Photo by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest
By now you know that our Make This Tonight series features recipes that are suited to a wide range of cooks with varying comfort levels in the kitchen. We like to think of cooking as a target with outwardly expanding concentric circles representing levels of comfort (or, in another word, difficulty) -- from a simple beef stir-fry (near the inner ring) to a dinner tart made with homemade crust (veering toward the outer edge). Most of us don't stand firmly on one comfort level, instead challenging ourselves to learn new skills in the kitchen, progressing, however slowly, towards our goal, which may or may not be reaching the outermost ring. (Note: the concept of a "bull's eye" doesn't exactly fly here, as the innermost point would be the equivalent of dry toast!)
For novice cooks looking to gently expand their comfort zones, this salmon recipe fits the bill: the steps for baking the salmon are dead simple to follow (brush with honey mustard, coat with almond meal, bake), but caramelizing the onions takes focus. Head over to Susan's Kitchen Basics column on caramelizing onions for a photo-aided primer on the process (not so tricky, see?), then stir your way to silky onion perfection.
But keep in mind that improvement in the kitchen needn't only come by way of new recipes. Sometimes, learning can occur on the back of a single recipe by adjusting it to push your comfort level. Take a minestrone, for example. More experienced cooks may opt to cook the beans from scratch instead of using ones from a can, or to make the pasta by hand; less experienced cooks may simply decide to use a different assortment of vegetables. Understanding that many recipes we encounter are inherently flexible takes time, but once that realization occurs, the kitchen becomes a lab, a mental gym, a place to set and reach goals. Just think of us as your cooking coach.
Almond Crusted Salmon with Caramelized Onions and Basil
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 cup almond meal
4 teaspoons honey mustard or sweet prepared mustard
4 (4- to 6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin removed
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup basil leaves
• • • • •
The classic combo with salmon is Chardonnay, and you certainly could enjoy that here. The important thing is to have a wine that balances richness with acidity. Chardonnay (in the classic sense) does that perfectly. With the addition of the caramelized onions and fresh basil, the door opens to some other wines. My favorite would be something sparkling, but wines from Alsace and Germany would be good here, too. Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Gris all exhibit a balance of richness and acidity. Each offers its own characteristics, but on the whole, these wines generally work well with food like this.
2010 Roland Schmitt "Glintzberg" Riesling, France
2008 Antech "Cuvée Eugénie" Crémant de Limoux, France
What would you serve alongside this herbed and onion-topped salmon? What do you think of the target concept we applied to cooking comfort levels? Share your ideas and feedback in the comments section below.
Like this post? See the Make This Tonight topic from last week: Vietnamese-Inspired Sweet & Spicy Catfish with Pickled Vegetables.