresh, amazing food can taste like. Now I'm here! And now we're going to head to the preparation of a meal in homage to my Alaskan epiphany:

Baked Salmon and Braised Turnips
Salmon fillets (for as many people as you're serving)
3 Cloves garlic, crushed
Olive oil

Turnips (I used a giant, organic turnip for 2 servings)
1-2T Butter
Olive oil
Bread crumbs
Black Pepper

As you can already tell from the ingredient list, these recipes are simple as can be for preparation, yet the flavors have such complexity that the only result you will have is a step closer to nirvana. If you aren't familiar with turnips, they have this undeniably warm and sweet flavor with a texture between a radish and a potato. As for the salmon, the only thing you need to do is watch the cooking time. My fillets were about an inch thick, so I shot for 15-17 minutes. I flaked open some meat in the middle to check for doneness, then I pressed it back down when I was assured of its awesomeness. Really, it's no goof.

Okay, to prepare the salmon: wash the fillets and pat them dry. Set the fillets on parchment paper on a baking sheet, then drizzle lightly with olive oil and crank some sea salt over them. I chose to use crushed garlic this time, but slices of lemon would work just as well. So I crushed about three cloves of garlic and distributed them evenly over the two fillets. I rubbed all these beautiful ingredients into the fillets and made sure everything was uniform. You need to preheat the oven to 350º, and you can prepare the turnips until that oven is ready. When the oven is heated, you put the fillets in and set the timer on 15 minutes, then check and if it needs a couple more minutes put it back in...just make sure you pay attention so as to not overcook it.

The turnips on the other hand, need to be peeled and sliced thin, either with a knife, food processor, or a mandolin--I use the latter, it is so quick, but watch your fingers, the guard is always a pain to use, however a hacked off fingernail isn't too fun to nurse back to health either, is it? So take it easy, not all of us can be an iron chef (but one can dream, can't they?). Anyways, you want uniform slices of the turnips, and having them relatively thin really speeds up the cooking process, and when you have 15-17 minutes to get the hot food on the table, that's what you want! You can also add onions and garlic to the turnips, but I don't really find it necessary, seriously turnips are a powerhouse of glorious flavor. I heated some butter and olive oil in a skillet over high heat and added the turnips, then turned down the heat to medium-high. Make sure you stir those 'nips around to ensure that they are all covered and sizzling. The turnips will start to turn translucent and start browning after about 10 minutes, and at this time you can add about a 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs (or just sprinkle it around like I do until you think it's enough), your seasonings, and give it a slight stir to distribute it evenly. Finally, sprinkle that handsome collection of parmesan that you have kicking around in the fridge over the whole lot. At this point, I like to throw the turnips into the oven to give it that nice crisp on the top. I guess you could use the broiler for that too. How I gauged the time was based on the salmon. I threw the pan in there at the end of the cooking for the salmon (*gasp* but doesn't that lower the temperature of the oven?! Yeah, but I'm not too worried about it), and when the salmon was ready to take out, I let it rest for a few minutes, took my sweet time making it beautiful on the plate with finishing fleur de sel, and then the turnips were ready to be plated as hot as possible, because they do lose a magnificent amount of heat rather quickly.

You can add a second side of sautéed spinach or green salad, but I just went with the salmon and turnips. I just wouldn't go with the gratuitous rice pilaf because then you get a little overboard with the starches, and a salmon meal isn't supposed to make you feel heavy and stuffed. A side of fruit would be nice, like a citrus salad with a good olive oil and fleur de sel (but that goes without saying :D).

It makes a great lunch or dinner, and I daresay it is something you can accomplish as a weekday meal! So enjoy, dear friends. Let me know what you think! How do you prepare your salmon?
Bon appétit!

Listening to WFPK Radio Louisville with Kyle Meredith (they just played Grandaddy!!)

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