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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Think Like a Chef Part - Salt Roasted Salmon

“What are you cooking Sunday?”  “Salt-roasted salmon.”  “…Alright…I’ll eat as much as I can…”

Needless to say, my wife is not a salmon fan.

Truth be told, she’s not a fish fan.  I’ve tried to make salmon a couple of different ways for her, but I always ended up eating half of it.  Granted, salmon has a stronger taste, but she has enjoyed all of the recipes from Tom Colicchio’s Think Like A Chef so far, including the pan roasted fish, so I figured, go for it!  Now, the question is, how to get her to eat it and maybe even enjoy it?

I mentioned before that I have someone who is following this series who is making really cool suggestions about side dishes and accompaniments.  That got me thinking about what I could serve with the salmon that would be new and interesting for me to cook, but be familiar enough for Cathy to enjoy.  I started looking through some other salmon recipes and I found an Emeril recipe where he makes a cauliflower puree.  Sounds good!  Hey…am I starting to think like a chef??

Okay, a word about fat.  One of my goals was to make these recipes low fat.  However, not all fats are created equal!  According to, a 4-ounce piece of salmon is 166 calories, 60 from fat.  But, according to, the fat in salmon is omega-3 fatty acids, which can help protect against heart disease and other conditions.  It also has a ton of other nutrients and you can read that article here.

Now, the only added fat to the salmon was 1 tablespoon of extra- virgin olive oil and a bit more for drizzling.  Figure on ¼ being absorbed into each piece of fish.  No problem there.  As for the cauliflower puree…

The recipe for the cauliflower puree is ½ pound cauliflower, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and ½ cup of heavy cream…HEAVY CREAM?????

According to, ½ cup of heavy cream = 411 calories, of which 397 is fat, and we are not talking healthy fats!  So, if I wanted to make this, I needed to find a substitute. 

Unfortunately, I can’t locate the exact website I found, but one source said you could use fat free evaporated milk as a substitute for heavy cream.  This would provide a similar type of creaminess.  I used Carnation fat free evaporated milk.  One serving is 25 calories, so ½ cup would be 200 calories, zero from fat.  Half the calories and zero fat?  Sounds good to me!

Now, on to the actual cooking!

First, after trying unsuccessfully to cut off my thumb using a pairing knife to cut up the cauliflower, I rinsed the cauliflower in cold water, and put it in a pot of salted water.  Then I brought the water up to a boil, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

As it simmered, I began to heat up the extra virgin olive oil in my cast iron skillet over medium high heat, and also pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees.  Now, this brings up an interesting point, which Colicchio mentions right away.  Throughout the roasting chapter, he says he prefers to roast at a lower temperature, because it helps bring out the flavors of whatever he is roasting.  However, because the salt will insulate the fish, you have to roast it at a higher temperature.

Now, after the oil was heated, I put the salmon on skin side down and was supposed to cook it for two to three minutes.  Well, I WOULD have done that had my salmon had skin on it.  My salmon did not.  In any case, I figured if I let it go the full three minutes, it would still form some type of crust on the fish. 

After the three minutes, I took the pan off of the heat and covered the fish in kosher salt.  It took approximately 1½ cups of kosher salt to get the job done.  Once the salmon was covered, it went into the oven.  The recipe called for 6 minutes to cook the salmon to medium rare.  Colicchio says that the top of the salmon should look slightly rare.  I knew if it looked rare at all, Cathy would not eat it, so I chose to go one extra minute.

While the fish was in the oven, the cauliflower finished cooking.  I had to remove it from the heat, and drain.  Then into a blender went the cauliflower, the extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and the evaporated milk.  I blended it until smooth, and tasted it.  It seemed it needed more seasoning, so I added a bit more salt and a lot of pepper.  Tasting it again, it was really quite good, although, unlike potatoes, it is not something I would eat by itself.

Now the fish was done cooking, so I took the fish out of the oven, and transferred it to my cutting board.  I started to take off the salt dome.  

I then brushed the salt off of the fish.  Now, time to plate.

First, I put the cauliflower puree on the plate.  

Next I put the salmon on top of the puree.  

Then, I drizzled a little bit of extra virgin olive oil over the salmon.  

Finally, it was time to taste.

The fish was cooked to a perfect medium.  It did indeed get a crust on the bottom of the salmon.  Although cooked to medium, the salmon was still quite firm but not tough, and not fishy tasting at all.  It did have a salty taste, no question about it, but it wasn‘t over powering.  The cauliflower puree was quite creamy.  I guess I would describe the taste as kind of a mild, nutty flavor. 

The real test?  Cathy ate the entire piece!  I wouldn’t say she loved it, but it was the first time I ever saw her eat an entire piece of salmon.

Finally, the calories:  We had a six ounce piece of salmon, which is about 249 calories, 90 from fat, but remember, the vast majority is good fat.  Between the olive oil absorbed in cooking, the drizzle on the fish and the cauliflower puree of which half was left over, I figure roughly ¾ of a tablespoon, all fat, but again, good fat, as it is monounsaturated.  Because half of the puree was left over, the calories from the fat free evaporated milk was 50 calories, zero from fat, and the cauliflower was ½ pound, approximately 4 cups raw (total guess) so per serving that is another 25 calories, only 1 from fat.  That makes the totals:

Calories = 414, Fat = 181 (remember, mostly all good fats).

So I think this dish was a complete success.  The only thing I would do different is make a side dish like asparagus next time to add a little bit of color to the plate…am I thinking like a chef again??

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Birthday Card To My Wife

We’ve all seen them and we’ve all gotten them.

You know.  It’s your wife’s birthday.  You need to buy a card.  You go to the card store and there they are:  all the cards saying how stupid we are, how we don’t pick up after ourselves, how we can barely tie our shoe laces and thank the Lord that we have a wonderful spouse.

But this year, I was determined not to buy one of those cards.  And I was not going to get a mushy card either.

Nope.  Instead, I wanted to write a card for my wife's birthday.  And guess what?  Saturday is my wife’s birthday.  So here is my card to her:


Do you remember our first date?  We went to that really dive Mexican place on Comm Ave, that would make all the dives on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives seem romantic.  But we had decent food, the drinks were good, the conversation was great, and it was a wonderful evening even though my car got towed.  And since then, it has been one adventure after another.  And I have loved every second of it.

I love the way you make me laugh every single day.  They say your life lasts longer the more you laugh, so I fully expect to live until I’m 110.

I love spending time with you even if we are not saying anything, like when we just hang out and read.  Just knowing you are there brings me all the comfort I need.

I love the way you take care of me.  From making sure my clothes don’t clash, to making sure I have my keys before I walk Suzie in the morning.

I love how much you care about your friends.  You go above and beyond what most people would do for their friends, yet you ask for nothing in return.

I love the way you fill my gaps.  Remember that line that Rocky says to Paulie about Adrian?  “I have gaps, she has gaps, together we fill gaps.”  You fill my gaps.

I love that so many of my interests are your interests.  Food, Music, David Letterman, Howard Stern, Baseball…shall I go on?

So Honey, always remember, even when I’m stupid, or don’t pick up after myself, or can barely tie my shoe laces, that I thank the Lord every day that you came into my life...

...Even if you do think the Kinks are better than the Beatles…