Food is a process

Friday, July 09, 2004

Guilty Solitary Pleasures... okay they're not really guilty

Clementine is gone for the weekend. Most admirally, she is walking 25 or so miles to raise money for breast cancer, along with her father, in San Francisco. I am all alone. However, I'm not panicked. How does one spend a great night alone? Well, I for one, am drinking sparkling wine and just finished eating a fantastic meal, which was a repeat from our French Laundry day. Sort of. The brilliant thing about many of Thomas Keller's recipes is that they can be easily simplified, and that often certain components can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.

The smoked salmon and gnocchi dish is a perfect example. After dropping Clementine off at the airport I headed over to Trader Joe's. I might as well add at this point that Trader Joe's is absolutely indispensible to the thrifty gourmet. If you live somewhere out in the boondocks and you actually don't have one nearby, I pity you greatly. I bought a beautiful piece of smoked salmon loin, some frozen gnocchi, some salad greens and a bottle of Barefoot's sparkling extra dry chardonnay. The bottle is $5 and right on par with some $25 French bottles I've had. A great discovery.

I'll start out by saying that Luigi's Thomas Keller recipe gnocchi were the best gnocchi I've ever had. The frozen ones did in a pinch, but were no comparison. The sauce in the real recipe involves finely dicing several root vegetables and making tomato diamonds (another topic of discussion.) I planned on spending 20 minutes on the whole dish. Instead I sauteed some finely diced onions in olive oil. When they were soft I added some chicken stock (already had it in the fridge) and let it simmer. Meanwhile the salmon was heating in a saucepan full of milk. The idea here is that you gently heat the salmon in the milk for 7 minutes, never letting the temperature rise over 115 degrees. In the proccess some of the salt is leached out. The original recipe requires chive oil and balsamic vinegar glaze. Both of these garnishes take a LONG time to make. However, once you've made them there is plenty left over and keeps well in the freezer. So I took a shallow bowl and made a ring of chive oil around the edge. I then spooned some of the gnocchi in the center. The sauce by the way, was finished by whisking in a bit of butter and then stirring the sauce into the gnocchi. On top of that went a piece of the warm salmon. On top of the salmon I put a bit of the baby greens which had been dressed in lemon oil and twisted in in the palm of my hand. Finally a bit of balsamic glaze went around again. The table was set, the candles were lit and my new favorite CD was put on the stereo: J.J. Cale's Troubador, which is from the 70's. A really great album.

My 20 minute solo version was not the same thing as what we had that day. It didn't look AS amazing. It looked pretty good though. You know what? Despite the infereior gnocchi it tasted outstanding as well. Did I say 20 minutes? I'll definitely be making this quick fix again. Oh yes, and one final thing. I replicated this same meal in a tupperware bowl which will serve as my lunch at work tomorrow.

So I just wanted to connect and share. It's time to get back to my evening of solitude. When logging on to this sight I was so excited to see a new contribution (even 2!) from Caroline. Great writing. I realize that it was a bit of a rough start in a couple of ways and that it was a hard thing for you to be the new kid on our block. We're so happy to have you and it wouldn't be the same without you.

Okay now, whose got the beautiful pictures of the salmon?


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