Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Something from Slightly More than Nothing

This is the second appearance that salmon is making in my posts. I apologize for the lack of diversity, but that's just pretty much all I've been eating lately. It's just that it's pretty novel to me. I am going to tell you this with the full understanding that I may lose your readership because I am insane. But believe me, I could not make this up.

I used to be allergic to all fish. Well, except canned tuna, I guess that processing did something to the fish that enabled me to eat it without the risk of turning into a puffed-up, swollen mess with a rapidly closing throat. Sound miserable? Well, it was. I wasn't allergic to shellfish, so that was a bit of a consolation. As I grew out of other allergies I began to gain some hope that fish would enter my life without causing me pain. And eventually, it did. I was able to eat almost all fish. Except salmon. I'm not really sure why this one fish decided that it hated me. And like many other broken-hearted, I couldn't give up - I just loved it so. Watching the rest of my family eat bagels and lox on weekend morning was tortuous. I yearned for that which I could not have.

The severity of the reaction lessened as I got older, so every once in a while I would coax myself into dealing with the incessant itchiness guaranteed to follow and binge on some salmon. I somehow (don't ask me how, I'm not really sure) figured out that I had the least extreme reaction to the fish when I ate it cooked and cold. Raw didn't work, smoked didn't work, and for some reason when it was hot it still made me itch. I pitched this theory to my parents expecting them to call me crazy, but my mother confirmed that my grandmother indeed had the same exact allergy. So maybe I'm not crazy. Or maybe the rest of my family is just as insane as I am. No matter, I was reassured.

Towards the end of this summer, the summer of gluttony and seafood about which I will likely post in greater detail a little bit down the line, I decided that I had enough. I was going to will my body to eat salmon if it killed me. I just kept eating it in its many forms, which culminated in a veritable gravlox binge at Aquavit, and eventually, I was able to eat it with no reaction at all. Yes, I know, I likely just grew out of it like the other allergies, it just took me longer, but I like to think that I was responsible for tricking my body this time. And so I have been reveling in my newfound salmon normalcy - I have joined the salmon eating population. And I've been eating it with such frequency that I will likely develop a new allergy, but I'll worry about that when that happens. In any event, I'm going to tell you about a pasta dish I made last week, featuring, what else? Salmon.

While in undergrad in Montreal, my friends and I would frequent L'Academie on St. Dennis. Its name was misleading - despite popular belief, it wasn't a culinary school kitchen at all, just a huge three-story restaurant with a guaranteed line snaking out the door on weekends. It had very reliable food, often quite good, and always at a fair price. And it was BYOB, making it that much more attractive to a poor college kid. There was a salmon and mushroom pasta that was on the menu there, and like all other salmon dishes, it taunted me. My friends would order it and I would stare and long for it. It was something so commonplace, yet something forbidden. That is probably why the one of the first things I did when I absolved my salmon allergy was attempt to recreate that dish. I used many shortcuts, mostly because it was easy and I had it all in my kitchen, and that's the secret. One of my roommates in college would make something like this sauce, she would regularly throw the contents of a couple of cans into a pan and eat it happily. I used a couple more ingredients that she used to, but It's a great last-minute, something-from-nothing dish made with things that are already lying around the house.

Pasta with Salmon and Mushrooms

Sorry for the sub-par photo, the light was not cooperating with me that night. There's no real recipe here, just a bunch of stuff I threw together, but I will attempt to capture it as accurately as possible.

I set some thin spaghetti in a pot of boiling water. While it was cooking I started to saute about 8 ounces of white mushrooms, which I purchased cleaned and sliced, in a pat of butter. Once the mushrooms were well on their way and rather soft, I added some garlic and a liberal sprinkling of dried thyme to the pan. I then emptied the cream of mushroom soup into the pan and added about a half of the empty can worth of water and allowed that to start heating. I would have added white wine instead of the water, but I didn't have any on hand.

Once this started looking saucy (ha) I added probably about half a cup of parmegianno cheese into the sauce to thicken it and give it a good saltiness, since I had used reduced sodium soup. With the parmegianno went another tablespoon of butter for richness. I opened up a can of Bumble Bee salmon (cooking salmon is obviously a good option, but it didn't fit into the theme of a quick-fix dinner too well, and the canned stuff actually tasted pretty good and didn't leave the apartment smelling like fish) and flaked it into the sauce. Once that was heated I adjusted the seasoning and added quite a bit of pepper and some more cheese. I mixed it up with the cooked pasta and it was a lovely dinner for two. And all I had to do was throw some stuff in the pan.

Outside of the grating of the cheese, there was really no effort required. I'll never know how close I came to the dish at L'Academie, and one of these days I'll go all out and cook the salmon and make my own sauce from scratch, but until that day, this will do.

1 comment:

Stephen A. Weisberg said...

You haven't lost me as a reader, because this is a great blog, but you're for sure insane.