Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Adventure Is Out There!

Good evening everyone! Welcome back to Out Of The Culinary! Tonight, Maggie took over the kitchen with a recipe that certainly could be called 'adventurous'. Her recipe tonight combined ingredients that I would never imagined would compliment each other. Tonight's recipe, Grilled salmon with quick blueberry pan sauce, was definitely an adventurous undertaking - would the odd pairing of blueberries and salmon work? Or did we have to reach for the phone and order pizza? I'll turn the keyboard over to Maggie and let her tell you how it all went down.

The Recipe: Grilled Salmon With Quick Blueberry Pan Sauce
Original Recipe Found In: Bon Appetit Magazine - August 2010 Issue

What You'll Need:

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil (Plus additional for brushing)
3/4 Cup Sliced Shallots
1 Garlic Clove
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Thyme
1/8 Teaspoon Allspice
1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
1/4 Cup Water
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
2 - 4 7 Ounce Salmon Steaks (With only two of us, we made two steaks - but this recipe will handle 4)
3 Tablespoons Thinly Sliced Mint

Hi everyone!!  So yes, I purposefully chose this recipe this week knowing it was going to an interesting concoction.  When reading over the recipe, I noticed  it wasn't necessarily hard to complete, but the flavor combinations would definitely be hard to get over.

First, I started by slicing my shallots and getting them all nice and soft in a hot skillet with olive oil.  If you brown your shallots, it's okay - the pan sauce won't curdle or anything because of it.  After five minutes of the shallots cooking, I added 1 minced garlic clove, thyme, all spice, and salt.  Stir this combination until it becomes fragrant, which will take under a minute.

Shallots - just as potent as onions 
After the shallot mixture becomes a bit more smelly (in a good way, of course,) add the blueberries, water, and vinegar.  Smash the blueberries with a potato masher - if you want to seem less threatening to the blueberries, smash with the back of a fork.  After all the blueberries are condensed, stir this combination together and let the sauce thicken, which will take about four minutes, and don't forget to stir often, making sure the sauce doesn't bake into the skillet.

Pre smash...

Post smash 

Once the sauce is thickened, remove from heat and set aside.  With the same burner you used for the sauce, you can heat up an oiled grill pan. (Simply brush some olive oil on the pan to 'oil' it)  In the original recipe, it calls to use a grill, but since we are lacking a grill and a deck to have said grill on, a grill pan works just as nice. 

As the grill pan heats up, the salmon steaks should be brushed with olive oil, and seasoned with thyme, all spice, salt and pepper.  I think seasoning the salmon with the same spices that went into the blueberry sauce gives the whole dish unity and makes it more flavorful.  After the grill pan is done heating up, carefully add your salmon steaks, as not to throw salmon everywhere or oil for that matter.

After 5 minutes, flip the salmon over to the other side.  There should be some nice grill marks on the salmon and that is what you are looking for.  Once the other side is "grilled" for eight minutes, or a temperature thermometer reads 140-145 degrees, it's ready to serve.  Spoon the blueberry sauce over the salmon and add some sliced fresh mint.

Look at those grill marks! 

A little fresh mint, courtesy of the farmer's market

The End Result:

This recipe called for interesting flavor combinations and it didn't let down.  The blueberries and salmon together infused in such a way I had never experienced.  Although, I really couldn't taste the blueberries, it had cooked down so much, that the shallots/spice/blueberry combination was a mellow, yet cohesive sauce.  

The salmon was cooked perfectly, with the skin side being able to peel right off.  I'll admit, I was really nervous about cooking salmon with the so-called "cooking fish rules".  But really, it was quite easy.  Also, salmon cooked in the grill pan make a delicious, yet healthy and easy way to eat fish.  But the flavor combination really stood out for me and really gave this evening an interesting way to pair up two (or three or four) different types of food.

Thank you Maggie. As Maggie touched on, the blueberry flavor was nearly nonexistent by the time the dish was finished. I suppose this was our biggest surprise with this dish. I was expecting an overly sweet blueberry sauce and wasn't entirely sure how that would pair with salmon. In fact, I was all set to call out the recipe for being a little overly reckless with their flavor pairings - I even started doing some research to back up my argument.

While Maggie was cooking up this recipe, I turned to The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs (One of my favorite books!) According to the experts, shallots and salmon go together like peanut butter and jelly - so that flavor combination makes sense. In addition, blueberries and cinnamon (one of the major flavorings of allspice) go together extremely well as well. (Who knew?) Finally, allspice and salmon are agreeable flavor buddies as well. Nowhere in the book did salmon and blueberries enter the same sentence. I thought for sure this was going to be one interesting tasting recipe - but was pleasantly surprised to find that the final flavorings were shallot, salmon and allspice. The blueberries were simply a (colorful) vessel for the other flavorings.

I'll admit it - I didn't believe in this recipe at first, but am happy to be proven overly pessimistic. That being said, the final dish was 'good' and not 'great'. I almost wanted to taste MORE blueberry and less shallot in the final mixture. It seemed a little too 'oniony' and like the dish could use a little sweetening. Maybe reducing the shallots to 1/2 cup and using a pinch of sugar would create this balance...we'll have to try that in a future recipe.

As an aside, we tried the 'candle trick' (that I touched on last night) when slicing the shallots - and were pleasantly surprised to find that it worked. By simply placing a lit candle next to the cutting board, our eyes were saved the pain of the thiopropanal sulfoxide. (Bet you never thought you'd see that word two days in a row!)

That's all we have for you tonight. Tomorrow I take back the kitchen with a little southern inspired cooking. Be sure to stop back tomorrow evening to see just what I'm up to. Until then,


(Oh, and yes - I did quote a Pixar movie for our blog title tonight!)

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