Thanksgiving Menu

November 22, 2014

Of all the holidays on our busy calendars, Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite. I love the simplicity of the celebrations. There are no presents to buy or expectations to fulfill (other than a bountiful meal). It is simply a day to share and appreciate the important people in our lives; wonderful friends, our family, and the people we love. As a bonus, since I love to cook, it usually means that I have a crowd to cook for. Especially on Thanksgiving: the more the merrier.

Appetizers:

  • Ceviche.
  • Meat and Cheese plate: Salami. Boursin, Machago, Jarlsberg.

Dinner Menu:

Beverages Menu:

  • Beer.
  • White Wine.
  • Red Wine; Malbec, from my time living in Argentina.
  • Sangria.

Dessert Menu:


Pre-Thanksgiving Preparation Timeline

November 18, 2014

It snuck up on me, but the time has come. Thanksgiving preparations begin now. I need a full week to fully defrost my big turkey (plus a day or two to prepare it).

Planning for the Thanksgiving

Planning for the Thanksgiving

Wednesday or Thursday Before Thanksgiving: Buy and Defrost your Turkey

When planning on what size Turkey to buy, a general guideline is to plan for 1-1/2 pounds per person (assuming you want leftovers). Without leftovers you can get away with 1 pound of turkey per person.  I’m planning for a crowd of between 12 and 14. So I need approximately 20-pounds.

If you are buying a frozen Turkey, it is essential that plan ahead. A large turkey will take a full week prior to Thanksgiving. In my case, my refrigerator seems to run a little cold. Every year I need an extra day or two to fully thaw my turkey. Thaw your turkey by keeping it in its original wrapping, placed on a rimmed sheet pan on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. Thawing guidelines are generally 5 hours per pound, but I haven’t found those guidelines are accurate for large turkeys. Cooks Illustrated cites 1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey.

Turkey Weight Approx Thaw Time
10 to 14 lbs 4 days
14 to 18 lbs 5 days
18 to 22 lbs 6 days
22 to 26 lbs 7 days

Saturday or Sunday Before Thanksgiving: Take Inventory

With about 5 days to go you should have your menu planned, and you should have selected which recipes you will use. Different recipes will require different slightly different ingredient lists.

This weekend is when most people do a majority of their Thanksgiving grocery shopping, so go early in the day to try to beat the crowds. Ultimately, patience will be required no matter what time you go. Hopefully you can finish most of your major shopping early on Saturday, as the availability of key items diminishes.  Especially prone to selling out are items for pumpkin pie and fresh spices; especially thyme and sage.

  1. Cranberries. Ocean Spray supplies 75% of the total world-wide market of cranberries, but has a 100% monopoly on the supermarket supply of cranberries in my area. The lack of competition has resulted in inferior berries. I usually have to throw away up to 1/4 of the bag, because they sell unripe berries intermixed with ripe one. The monopoly means that I have no alternative.
  2. Russet Potatoes, 6 or 7 onions, 1 bunch of celery, a few carrots, garlic, sage, thyme, maybe parsley (but you can usually find parsley).
  3. Canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, pie dough, ground cloves (you can substitute whole cloves and grind them yourself, using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle).
  4. Bread Cubes or high-quality sandwich bread. While Pepperidge farms stuffing is ubiquitous, it’s just as easy to make your own using high-quality sandwich bread. Arnold Country Classics White Bread (24oz) is Cook’s Illustrated choice, but Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White Bread Celery was the runner up in the CI taste test.
  5. Chicken Stock. Make sure you have at least 4-cups for gravy and stuffing. I have already made a fresh batch of homemade chicken stock.  This year my gravy recipe alone calls for 3-1/2 cups. Actually, this year I used spare turkey bones to make turkey stock.
  6. Butter. Be sure you have at least a pound, but butter usually goes on sale around Thanksgiving. I usually pick up a few pounds of Land o Lakes for $2/lb, and freeze any extra. (This year it’s a little more expensive, and it seems like $3/lb is the lowest price).
  7. Heavy Cream For mashed potatoes and maybe whipped cream for pie. A few eggs (for stuffing).
  8. Any specialty items: White wine for gravy, Salt pork, sausage, kosher salt. This year I need 1 cup dried cranberries  for the stuffing.
  9. Snacks for Thanksgiving Day: Chips, Salsa, Cheeses, Sandwiches. These items don’t generally sell out, but it’s nice to know that you have one fewer thing to worry about.

Tuesday Before Thanksgiving (2 days before):

Take stock of the status of your turkey. Is it soft? Or is there any chance that the turkey’s interior is still frozen? If it’s still partially frozen, then you should thaw it in a clean bucket filled with cold water (leaving turkey pre-wrapped). I don’t have any buckets large enough for my 20-lb turkey, so I use a sink lined with a large trash bag. Depending upon how frozen your turkey is, it can be completely thawed in just a few hours.  Of course, don’t thaw using anything other than cold water at this point.

Wednesday Before Thanksgiving (the day before):

On Wednesday morning, assuming your turkey is thawed, brine or salt the turkey. Lately I’ve been salting because it leaves the skin more appealing.

There are also some things that you can optionally make ahead:

  1. Cranberry sauce.
  2. Pie dough.
  3. Mix the pumpkin pie filling, which will taste better if you mix the night before.

Thanksgiving Day:

Decide when you plan to bake your pumpkin pie. Your options are (1) early, an hour before the turkey goes in the oven, or (2) immediately upon taking the turkey out of the oven. I am going with option 1. Option 2 will require a little cooling time in the refrigerator so that it is cool enough to firm up. There is a school of people who make it the night before and leave it at room temperature until dessert the next day (I’d be too worried about potential bacteria to even consider this).


Pork Pernil

November 9, 2014

The menu for my big Mexican dinner party (which happened last night) has been planned for a few weeks. Then, two days before the party, I was watching Cook’s Country and heard Chris Kimball declare his latest recipe to be “the best pork recipe he’s ever eaten.” Sure, I hear that every few episodes, but the final pork looked amazing. So I switched my theme from Mexican to Latin. I added ceviche, but left the Mexican Chicken Flautas on the menu. I also made a homemade tomatillo sauce. The pork was absolutely delicious; flavorful, tender. Yet without a doubt, the crispy pig skin was the best part of the entire meal. The recipe softens the skin by soaking it in water while baking at pretty high temperature for 4 hours. It’s as if the entire recipe is crafted towards perfecting the skin; the piece de resistance on an entirely delicious meal. The only flaw in the recipe is that the wonderful flavors of the sofrito do not permeate into the meat; even after 24-hours marinating. Instead of the complexity of the sofrito, the final presentation of the dish relies on a much simpler lime/cilantro jus. 4-1/2 stars. Definitely worth the 6-1/2 hours.

Tender pork topped with crispy pig skin

Tender pork topped with crispy pig skin

To overcome the recipes main flaw, a Latin friend says her sister pokes holes all over the roast with a big knife. Allowing the Sofrito, or Recao as she called it, to flavor the entire roast rather than just the exterior.

Other Comments:

  1. About 4 hours into the recipe I had a near disaster, so I offer this warning. Do not treat the 4 hours of cooking in steps 3 and 4 as virtually unattended cooking time. After you remove the foil, starting with step 4, plan to add 1 to 2 cups per hour. In my case I caught it just in time to save the drippings. Another 15 minutes and I could not have made the Jus.
  2. The 1 hour of cooking in Step 6 only brought my port up to 180-degrees. It took an extra 35-to-40 minutes to attain 195-degrees.
  3. While not described in the original recipe, the step of crisping the skin (step 8) had an added secret, which was very subtly shown on the Cook’s Country episode. You can use balled up aluminum foil to hold your roast in perfect position so that the skin crisps evenly.
  4. I had to buy two bunches of cilantro to yield the requisite 1-1/2 cups. One bunch will give you enough for the night before dinner, but I had to make another trip to the supermarket the next day.
  5. Chris Kimball recommends serving this with plain, white rice.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 11:30 AM. Ready at: 6:00 PM. (Begin marinating the day prior)

The Cook’s Country original recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1-1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems (used in Step 1 and Step 10)
1 onion, chopped coarse
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
7-pound bone-in pork picnic shoulder
3 to 4 limes (1 tablespoon grated lime zest plus 1/3 cup juice)

  1. The day before you cook the meal, add 1 cup cilantro, onion, salt, oil, garlic, pepper, oregano, and cumin to food processor. Pulse 15 times until finely ground. You may need to scrape down sides of the bowl.
  2. Pat pork dry with paper towels and rub sofrito all over. Wrap pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
  3. Start cooking 6 hours before dinner. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees. Pour 8 cups water into a large roasting pan. Unwrap pork, place in pan with the skin-side down in the water. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and roast at 450-degrees for 90 minutes.
  4. Remove foil, and turn down oven to 375-degrees. Continue roasting uncovered for 2-1/2 more hours.
  5. Prepare a V-rack by spraying it with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
  6. Remove entire pan from oven. Gently slide metal spatula under pork to release skin from pan. Using two clean, folded dish towels (or wads of paper towels) to grasp both ends of pork and put on V-rack with the skin-side up. Use paper towels to wipe the skin dry. Place V-rack with pork in roasting pan. If the pan looks dry, add 1-cup water (I recommend adding it no matter what). Return to oven and bake for another 1 hour (mine took 1-1/2 hours) until the pork registers 195-degrees. (If needed, to add water several times to prevent the pan from drying out.)
  7. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with foil (for easy cleanup).
  8. Remove pan from oven, and set V-rack with pork in prepared baking sheet. I saw on the Cook’s Country episode that they make the roast level by creating a ball of foil to support the flatter end. Return to oven, and turn up the oven temperature to 500-degrees. Cook for 15 to 30 minutes; rotating sheet halfway through cooking. It will be done when the skin becomes well browned and crispy., and you can tap it lightly using tongs and it should sound hollow.
  9. Allow pork to rest for 30 minutes on a carving board.
  10. Meanwhile, pour juices from pan into fat separator. Allow to settle for 5 minutes, then pour off 1 cup of the de-fatted juices into large bowl. If you don’t have 1 cup, then make up the shortfall using water. Whisk 1/2-cup cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice into bowl with the de-fatted juices.
  11. Remove crispy skin from pork in large pieces. Chop skin coarsely into bite-size pieces and put in serving bowl.
  12. Trim and discard any excess fat from pork. Remove the pork from the bone and chop it coarsely. Transfer pork to bowl with cilantro-lime sauce and toss to combine. Serve pork, with crispy skin on the side.

Stir-Fried Shrimp with Garlicky Eggplant, Scallions, and Cashews

November 2, 2014

Chris Kimball says that this recipe has two secrets that make it delicious. First, cooking the vegetables and shrimp separately allows you to cook the shrimp using lower heat. Not only can you cook the vegetable for longer, but the higher heat allows the eggplant and scallions to brown which adds a lot of flavor. Second, Chris Kimball says that soaking the shrimp for 30 minutes in salt, oil, and aromatics will yield tender (and deeply flavored) shrimp. Be sure to use the time that the shrimps is soaking to prepare all your vegetables. Overall, the recipe is delicious and takes less than an hour. The recipe did not yield enough sauce. I didn’t realize how delicious the sauce is until I tried to supplement it with plain soy sauce. If you are serving with rice, then you should increase the sauce. 4-stars.

Delicious combination of shrimp and vegetables

Delicious combination of shrimp and vegetables

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $13.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4:00 PM. Ready at: 5:00 PM.

The Cook’s Illustrated original recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

6 medium garlic cloves (used in two ways)
1-lb 21-25 sized shrimp
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
2 Tablespoons dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons cornstarch
6 large scallions
1/2 cup unsalted cashews
1 medium eggplant (about 3/4 pound)

  1. Peel (and devein) the shrimp and remove the tails. Peel and mince 1 glove of garlic (or pressed through garlic press). In a medium bowl, add shrimp, minced garlic, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1/2 teaspoon table salt. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  If serving with steamed white rice, begin to cook it now.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sherry, sugar, sesame oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and cornstarch. Whisk to combine. Thinly slice 5 cloves of garlic , and thinly cut scallions whites.  Combine sliced garlic with scallion whites and cashews in small bowl. Cut the scallion greens into 1″ pieces and set greens aside separately. Cut eggplant into 3/4″ dice.
  3. Add 1 Tablespoon sesame oil to a 12″ nonstick skillet. Set over high burner and pre-heat until just smoking. Add eggplant and saute for 3 to 6 minutes until lightly browned. Add scallion greens and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes until greens begin to brown and eggplant becomes fully tender. Empty vegetables to a medium serving bowl.
  4. Add 1 Tablespoon sesame oil to now-empty skillet and pre-heat until just begins to smoke. Add garlic-scallion-cashew mixture and saute for 30 seconds until it just begins to brown. Add shrimp, and turn down burner to medium-low. Cook for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes, while stirring frequently, until shrimp turn lightly pink on both sides.
  5. Whisk soy sauce mixture to recombine and add to skillet. Turn up burner to high, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, continuing to stir constantly, until sauce is thickened and shrimp are cooked through. Return vegetables to skillet to heat through, toss to combine, and serve onto individual plates or re-using the vegetable bowl.
Ready to serve

Ready to serve


Mexican Feast featuring Carne Asada

September 30, 2014

Just about everybody who has watched America’s Test Kitchen knows that Chris Kimball has a heat-avoiding Yankee palate. He complains about the heat levels in some of the most mild recipes. So, I was a bit surprised that the current issue featured more than 10 Mexican recipes. This weekend I made 4 of his Mexican recipes for a big Sunday dinner; Carne Asada, Red Chili Sauce, Simple Refried Beans, and Folded Enchiladas. Overall, the meal was fantastic. It all came together quickly without a big mess. I will write separate posts for the other recipes; today I will just review the main course; Carne Asada (Grilled Meat).

Wonderful meal with not-to-much work

Wonderful meal with not-to-much work

Many of Chris Kimball’s recipes are cost-conscious (for example, this $10 Vaca Frita ingeniously substituted a Chuck Roast for Skirt Steak), but the current issue (September / October 2014) contains the two most expensive recipes I’ve made ($41 fish tacos and today’s $37 Carne Asada).  It’s a bit of a splurge; not cutting any corners; using 2-1/2 lbs of beautiful Skirt Steak. By only lightly seasoning the steak with salt and a dash of cumin, the natural flavors were free to shine through. To attain the high heat necessary to char the beef without overcooking, Chris Kimball instructs us to cut the bottom out of a disposable aluminum pan (ensuring maximum airflow). This “trick” concentrates the intensity of the 6-quarts of charcoal; providing a perfectly even layer of charcoal. A typical mound of charcoal taper near the edges leaving the middle exponentially hotter. The steak was easy to evenly cook, only requiring minimal rearranging during flipping. The Carne Asada was fantastic; beefy flavor, and only lightly seasoned with lime and cumin. It was so delicious that I didn’t use a lot of my Red Chili Sauce. 4-1/2 stars, but mostly from the strength of the amazing cut of beef.

Comments:

  1. I made dinner for 6 people, so bought 2-1/2 pounds of skirt steak, and cut the meat into 6 pieces. I adjusted the spice mixture accordingly, but maintained the same spice-to-beef ratio.
  2. Because Skirt Steak has wider muscle fibers than other cuts of beef, it needs to be cooked to medium (130-degrees) to become tender. If you cook beyond 140-degrees it will become tough and dry.
  3. Chris Kimball also has a variation of this recipe to make this one a gas grill. Instead of using the aluminum pan method, simply turn all your burners to high, and pre-heat for 15 minutes. Leave all your burners on high during the entire cooking process.
  4. I opted out of making dessert; but Cook’s Illustrated also published four Flan recipes this month.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $37.  (Just for the Carne Asada)
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 3:30 PM. Dinner time 5:00 PM.

Cook’s Illustrated original recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows (while I did cook 2-1/2 pounds of Skirt Steak, I’ve listed the original 2-pound ingredients):

2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2-pounds skirt steak
13″x9″ disposable aluminum roasting pan
1 garlic clove
Lime wedges

  1. Trim your steak of any excess fat (mine didn’t have any). Use a meat pounder to pound until it reaches a uniform 1/4″-thickness, and cut into 4 equal steaks.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon cumin. Evenly sprinkle over both sides of the steak. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for a minimum of 45 minutes (or up to 24 hours).
  3. Meanwhile use kitchen shears to cut out the bottom of a disposable aluminum pan. You will only use the collar, discard (or recycle) the bottom.
  4. When ready to cook, completely open the bottom vents of your grill. Ignite a chimney starter filled with 6-quarts of briquettes. Allowing to light for about 20 minutes until the top coals become partially covered with fine grey ash. Put the disposable collar in the center of the grill, and empty the lit charcoal into an even layer inside the collar. Replace the grill grate and pre-heat grill for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grill grate (using tongs and oil-soaked paper towels).
  5. Position the steaks directly over the coals and cook (without covering) for 3 to 4 minutes, until the beef becomes well browned. Use tongs to flip (and rearrange as necessary), cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes. It is ready when the meat reaches 130-degrees (medium).
  6. Remove beef to carving board and tent with aluminum foil as it rests for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and smash your garlic and cut your lime into wedges.
  7. Bub the steak with the smashed garlic, and cut against the grain into 1/4″-thick slices. Serve with lime.

Pot Stickers with Scallion Dipping Sauce

July 22, 2014

While comparing different recipes is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, this may be my favorite ATK recipe of all time. These dumplings are filled with flavor, are tender on the inside with have nice carmelization on their bottoms. The soy based sauce is a little predicable, but the saltiness is so traditional that I haven’t yet strayed from the original recipe. The base recipe is very straight-forward, only requiring a little bit of patience during the filling/sealing process. Be careful not to overfill them or they will close properly, but you can squeeze some of the excess out if necessary. The only logistical problem is that the batches take 20 minutes and yield between 12 to 14 dumplings, so unless you have two non-stick skillets they are difficult to make for a regular sit-down dinner for 4 people; coming and going from the table every 20 minutes to eat 3 dumplings. But worth the inconveniences, I absolute love them and give them a full 5-stars.

Perhaps my favorite ATK recipe

Perhaps my favorite ATK recipe

Comments / Issues:

  1. My 12.5″ non-stick skillets (the Chris Kimball recommended T-Fal), makes 14 dumplings at a time, and based upon my wrappers I needed 3 batches. I froze on the batches for cooking next week; they cook the same way with no need to thaw.
  2. I used to be able to buy round gyoza wrappers from my local supermarket. While I guess I may be able to find a local Asian market, in the meantime I am using frozen .
  3. Be careful that the dumplings don’t stick to the sheet pan is step 3. Some of mine did, and I suggest a very light spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Sometimes I just use regular cabbage (rather than napa cabbage), especially around St. Patricks day because it tastes the same and is much cheaper.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $9. For about 40 dumplings.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Last Batch at 7:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here and the dipping sauce recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared everything today are given below:

Filling:
3 cups minced napa cabbage leaves (from 1/2 medium head)
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 pound ground pork
4 minced scallions
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons minced or grated fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed (about 1 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Dumplings:
24 round gyoza wrappers (see note)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water, plus extra for brushing

Scallion Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon chili oil
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 medium scallion, white and green parts, minced

  1. Minced 1/2 head of napa cabbage leaves, add to a colander and toss with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Set over a bowl and allow to wilt for 20 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to press down to extract any excess moisture. Empty into a medium bowl, combine the remaining filling ingredients and mix until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (up to 24 hours).
  2. When ready to assemble, work with 4 dumplings at a time to prevent the wrappers from drying out. Keep the remaining wrappers covered with plastic wrap. fill, seal, and shape the dumplings using a generous 1 teaspoon of the chilled filling per dumpling
  3. As you complete the dumplings, set the on a baking sheet and repeat step 2 until you have made all your dumplings. Once assembled you can refrigerate for up to 1 day, or freeze them for up to 1 month. (If frozen, do not thaw before cooking.)
  4. Line a large plate with two layers of paper towels, which you will use after cooking. Make dipping sauce by combining all ingredients in small bowl, which will make about 3/4 cup.
  5. Brush 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12″ cold non-stick skillet. Arrange 12 dumplings in the skillet with the flat side down, overlapping the tip as necessary. Put over medium-high burner and lightly brown dumplings for 5 minutes without moving.
  6. Turn down burner to low, and add 1/2 cup of water and immediately cover. Cook for 10 minutes until the water becomes absorbed and the wrappers are slightly translucent. Uncover and turn up the burner to medium-high and cook (again without moving) for 3 to 4 minutes until the bottoms are well browned. Put dumplings onto paper-towel lined plate (browned-side down) and allow to briefly drain, before setting onto a serving platter.
  7. Allow the skillet to cool until just warm and wipe out using paper towels. Repeat from step 5 with the next batch of 12 dumplings.
  8. Serve alongside the scallion dipping sauce.

Herb-Crusted Salmon

June 29, 2014

I recently saw this recipe of America’s Test Kitchen, and made if for a visiting friend. The recipe was good, and Chris Kimball’s technique of using bread crumbs to protect the fresh flavor of the delicate, fresh herbs worked wonderfully. But 1/4 cup of fresh tarragon gave too strong of an anise flavor. I’d recommend substituting up-to-half of the tarragon for basil. The recipe have a quick brine to prevent the white ooze that salmon usually gives off as it is cooked. The Salmon was perfectly cooked, but I had to use the higher end of the 18-to-25 minutes cooking time. Because of the relatively-low oven temperature the salmon skin was unappetizingly soggy, not crispy as many people like. I just ate around the skin; next time I think I’ll have them remove the skin for me at the supermarket. I’m not sure why the recipe specifies skin-on salmon. Even Chris Kimball ate around the skin on ATK. 4-stars.

Makes a bit of a mess

Makes a bit of a mess

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball warns that the fillets must be the same size and shape in order cook at the same rate. I followed his advice and bought a 2-pound center-cut salmon fillet, which I cut myself into four even pieces. Of course, the fishmonger did sneak a bit of the tapered tail end into my fillet, but just a bit.
  2. Actually, I used slightly under 1/4 cup of tarragon and it was still too strong an anise flavor. I bought one of the 99-cent package, which yielded slightly more than 3 tablespoons. I loved the freshness of the herbs, so next time will use 2 tablespoons of tarragon and 2 tablespoons of basil.
  3. I had to cook my salmon for the entire 25 minutes to get it up to 125-degrees.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $17
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time: 5:00. Dinner time: 6:00

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

Salt and pepper
2-pounds center-cut salmon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons beaten egg
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon (dill or basil can also be substituted)
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
Lemon wedges

  1. Pour 2 quarts of water into a large bowl and dissolve 5 tablespoons f table salt. Cut the salmon into 4 evenly sized fillets, each between 6-to 8-oz. Put the 4 fillets into the brine and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 325-degrees. Set a 10″-skillet over a medium burner and melt the 2 tablespoons butter. Add the 1/2 cup panko and season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes; stir frequently; until the bread crumbs become golden brown. Empty into a small bowl and allow to cool completely.
  3. Chop 1/4 cup of fresh tarragon (dill or basil can also be substituted). In a second small bowl, mix together the chopped tarragon, mustard, and mayonnaise
  4. Remove fish from brine and use paper towels to pat dry.
  5. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easier clean-up), then set a wire rack inside. Lay a 12″x8″ piece of foil onto of the wire rack (or fold to attain the proper size), and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Evenly arrange the salmon fillets with on top of the foil with the skin-side down.
  6. Use a spoon to spread the herb mixture over the tops of the fish.
  7. Mince the fresh thyme so that you have 2 teaspoons, add to cooled bread crumbs. Combine egg. Evenly sprinkle the panko mixture on top of the fish, and use your fingers to press down so that the bread crumb adheres.
  8. Bake in 325-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 125-degrees. It should still be slightly translucent if you cut into fish with a paring knife. Allow to rest for 5 minutes on the serving platter, while you cut a lemon into wedges for serving.

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