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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Slow things down with blackened salmon

Sometimes I feel like I just need to slow down a bit.  With all the extracurricular activities with the kids, work, writing, snapping pictures and trying to keep the house straight, I don’t get much sleep.
Now that the season is creeping up on us, I’m also looking for summer employment or maybe even considering a summer business venture of my own.  My mind is like a constantly spinning hamster wheel:  sometimes there’s an idea running rampant on it while, more often than not, the wheel spins empty It’s a vacuum in which not much intellectual stimulation is happening.  But, I’ve come to accept that.
When life gets in the way, we tend to migrate to prepackaged foods, fast food garbage or any of the myriad convenience products that we could get our mitts on.  But, the kids were the ones who say, “Enough, Dad.  We need some fresh food.”
That’s all that I needed to hear, so I set out on a simple journey of a fresh meal with mushroom risotto, roasted cauliflower and blackened salmon.  And as it was in this case, we did not need any sauce to accompany this. Everything was delicious stand-alone and the roasted cauliflower was light enough to counter the oily salmon.
Speaking of the salmon, it’s important to understand that you do not have to literally burn fish in order to blacken it.  I have worked with many cooks and chefs who insist that the fish must be the same color as the Lodge cast iron pan in which you are searing it.  Having been to New Orleans on a couple of occasions, I can attest to the fact that the flavor of the seasoning is much more important than burning the meat.
The meal was a great success, and as we sat around the table, we gathered our thoughts on life, school, after-school projects and the fun things that make a family go around.  I dare say that the meal was so well received that kids actually helped us clear the table without being asked or directed.  That never happens around here.  OK, maybe it happens every now and then, but when it does it is a monumental event.
There is something so special about slow food, the term for food that is cooked from scratch, and when it comes to slow food, nothing is more hands on than risotto.  Beginning with the mighty yet humble Arborio rice, this starchy grain finishes as a creamy and unctuous dish without the addition of cream.
The secret is in the starch in the rice and the technique.  Simply put, liquid is added to the Arborio as it is regularly stirred.  Once the little addition of liquid is absorbed, the next addition is poured on top.
You can’t just add water and walk away.  Once the liquid is all added, you can turn down the heat and let it go.   There will be a bit of crust on the bottom of the pan, but assuming that it’s not too burnt, you simply stir it into the risotto, adding a wonderful layer of flavor.
You can’t help but to collect your thoughts as you stand over the risotto pan.  It makes you slow down.  It makes you breathe more deeply.  And when you’re done, you’ll be ready to make it again.
Blackened Salmon
Enough for 6 people
2 lb salmon fillet, skin peeled off
Blackening spice, as needed
Whole Irish butter, as needed
Dry and season the top side of the salmon with blackening spice
Heat iron skillet until it is below smoking hot
Add butter and once melted, add the salmon, spice-side down to the skillet and cook for about five minutes, ensuring that you do not burn the salmon.  Contrary to what many cooks believe, you do not need to char the food to “blacken” it.  If you have doubts, you need to visit the Big Easy.
Turn salmon over and pull it out of the pan when it is at a perfect medium, or the temperature of your liking.  Serve with roasted cauliflower and risotto.
Roasted Cauliflower
Enough for 6 people
1 head cauliflower
2 Tbsp. EV Olive oil, more if needed
Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400F.
Remove leaves from cauliflower and cut into quarters.
Remove core and cut into 3/4-inch slabs.
Carefully toss in olive oil and seasoning and lay flat on a baking pan.
Roast for about 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender and well toasted on the outside.  It will be soft and tender on the inside and will have tons of flavor.
Mushroom Risotto
Serves 6 people
1 c. Arborio rice
1 c. Sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 stick celery, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 carrot, finely minced
1/2 white onion, finely minced
3 c. Chicken stock

Heat a pan large enough to fit all ingredients and heat.
Add some olive oil and all of the vegetables.
Sauté until the vegetables are tender and then add the Arborio.
Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time and cook until it is absorbed.  Don’t be fooled by the static amounts.  If you have added all of the liquid, and the Arborio is still a touch crunchy, then add some more stock.  Don’t lose any sleep over it.