The ever charming Michael “screw your spouse while the chicken is roasting” Ruhlman* posted a recipe in July that has been languishing on my To Do list. The recipe is not his, in fact, it comes from yet another food icon, delicious Dorie Greenspan. I have too many excuses for not making this sooner, none of them legitimate. But let me begin with this:
I am terrible at following recipes.
Inevitably I tweak and gamble, sometimes winning fantastic creations and other times inventing THE WORST LASAGNA EVER.** I’d rather walk into the kitchen with a half-page of scribbled notes than a proper set of instructions, and so it was with a sense of great ceremony that I undertook Dorie’s Salmon and Potatoes In a Jar.
The recipe is simple enough, cure some salmon (my first curing!), boil potatoes, store them in jars with aromatic veggies and cover the whole mess in olive oil. The results are perfect for brunch with friends; they will be more than impressed. Of course, in my case I changed a few things and, in the process of making the salmon, learned why it is oftentimes better to stay on course with a recipe from such a trusted source.
Dorie suggests cutting one pound of salmon into 12 pieces. When I looked at my fillets I realized this meant cutting rather thick strips of salmon, not at all what I had in mind for my cured breakfast. I wanted slices. They could be thick, but there would be far more than 12 in my jars. I sliced my salmon on the diagonal and mixed it in a bowl with the suggested salt and sugar to begin the curing process. After draining the brine, rinsing the salmon and soaking it in olive oil, I think I understand why Dorie cuts it in relatively large strips.
My salmon is salty. It isn’t terrible, but it’s saltier than I’d like to serve to guests. My guess? In cutting the salmon much thinner, the curing took less time as the salt penetrated the significantly greater surface area more quickly. I would highly suggest leaving the salmon in Dorie’s dimensions, 12ish strips. They should be thick enough to hold up to the salting and still taste fresh when plucked from the oil.
Instead of potatoes I decided to boil thick cut strips of celery root. This is a change I would willingly submit to you as a most wonderful alternative. The celery root is creamy like a potato but loaded with such startling flavor your guests will devour the jar straight away. Beware, celery root doesn’t take long to soften in a pot of boiling water. Too much time in the hot bath and it will fall apart in the oil jar. Boil the root until it is just soft enough to spear with a fork. It goes without saying (and yet here I say), taste a piece before you put it in the jar. Boil the root until its texture pleases you, not me.
Best part of this recipe? Because Dorie requires skinned salmon for the curing I was left with a small mound of fresh skin. FRY. THAT. SKIN. My squemish vegetarian Brenda was appalled at my finger-licking snack. Just do it. You’ll never turn back.
*His advice, my words. When confronted by the excuse that most Americans don’t cook because it takes too much time, he responded thusly: Hate waiting for the chicken to roast? Go have sex. It’ll be done when you get back.
**A story for another time. Trust me.