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Ghost Cooking a New Salmon Recipe

I’ve been very busy lately, and, as I mentioned in my last post, this has kept me out of the kitchen and away from blogging. I’ve been eating just fine, though, because I long ago learned how to put good food on the table with a minimum of effort. When I have a second later in the coming week (assuming I can catch a breather) I’ll detail how I pull that off.

In the meantime, I had a chance to play around in the kitchen on Friday night, by doing a bit of “ghost cooking,” which is how I think of preparing a meal when I won’t be there to finish the cooking or enjoy the food. I enjoyed the time in the kitchen. I miss trying new things and cooking for fun. On Friday, I took the opportunity to continue my experiments with cooking salmon. My interest in a decent salmon recipe has a bit of a “Search for the Holy Grail” aspect to it (I’ve experimented before, most recently with this Honey Glazed Soy And Lime Salmon), and I dream of the day when I find a good and easy salmon recipe that will please everyone.

On Friday, I had plans to see an out-of-town brother for dinner. I went with him and my other brother to The Good Fork, an inventive and welcoming little restaurant in Red Hook Brooklyn. I savored a blood-orange margarita, enjoyed salt-cod fritters, and feasted on their “Korean Steak and Eggs.” It was a great night out, and not just for the food—we realized that the last time the three of us got together for a dinner like this was some twenty years ago. That’s kind of hard for me to believe, but it’s true.

While I was going to be out, Santa Maria invited some friends to join her for dinner. She had been planning on making them something—it was a bit of a last minute thing—and I had just the perfect main course for them. The folks at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute had recently sent me a few sides of keta salmon to enjoy, and I defrosted one for Santa Maria and her friends.

I wanted to set Santa Maria up with a good dinner for her and her friends. She has been working very hard around the house lately and with her own projects, and she was tired on Friday night (and Nina was sick with a fever). Before I left for the restaurant, I cleaned up the kitchen, threw a couple of potatoes in the oven to bake, washed a head of lettuce, and dressed the side of salmon so Santa Maria could bake it when her friends arrived. It was my little gift to her, to “ghost cook” the meal.

Wild Keta salmon is healthy, but it’s not very fatty. It can dry out easily when it is cooked. The solution I came up with on Friday night was to compensate with butter. Butter, like a good hug, can fix a lot of things. I softened up a few tablespoons, added a bit of diced shallot, diced garlic, lemon zest, salt, and fresh thyme (all things I just happened to have on hand).

I spread the herb butter over the fillet and rested it on a rack in a baking dish. I poured about a cup of white wine (and some water) into the baking dish to try and make a sauce as the fish cooked.  If had had been home to cook it, I would have broiled it, to give it a bit of a crust. And then I would have reduced the pan drippings to make that sauce. As it was, I didn’t want Santa Maria to have to fuss over it, so I told her to bake it. It took about 12 minutes at 350 to cook the fish, and by all accounts everyone enjoyed it. If you try this at home, watch it carefully--depending on how thick your cut of fish is, it may take a few minutes less (or more).

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