I have to stop watching the Cooking Channel. I have to stop watching the Cooking Channel, because all I want to do is eat and buy ingredients I cannot afford. But when you’re watching these cooks in their pristine kitchens, with their truffle oil and their local organic produce and their KitchenAid EVERYTHING, you can’t help but want to cook with awesome, expensive ingredients in a high-tech, fully-equipped kitchen too. So, I occasionally get the envy eye. Why can’t I have a steady supply of $20 olive oil and Himalayan sea salt? Where’s my professional grade ice cream maker and custom copper cookware? Oh yeah, I’m not a cooking show star. I’m just a gal on a budget trying to eat better than Raman noodles every night (not that Raman noodles aren’t delicious…cuz they are
But all self-pity aside, I actually sometimes enjoy the budgetary restrictions. It forces you to be creative, to use basic ingredients in new and interesting ways, and it really makes those times when you can get your hands on a prime rib or ahi tuna steak a whole lot more special and worthy of celebration.
I recently came across 2 wild Alaskan salmon fillets on sale, and bought them without a moment’s hesitation. I love salmon. The light, flakiness of the flesh, the beautiful pink color, the distinct, but not fishy, flavor. It’s an incredibly versatile fish and can handle many different flavor pairings and preparations. I really love salmon with a simple lemon and butter sauce, so I thought a piccata would be the perfect fix for these beautiful fillets. Shawn and I are huge piccata fans, though we generally prepare it with chicken breasts. We usually do the piccata with mashed potatoes and petite green peas. We then mix everything together and eat it as one single dish. We call it Chicken Picasso. You know, because it’s all mixed up and colorful. Yes, we are super clever and cool over here.
For the salmon, I thought a roasted vegetable dish would be a better pairing than the mashed potatoes and peas.
Fingerling potatoes and asparagus roasted in a simple mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper and basil. It was a light and wonderful pairing to the fish, definitely elegant and gourmet feeling without the gourmet price.
For the salmon, it’s just a light flour dredge and pan-fried in an olive oil/butter mixture. It cooks up much quicker than the chicken breasts, so be sure to keep an eye on them. It will leave just a nice, light crust to the outside of the fish, with a juicy and flaky center. The lemon piccata sauce is just the icing on the cake with this dish and ties all the flavors together really nicely.
So, I guess I don’t really need all the fancy oils and salts to make a delicious gourmet meal. Just a good pan, and working stovetop and oven are all I really need. I mean, I am the Humble Gourmet after all. BUT, I definitely wouldn’t pass up a decked-out kitchen. Do you hear me Cooking Channel? THG
Salmon Piccata with Roasted Vegetables
For the piccata:
2 wild Alaskan salmon fillets, cut in half
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. lemon zest
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse off the salmon fillets and pat dry. Mix the flour, sea salt and pepper together in a bowl. Dredge each salmon fillet in the flour mixture and set aside. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and 1 Tbsp. of the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and the oil has heated to almost smoking, add the salmon fillets. Cook, turning once, until crisp and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the salmon fillets from the pan and set 1 aside. Set the pan over medium heat and add the remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter, deglazing the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. When the butter has melted, add the lemon zest and basil to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the lemon juice has reduced slightly and the sauce has thickened. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Add the salmon to the sauce one at a time, turning to cover both sides. Divide the remaining sauce among each fillet and pour over top. Serve immediately.
For roasted vegetables:
24-30 fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
Mix potatoes, asparagus, olive oil and basil in a bowl, making sure to thoroughly coat all vegetables with oil. Add salt and pepper and toss. Pour vegetable mixture into a glass baking dish into even layers. Roast in oven for 30-45 minutes, tossing at least once, until potatoes are fork-tender (be sure to check after 30 minutes as fingerling potatoes tend to cook quicker than larger potatoes). Remove from oven and serve hot.