I rarely cook from cookbooks, but I love to read them. Still, I might change my mind about preparing meals from recipe books after reading Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.
Leafing through Clark’s accounts of her successes and near-misses is like having your best friend in the kitchen—except this best friend really knows how to cook.And she tells charming stories about road trips with her family in France, not to mention culinary tales about the meals that marked the highs and lows of her three marriages.
And Clark, a former Upper West Sider (“As a kid, Zabars was sacred to us. We are a family of lox eaters.”) really knows how to cook. I can’t count the number of her recipes I’ve used from her weekly Sunday column in The New York Times that have come out just as promised—easy-to-assemble and delicious.
Just as important from my point of view, Clark is not a die-hard recipe follower. She uses recipes as a guide, not as the 10 Kitchen Commandments. Then she improvises. “A little of this, a little of that,” as my husband’s grandma Reba would say when I would ask for the recipe for her famous noodle kugel.
Any cookbook that includes phrases like “In desperate need of a quick fix,” is the right cookbook for me. “I scavenged my condiment stash for some magical dash to make everything better. Preserved sardines? Pomegranate molasses? Quince marmalade?”
We’ve all been there, right?
Chef Renee tried out one of Clark’s salmon recipes for Rosh Hashanah dinner. It would also work well for a break-the-fast meal after Yom Kippur, or for any family gathering.
Here’s the salmon recipe, along with Chef Renee’s comments:
Chef Renee: Everything was delicious, and I got tons of compliments–people wanted the recipe, so I told them where to look. I did change a couple of things:
* Clark says the salmon can be served hot, cold or at room temp. If you are serving it at either room temperature or cold, the skin should be removed before plating. Cold wet salmon skin is not so nice to eat, so why deal with it at all?
* When eating it cold, you could add a couple of minutes to the oven time, assuming you like cold salmon fully cooked.
Almost Aunt Sandy’s Sweet and Sour Salmon
Clark’s Aunt Sandy liked to break the fast on Yom Kippur not with gefilte fish, kugel or bagels and lox, but with this dish. Clark changed some of the ingredients from the original dish and came up with this:
From IN THE KITCHEN WITH A GOOD APPETITE by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2010. Published by Hyperion
6 cups fish broth
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt to tase
1 small red onion thinly sliced
1/2 bunch thyme
8 center-cut, skin-on wild salmon fillets, 3 oz each
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 small lemon, thinly sliced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T light brown sugar
Challah, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees in a large pot, simmer the fish broth with the farlic, by leaf, and salt for 15 minutes.
2. In the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish, scatter the red onion and half of the thyme. Place the salmon on top, skin side down, and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the remaining thyme, raisins, and lemon on top.
3. Stir the vinegar and sugar into the broth and let simmer for 1 minute to dissolve the sugar. Remove the garlic and bay leaf from the broth, and carefully pour over the fish. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the fish is just cook through to taste. Serve hot, warm, or cold, with challah for dipping into the broth.