After all there’s a lot in that vegetarian fine flavour of things from the earth garlic of course it stinks after Italian organgrinders crisp of onions mushrooms truffles. Pain to the animal too. Pluck and draw fowl. Wretched brutes there at the cattlemarket waiting for the poleaxe to split their skulls open. Moo. Poor trembling calves. Meh. Staggering bob. Bubble and squeak. Butchers’ buckets wobbly lights. Give us that brisket off the hook. Plup. Rawhead and bloody bones. Flayed glasseyed sheep hung from their haunches, sheepsnouts bloodypapered snivelling nosejam on sawdust. Top and lashers going out. Don’t maul them pieces, young one.
Hot fresh blood they prescribe for decline. Blood always needed. Insidious. Lick it up smokinghot, thick sugary. Famished ghosts.
Ah, I’m hungry.
–James Joyce, Ulysses (chapter 8, “The Lestrygonians”)
Happy (belated) Bloomsday, that wonderful day that celebrates the majesty and the weirdness that is James Joyce’s Ulysses and allows the people who slogged through it (self included) to feel smug for a day while they quote it! The rest of the post doesn’t really have anything to do with Joyce or Ulysses, but I wanted the excuse to share one of my favorite food-related quotes that is both delightfully hilarious and grotesque.
Earlier this week, three mostly-unrelated but equally thought-provoking prompts caught my eye: a New York Times piece on the Spanish chefs filling the cocina de vanguardia void left with the closing of El Bulli, a professional chef waxing poetic on the superiority of home-cooked meals, and the weekly prompt for Serious Eats’ Weekend Cook and Tell on essential cookbooks.
Like I said: these are three fairly disparate topics, but they are all swirling in my head as I write this.
I’ve touched on Adria and El Bulli before, and I won’t try to get into What It All Means that the restaurant is closing and turning into a culinary research facility because there are others who can do so with more eloquence and authority. But I felt his influence in the dish we made with some of our salmon from Copper River yesterday, as it was unconventional and creative, but still felt Spanish to the core–which is funny because from researching recipes in my traditional Spanish cookbooks, fresh salmon is not that commonly used. But leave it to my friends at Barcelona to take wild Alaskan salmon and shallots, apply some French and Japanese technique to them, and come up with a tapa that serves as the perfect showcase to wild salmon: the fish is cooked just enough and the shallots are a bright and slightly crunchy companion.
This recipe is a great example of why I love this cookbook so much: while this is a restaurant cookbook, you often don’t feel like you’re making restaurant food. It’s simply a collection of really well-thought-out recipes that you can make on a random Thursday night or as part of an elegant spread and the results mean you always eat well without eating to excess. It’s why this book is on the shelf closest to the kitchen, and why I could devote a whole category to its recipes here.
In short: go out this weekend and try this recipe. You won’t be disappointed.
Wild Alaskan Salmon Paillard with Sweet-and-Sour Shallots
adapted from The Barcelona Cookbook
Serves 2 as a dinner, 4 as a tapa
- 10 shallots, thinly sliced (use a mandoline for best results)
- 1 small bottle (ours was 300 ml) of mirin
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons peppercorns, crushed (the book calls for pink but we have multi-colored)
- 12 oz filet of King or Coho salmon, pinbones removed with pliers (if necessary—since ours came off the boat it certainly was)
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil (our non-stick wasn’t large enough so we used a little more oil in a sauté pan)
- Chevril sprigs for garnish (I think Michael chopped up a little parsley because that’s what we had)
For the shallots: add the shallots to a medium saucepan and then cover with the mirin and bring the pot to a boil. Once the shallots have wilted but haven’t cooked through, remove from heat and add the peppercorns, vinegar and olive oil, stir well to combine and let cool. Transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate—the book recommends 2 hours, but we didn’t have that time and cooled it in the fridge for about a half-hour. They can sit in the fridge for up to 4 days, but when you make the paillards you want the shallots need to come back to room temperature so they won’t clash with the warm fish. Obviously.
For the paillards: you will want to cut the fillet into four half-inch slices on the bias (Michael did quite well with that here) and season with a little salt on each side. Heat the oil in a non-stick (or in our case a slightly more oiled sauté pan) over high heat, and when ready add the salmon slices. Cook on each side for no more than one or two minutes (Michael did a little longer on the plate shown here to give the fish a little caramelization), remove from heat and plate immediately. Spoon some of the shallots over the fish and serve with a nice salad and a really simple starch such as bread.
(Full disclosure: the fish was courtesy of Copper River Salmon, and we just really like Barcelona Wine Bar and their cookbook.)