Thursday, February 14, 2008
Pasta Tragedy; Horseradish Hero
From time to time I come across a recipe that advertises itself as being time consuming. That’s not always a turn-off for me, though. For instance, I came across another Jacques Pépin recipe the other day and immediately went to the stove and spent what would end up being over two and a half hours composing a chicken and peanut stew (about which I will tell you all just a little bit later). Was it worth it? I think so – because I knew how long it was going to take going into it, the ingredients were relatively few, and the time it took was largely inactive, playing dominoes and watching television while the stew practically cooked itself. Yes I had to cut a few things here and there, but I find this chopping rather soothing.
Sometimes, however, there are recipes that take a lot longer than they taste like they should have taken. I stumbled upon one such recipe not too long ago. I was searching the epicurious database when I stumbled upon a recipe misleadingly entitled “salmon with orecchiette, caramelized onions and horseradish cream sauce.” The salmon was not tossed with the pasta, but served alongside it. But I love literally every component of this dish, so I figured I could not go wrong. I went to three different grocery stores in search of broccoli rabe (a vegetable that could very well be my single favorite food on planet earth), but my searches proved futile. It was not to be - I found none. I had read in the comments to the recipe on epicurious that a few people had replaced the broccoli rabe with broccoli with excellent results, and while I was skeptical, I followed suit. I was thisclose to plucking a bunch of arugula from the produce aisle, but I followed the road that was tried and - or so I thought - true.
So I began cooking – chopping, cooking, caramelizing onions. Yes, it smelled great, and yes, caramelized onions are awesome, but the end result was not really worth the process.
The pasta lacked depth - though it had the sweetness of the onions, it lacked the bitterness of the broccoli rabe, the very trait of the vegetable that enamours me so. It was totally divorced from the flavors of the salmon, since the bitter spiciness of the horseradish would have given reason for the broccoli rabe sitting next to it. The broccoli brought nothing to the dish. Even if I made the pasta on its own again, I would never dream of making it with anything but broccoli rabe (I guess I could give in to arugula since it has a spice to it as well). It was quite sad, all of it - a pasta with so much promise, falling so far short of its potential.
But the horseradish saved the day. Because of it, the salmon tale had a much happier ending. Cooked to perfection and drizzled with a deceptively simple horseradish sauce, its flavors were accentuated, rather than muted. While the pile of pasta sitting next to it had no place being there, the horseradish sauce was perfect. I mean, the combination is classic for a reason.
Salmon with Horseradish Cream Sauce
Bon Appetit, June 2003
This sauce is really great, and can be put to a plethora of uses. Try it over some roast beef or on a sandwich; or served with smoked salmon or trout; even as a dipping sauce for potato chips or french fries.
The sauce can be refrigerated, but when reheating make sure to heat it in a saucepan over low-moderate heat until it’s simmering. I would advise against heating it in the microwave, since it will likely separate.
2 cups whipping cream
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
3 tablespoons prepared white horseradish
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 skin-on salmon filets
Boil cream and clam juice in heavy large saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in horseradish and season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
In a skillet over high heat, heat the olive oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Add salmon to skillet, skin side up and cook until fish is browned – about 3 minutes. Turn the salmon over and cook until nicely browned and just opaque, about 3 more minutes.
Remove salmon from heat and drizzle with horseradish sauce to taste.
Have a very happy Valentine’s Day!