We had friends over for dinner, one of which was a vegetarian, so we did another version of salmon sandwiches. E had made this meal for me last week that was so tasty it had to be repeated. Problem is, E cooks by ‘feel,’ whereas I follow a recipe and make adaptions where needed. Borrowing ideas from E is impossible for someone writing a food blog.
I watched E make the salmon sandwich with roasted tomato and beet salad last week and figured I could follow what he did close enough to reproduce it. But E doesn’t measure out any of the herbs or condiments he uses for anything. “I just do what I like,” he says. “I go by taste.”
I started with the roast tomatoes. “Honey, what do you season them with?” I asked.
“How much?” I asked.
“I don’t know, just sprinkle it on.”
“Just sprinkle on cayenne pepper, huh? Kinda dangerous. What else?”
“Just put the slices on a baking sheet and roast them.” I did that. E then freaked out. “You’re not going to boil them and shock them first?”
“You didn’t say I had to! This is why a RE-CI-PE would be helpful.”
Next, the dill mustard sauce. “You need some creme fraiche, a bit of mustard, a bit of dill and some lemon,” E rattled off.
“How much of each?”
“A bit of each!” he said.
I scooped out 3 tablespoons of creme fraiche, then spooned out a small amount of mustard into a bowl, then sprinkled a bit of chopped dill inside.
“WHOA.” E said. “That’s WAY too much creme fraiche.”
“DUDE. You didn’t tell me how much I needed? This is why you need to be SPECIFIC!”
Our dear married dinner guests looked with worry as E and I bickered over the stove. They thought about slowly backing out of the kitchen for fear E and I would cut each other with a steak knife. Instead, I let E take over cooking the salmon and prepping the salted cucumbers and beets because he had the entire recipe in his brain and wasn’t able to share it. I assembled the sandwich once the oven work was done, and we all ate without any bloodshed.
Dinner was as tasty as the first time E made it. “It just comes with practice,” E told me. Perhaps I would be able to practice this meal on my own if only I knew the proper recipe in the first place.
I wrote this recipe below from watching E make this twice and from badgering him for exact directions. But he’s so horrible at remembering how much of what goes into a meal that we got into an argument. I wouldn’t accept “I have no idea” for a measurement of how much olive oil was needed for the shallots.
I guess the goal of cooking is to perfect a few meals to the point where you don’t need a recipe and can prepare it blind. Which is why E is a better chef than I am. But I need some direction to help me get to his level. Like sex, how can one know how to serve up something delicious if they don’t know what is needed?
1 pound salmon
bread for four sandwiches (we use two oversized rolls and cut them in half)
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
3 beets, boiled
2 teaspoons dill, finely chopped
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon creme fraiche
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 shallot, sliced
5-6 tablespoons olive oil, (for both cooking the salmon and frying shallots)
white pepper, to taste
First, roast tomatoes: shock them in hot water for 30 seconds each, then place them in cold water. Peel off skin, slice and season with salt, pepper, cayenne, basil and a shake of olive oil. Place on baking sheet and bake in oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Cucumber/beet salad: peel beets, and boil in saucepan until beets can be pierced softly with a knife. Remove from water. Slice thinly, mix with sliced cucumbers, and one teaspoon dill and add about a tablespoon of sea salt. Set aside.
Mustard dill sauce: add mustard, creme fraiche, lemon juice and a teaspoon of dill to small bowl. Mix and set aside.
Fry shallots in enough olive oil to coat the pan, until crispy.
Salmon: season with salt and pepper, and cook until medium rare in skillet on medium high heat. Toast bread. Slather on mustard dill sauce. Then layer on greens. Next place a salmon fillet on bread. Then layer on roasted tomato and shallots. Top with other slice of bread. Makes four sandwiches.