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The many levels of Hell’s Kitchen

March 18, 2011

My good friend David agreed to cook and blog with me. He is a university biology professor and has  many published articles and books. He also happens to be a fellow geek and I know from first hand experience that he is an excellent cook. [FYI: Fellow Geeks is the name of my They Might Be Giants cover band.]

Crispy Salmon with Caramelized Shallots, Lemon, and Bacon

Roasted Carrots


“An hour and a half to cook, ten minutes to eat” – Kira

Mike invited me to help out with his trek through the many levels of Hell’s Kitchen, and I was happy to oblige.  Cooking can be loads of fun, especially with the right company, the right recipe, and the right amount of alcohol.  Luckily, all three components were of the very finest for this adventure.

The day started out with a morning trip to the best local bookstore – DreamHaven in south Minneapolis.  While not absolutely necessary for success in cooking, getting great reading material (signed copies of the new Patrick Rothfuss book for Mike and I, Spider-man and Doctor Who for Max) sets a good tone for the rest of the day.  Oh, we also made a slight detour to Coastal Seafoods to pick up wonderful salmon steaks, too.  At our request, the helpful staff skinned it and cut it into seven fillets for the evening meal.  Initially Mike requested six fillets, but that didn’t seem quite right to me, and so I asked him if Mel wasn’t going to be eating salmon (due to her occasional vegetarian tendencies).  He reconsidered and asked for seven fillets instead.  Apparently at that time of the morning neither Mike nor I can remember how many offspring we have (three for him, one for me), as there were going to be eight for dinner.  {Even if Mike forgets one of his kids, he’s still got two, but it’s pretty bad if I forget my only daughter!  Thus, I maintain that it was entirely Mike’s mis-counting, and not mine at all…}

The recipe preparation went smoothly – no forgotten ingredients and a general agreement about order of preparation.  We peeled and chopped a couple of pounds of carrots, coated them lightly with olive oil and salt, and started roasting them in a shallow pan in the oven.

Breading the salmon also went well.  We discovered that the polenta-breadcrumb coating can best be mixed with a potato masher, which furthered Mike’s unspoken goal of dirtying as many kitchen items as humanly possible in the process of cooking a meal.

Once the salmon was breaded, we chopped bacon and shallots for the sauce.  Mike and I both agreed that onions and their relatives were only okay, as food goes, but we were willing to cook with them for the sake of the recipe.  Hah!  Foolish mortals!  Little did we know how silly these comments would sound later.

We seared the salmon briefly, in three groups to fit into Mike’s pan (I had brought an extra salmon steak with me from home to make up the missing one, after I realized our inability to count), and then popped them into the oven to finish cooking.

At this point, we deviated from the book’s directions – we cooked the bacon, followed by the shallots in the bacon fat, at the same time as the salmon fillets, rather than sequentially as directed, because we didn’t want the salmon to sit too long.  That alteration worked out nicely.  The roasted carrots, salmon, and bacon-shallot sauce were all finished at about the same time.  Unfortunately we hadn’t remembered to do anything about the couscous side dish… but thankfully it only takes a few moments to prepare couscous.

The salmon was excellent, but the bacon-caramelized shallot sauce (with lemon juice, lemon zest, and balsamic vinegar) made the meal.  If you use this recipe, feel free to increase the amount of the sauce that you make – your guests won’t object!  Mike and I recalled our earlier comments about shallots with a bit of chagrin.  Both side dishes complemented the main course perfectly.  A crisp white wine went well with the salmon, and provided a suitable counterpoint to the bacon-shallot sauce.  We finished off the meal with a dessert of chocolate and raspberry sorbets.  Afterward, to end the evening the adults had a bit of the vanilla-infused rum that I made back in the Fall.

All in all, even the notoriously picky Dante would have been happy with the meal to be had at this particular level of Hell’s Kitchen.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kira permalink
    March 18, 2011 8:28 pm

    I knew it! Damn Good Cooking = Damn Good Mess in the Kitchen!


  1. You’ve Lost That Campin’ Feeling « The Mike/Mitch Project

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