Closed Captioned For The Thinking Impaired

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Slow Roasted Salmon with Squid Ink Linguine, Sauteed Red Pepper & Baby Artichoke Nage: A Trip to the Market, An Open Mind = Dinner for 2

Sometimes you head out to the market with a strong idea of what you'd like to cook. You could even have a specific recipe complete with shopping list on your iPhone; all good to go.

Then you get to the market, all full of excitement & good intentions, only to find that the ahi you need for your ahi "pizza" ( a fave of my hubby's) looks slightly petrified and you need to quickly regroup, open your mind & see what's available to you.

It's a fantastic opportunity to try new foods or combinations. The final results can be stupendous or disgusting, if you get a little too experimental.

I'm sure my poor husband still shudders when he recalls the "chicken cakes" that I made because the confit of duck I wanted to use was unavailable for purchase. This was about 16 years ago when such things as duck legs were almost impossible to find and asking for duck confit only got you unpleasant looks from exasperated butchers. Back then, I didn't even consider making my own. I was a working stiff & lived in the Upper West Side of Manhattan and my local Key Food did not carry "exotic" items. They barely stocked fresh iceberg lettuce. Even the Fairway & Citerella didn't carry specialty meats then and, with my time constraints, the last thing I wanted to do was head all the way down to Chinatown for some roasted duck (which would have at least have been the same genus if not the same texture).

Unfortunately, I was stubbornly stuck in poultry mode, not wanting to make something as "mundane" as crabcakes, so I thought I could substitute chicken legs for duck confit. (What can say, I was young & idiotic)
After two hours of careful cooking & one bite, I decided to order in pizza.

The hubby didn't fare as well. He having valiantly eaten half of a chicken cake before I tasted mine. When I declared the meal inedible, he said, "Thank God!" and put down his fork in relief as he looked forward to the pizza delivery. Oh well, at least the sundried tomato beurre blanc I served alongside it tasted good.

Now, I realize not everyone has the inclination to thrilled by the prospect of improvising a new recipe; but, what can I say, I'm a food geek with a lot of time on her hands.

Today, after being disappointed by the ahi, I saw that the Loch Duart Salmon was pristinely fresh, so I switched gears & on my way to the register to pay for it, I spied a package of beautiful baby artichokes from Castroville, the first of the season & added them to the basket.

I was on Chestnut Street in the Marina, heading east, when I saw Lucca Delicatessen. Then it hit me, let's see what kind of imported pasta they have... Jackpot! In the very back of the store, near where they keep those humongous wheels of Parmigiano, I spotted the Campofilone Artisan Pasta in a large wicker basket. There were four varieties but it was the Linguine with Squid Ink Egg Pasta that caught my eye. I thought of how pretty the inky black pasta would look with the salmon which I wanted slow roasted & how tasty the lemony baby artichokes could be with it. Bought it & walked the last mile home jauntily. A quick look around the kitchen & I saw I had the makings for a luscious meal.

My Sony camera died so I took the last several shots with the iPhone, the results are not great (the colors are all off but they still communicate the general idea).

Fortunately, the meal itself was quite delicious. Slow roasting the salmon with herbs & olive oil give it a melting texture & a delicate perfume. The squid ink linguine is a great product. The pasta itself is toothsome despite being so thin & the flavor is slightly briny with a saffron-like smoky essence which may also have been imparted by the red peppers. Those baby artichokes retained their shape & added a lemony, grassy goodness. YUM! YUM!

Not a chicken cake in sight, and no pizza delivery required! Yaay!!!
We were happy.

Garlic & Thyme-infused Slow Roasted Loch Duart Salmon
Squid Ink Linguine with Sauteed Red Peppers, Baby Artichoke Nage

Before I write a more traditional recipe down, I'll illustrate some of the prep work & cooking involved (because it's a fun way to gather my thoughts):

Note: It's important to keep the oven very low while cooking (200 degrees), if you're impatient & turn up the heat you won't get that melting texture. Allow for 25 to 50 minutes for the salmon depending on how efficient your oven is, how thick your fillets are & your preferred degree of doneness. It will obviously take less time if your fillets are smaller & thinner and you enjoy your salmon rare to medium rare.
Here's where you need to be the judge: Don't just walk away from the oven & come back 40 minutes later. Touch , smell, feel the doneness. The center of the salmon should feel like pad of skin on your palm below your thumb & still have some translucency for medium to medium rare. The salmon should not be cooked until it flakes or is firm to the touch. It will taste dry & mealy if you overcook it. You'll have wasted your time and your money.

Be sure to thoroughly cover those sprigs of thyme & garlic in olive oil to keep them from drying out and to allow them through the vehicle of the oil to infuse the salmon with their perfume, the oil also assists in gently oven-poaching the salmon while keeping it moist.


For the Salmon:
  • 2 salmon fillets with skin on (about 8oz. each & 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches thick)
  • extra virgin olive oil, 2-3 Tablespoons (for drizzling over the thyme sprigs)
  • 4 whole sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 large or two small, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper & sea salt to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Meyer Lemon oil (olive oil that has been infused with Meyer Lemon; available at Whole Foods, Bryan's, Cal-Mart or anywhere that gourmet foods are sold)

For the Squid Ink Linguine and Red Pepper, Artichoke Nage:
  • 1 8.8oz. package of Campofilone Linguine with Squid Ink Egg Pasta
  • 2 -3 cloves of garlic, removed from their skins without smashing, thinly sliced then julienned
  • 8 cooked baby artichokes (tops & stems trimmed; tough spiny outer leaves removed, boiled for 10 minutes in a court bouillon of water, grapefruit juice, smashed garlic clove, bay leaf, salt & pepper; See the pictured section of this post for more explicit instructions)
  • 1 Large Red Bell Pepper (with tops, ribs & seeds removed) thinly julienned into even lengths
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cracked red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon of herbes de provence
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stem & chopped
  • 5-6 basil leaves, finely chiffonade
  • 6 stalks of chive, rough chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil, to cover bottom of pan plus more for emulsifying the sauce
  • 1 cup of reserved cooking water for artichokes
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable stock (I use Wolfgang Puck's Organic stock found at Whole Foods & Safeway)
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • the juice from 1 Meyer Lemon
  • freshly ground sea salt & black pepper to taste

The baby artichokes, so cute in their grapefruit bath...

Trimmed the stems, cut off the spiny tops, removed the tough outer leaves & dropped each one directly in a large pot in water that was acidulated with grapefruit juice. I only had one Meyer lemon & didn't want to use it all up just to keep the exposed artichoke parts from turning brown. Grapefruit juice worked like a charm. When I was done trimming, I smashed a couple of garlic cloves and added them to the water, along with a bay leaf, coarse sea salt & coarsely ground black pepper. I put the pot over medium-high heat & allow the chokes to boil until just cooked but not soft (10 minutes or so, until they smell like cooked artichokes; an ephemeral instruction, for sure, but it's how I know they're done).

The Loch Duart Salmon, so luscious...

While the water heats up for the artichokes, I preheat the oven to 250 degrees. I prep the salmon by placing them skin side down in a foil lined cast iron skillet and rubbing the fillets with Meyer lemon infused olive oil, a tsp of soy sauce, minced garlic, coarse sea salt, coarsely ground pepper & a few sprigs of thyme. Then I drizzle plain high quality extra virgin olive oil over the top, making sure to coat the thyme branches well & set the pan on the middle rack of the oven. I lower the temperature to 200 degrees and slow roast the salmon fillets for anywhere from 40-50 minutes depending on thickness & desired doneness. My fillets were 8 oz each, 1-1/2" thick & I like my salmon medium to medium rare. Thinner, smaller salmon fillets will take less time (25-30 minutes per inch of thickness depending on desired doneness).

While the salmon & the baby chokes cook, I remove the ribs & seeds from a large red pepper & julienne it into uniformly sized pieces. The linguine is thin & I want to red pepper to echo the pasta's shape. I also thinly slice & julienne two large cloves of garlic without smashing them. I want the garlic to be nutty & fragrant but not overwhelming & bitter.

When the artichokes are done, I remove them from their court bouillon with tongs & set them cut side down on a kitchen towel to drain & cool. I reserve 1 cup of the artichoke water & discard the rest. While the artichokes are cooling, I set a 10 quart pasta pot filled with water to boil over medium high heat for the pasta.

When the artichokes are cool, I cut them into quarters, being sure to remove any tough leaves I may have missed during my initial preparation of them, and lay them on the cutting board with the julienned red peppers & garlic. I, also, chop a few large cherry tomatoes into small dice (not pictured). Then I place a 12", 5 quart braising pan over medium to medium-high heat & add enough olive oil (don't use your finest, first cold pressed olive oil yet we want something with a little higher smoking point) to coat the bottom of the pan. I add a grinding of salt and black pepper, a pinch of cracked red chili flakes and a pinch of herbes d'provence until fragrant.

I add the vegetables one at a time, starting with the red bell peppers until they soften slightly, followed by the artichokes, the garlic & when the kitchen is redolent with the garlic, the tomatoes until they cook down & coat the veggies. I, then, strip the leaves off a large sprig of thyme, give them a rough chop & add them to the pot with a quick stir.

At this point I add...

A little chef's nectar, which in this case was half a glass of the Kistler I was drinking which my hubby just purchased a couple of cases of. I'm always willing to sacrifice for my art! Any dry white wine will do as long as it's quaffable (BTW, the '04 Kistler Vine Hill Vineyard, definitely is that).

After that has cooked down a bit, you need to add a tablespoon or two of your best, fruitiest extra-virgin olive oil, stirring it in well, 1/2 cup of the artichoke water & 1/2 cup of vegetable stock (I used Wolfgang Puck's organic but you can make your own if you like) allowing it to reduce slightly but not too much (about 5-7 minutes). Remember you don't want it to dry out (the stock provides the sauce for the pasta), then lower heat to a bare simmer, add additional oil & stir until an emulsion forms. Stir in the fresh juice from 1 Meyer lemon. Taste for additional seasoning & adjust to your liking. Chiffonade 5 or 6 basil leaves. Rough chop 6 or 7 stalks of chive and add them to the pot; give them a quick stir in & lower heat to the lowest possible setting.

By this time, the pasta pot has been boiling away and your salmon is likely to be done; add a tablespoon of coarse sea salt into the pasta pot, and stir it in to dissolve the salt. Check your salmon for doneness. If it is done to your liking remove it from the oven, baste it with some of the olive oil that has collected in the pan & set aside in a warm spot. You want your salmon to be done before you cook the pasta. This particular brand of thin dry egg pasta only takes two-three minutes to cook. (You'll have to adjust your cooking time if you use another type of pasta.)

Add the pasta to the pot, stirring it in as you add it to the pot to keep it from sticking together. Check it after 2 minutes to see if it is done & every minute after that if it isn't done enough for you. Remember a pasta like this goes from al dente to mush rapidly so be vigilant.

When it's done, remove the pot from the heat & carefully lift & drain the linguine over the pot using tongs to transfer it from the pasta pot into the artichoke mixture; mixing it in with the tongs as you go.

Add some of the squid ink linguine pasta water (or reserved artichoke water) as well as additional olive oil, if the pasta seems dry. Finish with a dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano, stir it in & add another dusting to the pasta after plating it. Then remove your fillet of salmon from its skin by sliding a sturdy fish spatula beneath it & place over the linguine. Mangia!!!

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