Dining out has become a chore, as two Globe and Mail columnists have pointed out. “We’ve become the … casualties of a downtown-hipster scene that defines itself by eardrum-perforating ambience, unchewable house-cured offal, self-taught twenty something chefs with laughable tats and a two-hour wait for unpadded seats at the communal picnic table,” writes John Allemang. Chris Nuttall-Smith adds that people in their 50s and 60s just don’t belong in today’s trendy restaurants. Diane and I do so agree, which is why, when we want to enjoy the company of friends and have a good chat in very comfy chairs, we entertain at home. Dinner need not be complicated. No one expects a self-taught home chef to serve Michelin-starred food. Guests feel free to help serve and clear away, or pour the wine, and their assistance is much appreciated. It’s a convivial scene.
Atlantic salmon served as tender fillets, simply pan fried in butter or baked in a sauce to enhance the flavour, makes one of my favourite dinners. Diane’s as well, and she asks me to serve this at her recent birthday dinner for friends. Fresh salmon isn’t available until later in the summer, but the fish freezes perfectly. Guests are invited and all is well until Diane recalls that the last time we went over to one of our invited couple’s house, the host prepared salmon en papillote. How embarrassing. I look through our dinner book and find the other couple have been served fish here too, though not salmon. Well, there’s nothing for it but to press on and try and make the dinner as different as anything I have made before. One advantage of a dinner book is that one knows exactly who we have had over, and what they were served, and who the other guests were. The disadvantage is that one has to refer to it.
I dig through my tatty, food splashed index card collection and find a recipe for baked Atlantic salmon with lemon, dill and kefir. I’ve only tried this once before and the sauce didn’t turn out well, so I decide simply to use the kefir as a post-oven dressing, topping the dish off with the runny yoghurt-like sauce from a squeeze bottle (one of the same type I use for coulis). The tart kefir topping enhances the rich flavour.
The advantage of baking over pan frying is simply that everything can be prepared before the guests arrived. The salmon is left sealed under plastic wrap to marinate and can be popped straight into the oven, without all the last minute cooking, splatters and odours associated with pan frying, which must be done at the last minute.
A mild creamy vegetable soup is served first, again easy to prepare the day before and keep warm in a pot on the stove. The salmon is plated with some simply steamed asparagus and boiled tiny new potatoes, something one can leave cooking while attending to guests. Dessert was a made tart, so I dressed it up with fresh whipped cream and a raspberry blackberry coulis (see my blog An Urgent message from the Duchess on December 18, 2012). Perfect.
Preparation time 10 minutes
Marinade time 30 – 90 minutes
Cooking time 25 minutes
6 Atlantic salmon fillets (approx 7 – 8 oz/200 g each)
4 peeled and minced cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
6 sprigs fresh washed dill
1/2 thinly sliced lemon
1 sliced onion
1 cup kefir
Baking dish (approx 10” x 12”)
Knives and cutting board
Measuring cup and spoons
Preparation and cooking
1. Wash and dry the fillets. If the fishmonger hasn’t already cut them to size for you, use a very sharp thin knife and slice them into equal portions between 7 and 8 oz (200 g) each, keeping the skin on the bottom, place skin down in a baking dish.
2. Make the marinade from the peeled and minced cloves of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Mix well in a cup and pour over the salmon. Slice the onion very thinly and layer over the salmon. Slice the lemon very thinly and add on top of the onion. Wash the dill sprigs, remove most of the stalk and lay on top. Cover in plastic wrap and reserve in the fridge for between 30 and 90 min.
3. When ready to cook pre-heat the oven to 200°C/390°F, remove the plastic wrap and bake uncovered for 20 min. Then discard the toppings and broil the salmon for a further 5 min to brown the top. When you lift the fish out carefully, the skin should stay behind.
4. Plate with veggies and then decorate with a swirl of kefir from a squeeze bottle.
I steamed asparagus for 8 min and boiled yellow, red and blue new potatoes for 12 min, drizzling both with hot butter.
We served a very dry French Chablis, Domaine des Malandes, 2011, which turned out to be an excellent choice.
ABBREVIATIONS AND CONVERSIONS
Recipes can be very confusing for the beginner, especially if you are not familiar with all the various abbreviations, conversions, measure and so on that are used.
When I was writing my cookbook I had, let us say, a heated discussion with an editor about the use of abbreviations in recipes. We are not writing a novel, I argued, so since many of these measure are repeated endlessly, it makes sense to use short forms. I do use several common ones consistently, such as:
oz = ounce(s)
lb = pound(s) (NOTE: lb stands for the Latin libra and, as the plural is librae, the abbreviation for pounds is still lb.)
tsp = teaspoonful(s)
tbsp = tablespoonful(s)
min = minute(s)
hr = hour(s)
F = Fahrenheit
C = Celsius or centigrade (in use until 1948 and on the BBC until 1985)
American recipe books usually have temperatures in Fahrenheit, whereas Canadian and European books are mostly in Celsius, also called centigrade in older books. To compound the difficulty the US uses a different measure to the Imperial volume used in Canada and the UK. Europe has been metric since the time of Napoleon. Converting from one to the other is not an exact science, but below are rough guides, rounded to the nearest 5 units.
Your oven may cook a little hotter or a little cooler, but only time and experience will tell, unfortunately.
0°C = 32°F (freezing point of water)
85°C = 180°F (stove top simmering point of water)
100°C = 212°F (boiling point of water)
105°C = 225°F (very slow oven)
110°C = 230°F
120°C = 250°F
125°C = 260°F
135°C = 275°F
150°C = 300°F
160°C = 320°F (moderately slow)
170°C = 340°F (moderate)
180°C = 355°F
185°C = 365°F
190°C = 375°F (moderately hot)
200°C = 390°F
205°C = 400°F (hot)
210°C = 410°F
220°C = 430°F
230°C = 450°F (very hot)
240°C = 465°F
245°C = 475°F
Weight and volume conversions
1,000 grams = 1 kilogram = 1 litre
4 cups = 1 liquid quart = 2 pints = 1 litre
16 oz = 1/2 litre = 1 lb (dry measure)
2 cups = 16 fluid oz = 1 pint = 500 grams
1 cup = 8 oz = 225 grams
4 tbsp = 1/4 cup = 2 fluid oz = 55 grams
2 tbsp = 1 fluid oz = 25 grams
3 tsp = 1 tbsp
Save this page where you can find it fast for regular reference.
PS: Please leave a comment, if you found something useful or interesting in this recipe. Or please add your own variations for others to share.