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