Friday, 29 April 2011

Catching up on the Cooking: Good Friday's Good Food

When thinking of Good Friday, the typical theme is fasting. And indeed, among other reasons, I certainly fasted last Friday and thus felt justified in preparing a not-so-typical meal for dinner when I visited home last weekend. Still keeping with the no meat rule, I cooked a cheese encrusted pan-seared salmon, and spaghetti with asparagus and mushroom. Of note, this time of the year beckons such simple ingredients as those needed for these particular dishes, while also providing much leeway in terms of adjusting for the ingredients you already have in your kitchen.

Into a pan with 1 tbsp olive oil, slowly cook two smashed cloves of garlic and allow that flavour to permeate the olive oil. After the garlic has cooked (and before it turns black and makes the olive oil bitter), lay down a filet of salmon that fits your pan skin side down and allow that to crisp up. While that's crisping, sprinkle on a dash of salt and ground black pepper, and then a mix of cheese; on this particular evening, I used grated parmesan, shredded mozzarella, and shredded Dubliner cheese. Allow this to melt from the heat of the oil/pan and lay on thinly sliced potato. The slices should be arranged in such a way that they mimic the look of fish scales. After the skin has crisped up (the bottom half of the salmon should appear to be cooked), quickly flip the filet over and allow the potato-layered side to crisp up. It is okay if you do not get everything flipped over correctly and in one piece. In such a case, go ahead and lay the potato slices directly onto the pan, making sure there's plenty of oil (or they will stick to the pan!), and then lay the filet crisped skin side up. The cheese should melt quickly enough to then adhere to the potato slices. After this (now) bottom half of salmon looks cooked (i.e., the colour of the fish should change, and you can easily see this from the side of the fish), you are ready to flip it out of the pan.

Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to--after draining most of the oil out of the pan--to use a plate and towels (as pictured above left) and flip everything over. There is a chance the fish will look something like the photo above right, in which case quickly scrape the potato slices off the pan and place it on top of the melted cheese; if you work quick enough, the potato should still adhere beautifully to the fish.

Another way to do this is to cook the salmon first and transfer it onto a baking sheet. Then, sprinkle the salmon with the mozzarella/Dubliner/any kind of cheese that melts well and layer the cheese with the potato slices and top it off with grated parmesan. As the fish itself has cooked, you are just aiming here for the crisped faux skin. Put this under the broiler and cook until the potato slices have browned. Garnish the dish with some curly leaf parsley.

As the fish is searing, make sure your spaghetti (or any other pasta) has been cooking. When transferring the cooked pasta to a separate bowl, make sure to reserve about a cup of the pasta water. "Briskly" dry (i.e., shake out as much water as possible without making it completely dry) the pot you just cooked the pasta in, and empty a can of mostly drained sliced mushrooms and stems. As that's going, cut up your asparagus stalks on the bias and into bite-sized pieces. Empty a jar of pasta into the mix and stir that around with the mushrooms and after a few minutes, include your asparagus. Allow the pasta sauce  to simmer for a few minutes and then continue cooking the sauce covered; for this, I used aluminum foil. After the sauce has thickened (i.e., most of the liquid has evaporated), add your pasta and the reserved pasta water. Give this all a stir and then slightly cover the pot.

After the asparagus has softened (a slight bit of a bite but not mushy), you know the pasta dish is complete. Transfer this all to a plate and enjoy!

Creamy and certainly filling, these particular meal feels like a good way to end a day of fasting. And if nothing else, gather many people around the table to control the portion size! For additional photos of this meal, click here.

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