In which the world of culinary hedonism is explored with a cup and a half of curiosity, a heaping tablespoon of passion and a dash of clumsiness.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thirty-third Post ~ Salmon en Papillote

Parchment paper... where have you been all my life? If you think I'm being over-dramatic, consider the meal at your left. It went from raw ingredients to steaming hot on my plate in 20 minutes. I'm considering running a series in my blog called "The en Papillote Files" (which, translated from French means, "The In-Paper Files" which actually sounds quite boring in English, which is why I'll be writing it in French). Here's what you'll need for tonight's dinner:

~ Parchment paper
~ 1 small potato
~ 1/2 lemon
~ White wine
~ Butter
~ Veggie (I used snap peas, because they're lovely)
~ Fresh herb of choice (I used thyme, as it is one of my newfound favorite herbs)
~ Salmon fillet (this one was farm-raised and dye-free, and came to a whopping $3 and change)
~ Salt/Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Start a pot of salted water boiling. Slice your small potato and boil the slices until tender. Cut lemon in half, and cut two very thin slices off and juice the rest into a prep bowl. Add a good splash of wine. I used some Clean Slate Riesling from Germany.

While your potatoes are boiling, fold a large-ish piece of parchment in half and cut it into a heart, grade-school-style. Open the heart, and place the salmon in one half of it. Place fresh herbs on top with a couple dabs of butter. When the potato slices are pierceable with a fork, lay them on top of the salmon and herbs. Salt and pepper them to taste. Place the two slices of lemon on top. Now here's the part that's key to the whole "en papillote" part: starting at the top of the heart: fold the empty half over the top of the food and make little folds along the edge, sealing the packet. When you get to the V of the heart (the bottom) you'll have a little open "tail." Into this, pour your lemon and wine mixture. Seal the rest up.

Place it on a pan in your oven. Here's the best part: kill 10-12 minutes while your dinner cooks. Feed your dog, check your email, chat on the phone, whatever. In 10-12 minutes, your dinner is DONE, baby. Take the parchment package out of the oven, put it on a plate, and slice an X into the top of the parchment to reveal the goodness inside. Mine looked like this when opened.

So... what wine to drink? I had heard great things (on Food Network and in lots of wine blogs) about Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay. I learned that its oakiness may be rendered in fact by oak chips in wine aged in stainless steel barrels, so I was a little disheartened. However, it was suggested that it would pair well with salmon, so I gave it a shot, with the nice, dry Clean Slate Riesling on hand as a back-up. The verdict: Riesling. The chard by Cupcake is so oaky, it actually overpowers the salmon. Which is quite a feat, for a white wine. It wasn't a bad pairing, but it definitely downplayed the delicate tastes of the fish (and salmon ain't that delicate, so...). The Riesling, like its name suggests, was clean, crisp, and refreshing.

So what to pair with Cupcake chardonnay? Aged Gouda. I got this 3-year aged Dutch Gouda from Wegmans, and it just sings with the oaky, buttery chardonnay. Consider it dessert after a very satisfying dinner!

Yours in the love of good food and wine,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thirty-second Post ~ "And on the eighth day, He created chicken soup."

It happens. The cold weather hits our bodies just the right way, and we wake up feeling ... sick. My mother has always been a firm believer in the healing powers of chicken soup. The past two weeks spent home recuperating from chicken pox (yes, at age 26) were well-accompanied by a big pot of my mama's golden, savory, healing chicken soup. She passed the recipe on to me, so that I too can wield this ageless power of common vegetables, herbs and meat.

I pass it on to you, so that you also may know its strength in your times of weakness!

Chicken Soup
A Curative Concoction for the Common Cold

Here's what you'll need.

~ Chicken Legs (4-6 legs; 4-5 lbs)
~ Celery
~ 1 Spanish onion (or 2 small yellow)
~ Chicken bullion
~ Carrots
~ Uncle Ben's long grain wild rice (fast cook recipe or microwavable pouch)
~ 1-2 bay leaves
~ Salt and pepper

And now, clear-cut, easy-to-follow-even-through-haze-of-cold-medicine directions:

In large pot or Dutch oven place chicken legs with enough water to cover plus 2 inches. Start boiling.

Add 1-2 bay leaves, 10-12 bullion cubes, salt and pepper to taste.

Chop celery - enough equal to 3 stalks. Add to pot.
¨ If not well, don't bother chopping, cut leafy top part off and add the stalks to pot, plus or minus a few leaves.

Chop carrots - one good handful. Add to pot.
¨ If not well, don't bother chopping, use baby carrots.

Chop onion - 1/4 inch slice from center of Spanish, or two golf ball sized yellow onions. Add to pot. A small piece of bread held in the mouth will prevent eyes from stinging while slicing onion.
¨ If not well, don't bother chopping, put slice of Spanish in whole.

Cover and boil all until meat starts falling off the bones (40-50 minutes).

Take meat out and cover on plate to cool (about 30 minutes). Continue boiling mixture on high heat (and watch it so it doesn't scorch!).

De-bone and skin chicken and dice. Put back into boiled down mixture.

Add Uncle Ben’s wild rice. Easiest to use the pre-cooked packages, but also can cook rice separately and add.
¨ If not well, just use the pre-cooked microwavable rice – don’t bother microwaving, just pour it in the pot.


Customarily, this family recipe calls for egg noodles. I, however, prefer grains in soup, such as barley and wild rice. Therefore, rice is used in this recipe, but if the idea of chicken rice soup is blasphemous to you, noodles can easily be substituted!


Repeatedly taste and boil until soup reaches desired strength.

Optional - draw out broth with ladle, let sit in clear container, and use turkey baster to pull out settled broth from bottom of container and place back in pot to boil (leaving separated fat in container to be disposed of).
¨ If not well, just wait until later when soup is chilled, then remove the hardened fat from the top of the pot with a spoon and dispose.

So there you have it. If you're truly sick, you may find that this pot becomes your sole sustenance, morning, noon and night. There's nothing wrong with that - it's one heck of a hearty, healthful soup - stew, really - that will have you back on your feet in no time!

Yours in the love of the restorative powers of food,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.