Smackdown: I Cannot Be Taught

a little bit of dinner

I should know better than to attempt any recipe that involves putting meat in a food processor.

saute

I mean, sure, there was the one success with the kibbeh, but that positive is utterly annihilated by the horror that was fish noodles. So really, when I ran across this recipe – wild salmon a la luctece with sweet corn, cabbage and brown butter vinaigrette, from Sunday Suppers at Lucques – I should have run screaming for the hills. For not only must one put meat in a food processor, but the meat in question is our beloved bacon.

I know, I know.

I shouldn’t complain that much, because dinner overall was pretty good, except for the processed bacon part.

veg

I made the veg first, accepting the fact that they would be eaten at room temperature. Better to come to that understanding beforehand and proceed stress-free than try and do the batter, fish, vinaigrette and veg at the same time and try to get them all done and hot simultaneously. Food bloggers never get to eat hot food anyway, so why try?  If something isn’t worth doing, it isn’t worth doing well.

Bacon went into the pan first to render out its liquid gold before being replaced by scallions, fresh sweet corn and green cabbage. A few tosses in the bacon fat, and everything was perfectly tender and/or wilted. I tossed the bacon bits back in, hit the whole mess with some chopped parsley, and the veg was done.

something fishy

Before desecrating my bacon, I took the fish out of the fridge to take the chill off for a few minutes before cooking. Please allow me to channel my inner elderly Jewish man and say: That’s a nice piece of fish.

You have to imagine it said in a Brooklyn accent, it’s funnier that way.

But seriously, that is a nice piece of fish; sockeye salmon, to be precise. I almost hated to cook it, because it was so painfully vibrant in its raw state. But I was hungry and I don’t eat sushi, so it was destined for the pan.

First, though, I had to make the batter. Sigh.

bacon milk

The pureed bacon batter – doesn’t that sound lovely? – starts with bacon cooked in whole milk for a few minutes. I picked up some killer Ronnybrook Farms whole milk and didn’t shake it hard enough before pouring it; you can see some little clumps of butter from the cream that had settled on top.

I really should have just made some chocolate chip cookies and sat down with a quart of that milk, it would have dirtied fewer pans (this meal: 4) and been just as good.

Once the bacon simmers in the milk for a few minutes, it gets taken off the heat to cool down slightly before being dumped into the FoPro and whizzed until smooth. Be very glad that I did not take a photo of the bacon-spattered interior of the food processor, because the resulting slurry is enough to put anyone off their feed.

breading

I pulsed in a few eggs and poured the unholy mixture into a shallow dish along with some breadcrumbs and parsley.

So here’s the part where things started to go awry, and it’s not really the bacon’s fault; I’m using the processed meat as a scapegoat because it seems like the most logical (read: gross) place to locate blame. The real problem, though, was the liquid-to-breadcrumb ratio. How do you pour a cup of liquid into more than two cups of crumbs and get a fluid batter?  It seems impossible absent some warp in the basic structure of how liquids and solids interact.

What I ended up with was less “batter” and more “paste.” A paste made from processed bacon. Think about that for a minute. Then stop, because it’s not a healthy thing to think about for too long.

something fishy, 2

Still one must forge ahead, so I patted down my salmon with the paste and threw it into a hot pan. Thankfully, the paste actually adhered to the fish, creating a crispy if unappetizingly thick crust.

Oh, and somewhere in there, I made a brown butter vinaigrette: butter, browned. Red wine vinegar and diced onion, added. Mixture cooked briefly. Salt and lemon juice put in. Done.

Once the fish was done, I whisked some chopped parsley into the vinaigrette, and it was plating time. I heaped a pile of cabbage onto the plate, topped it with the fish – a good two inches thick, what with its carapace of bacon paste – and spooned over some of the vinaigrette.

dinner

First, the good news: flavor-wise, the dish as a whole was a winner. The vinaigrette was simultaneously luscious and bright; a perfect foil for the fish. The veg changed my mind about cabbage. Yes, I was a cabbage hater and I remain a hater of certain preparations, most notably the vile coleslaw and hated sauerkraut. But on this plate, the cabbage was a big winner. The corn brought out its natural sweetness, and the bacon was a needed salty punctuation.

Next, the not-so-good news: texture wise, I just couldn’t deal with the crust. I’m assuming I did something wrong, because I have to imagine the fish is meant to be much more delicate. I ended up peeling it off. (In the interest of fairness, I must report that Brian had no problem with it, liked the crunch it added and ate the whole thing.) My other forays into this book have been deliciously successful, so there’s either one bum note in the book (possible) or I fucked something up and still don’t know it (likely).

And now, having eaten a giant pile of cabbage, we sit back and wait for the inevitable.

Yup, there it is.

9 thoughts on “Smackdown: I Cannot Be Taught

  1. Um, thanks for taking one for the team with that recipe. I don’t keep kosher, but the thought and picture of bacon simmering in milk…Oy!

  2. Bacon coating sounds like it ought to be good on anything. Perhaps you should have just strayed from the recipe and added more milk to make the coating a little easier to spread?

    I’m loving the idea of a brown butter salad dressing. Must try that. Butter is one way to make salad taste better – even if it does defeat the point a bit.

    Cabbage is a funny old thing. I think I tend to only like it in coleslaw and sauerkraut. Hate that limp stuff they cook up wtih the corned beef though. Bleah!

    Perhaps a little Beano will make life easier for your husband?

  3. michelle, when you’re ready for another foray into the cabbage realm, i highly recommend the World’s Best Braised Green Cabbage from molly stevens’ All About Braising (i book with which i know you’ve had success). easy, goes with a lot of dishes, tastes great at room temperature so you don’t have to worry about timing it to finish when other dishes finish.

  4. I can offer up another fo-pro meat success – I made some curry chicken puffs that involved the chicken being pulverized by the food processor, and they were good enough that they turned into the focus of a minor scene in a web tv series! By which I mean I brought them to a party that was being filmed for the show, and a guy tried to pass them off as his own. STARDOM!

    So clearly it can’t be all bad if it leads to that kind of fame.

  5. I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to dip the fish into the bacon flavoured slurry (bleurgh) and then crumb it? Anyway, I don’t do fish, I don’t do cabbage (although I do like coleslaw) so I probably won’t do this recipe.

  6. larie, i know, i know.

    rachel, if i were following my gut i would have added more milk, but my self-imposed rule says i must follow the recipe as printed.

    burkie, i have 3/4 of a head left and no plans to use it, so maybe i’ll give that a try. i do love that book.

    camille, well played!

    claudia, you flatterer. what do you want from me?

    annemarie, it probably would have. despite my hatred of processing meat, i may try it again and do it that way.

  7. OK – I have Sundays at Lucques and you inspired me – had not cooked out of it yet. Don’t like salmon – used sheepshead (sounds aweful = really good, it’s a Florida thing). Used less breadcrumbs – that worked out OK – the bacon-steeped milk didn’t really bother me.

    Vegs – very good. word to the wise – and I mean this – NEVER – really NEVER – add red wine vinegar to very hot brown butter = sputtering, exploding disaster.

    but other than all of that, it was very good and tasty. Worth the work and time? not so sure – but still glad I did it. It seems much more effortless when Michelle does it. happy cooking – kath

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