Each week, SFC picks one meal that he will cook. As hard as it is for me not to jump in and take over on these nights, I really do like the days when I’m just the sous chef. I’m much happier sitting on the couch turning the pages of a book than standing over a stove whisking or reducing.
We did have to establish one major rule though. The first time we make a recipe, we do not deviate from it as written. No substitutions, no omission, no tinkering with technique. Ok, so maybe we do allow minor substitution and omissions. But we do not deviate from technique. It may sound a bit harsh but how can someone new to cooking know what steps are critical and what steps are negotiable? I’ve been standing at the stove for years and I still try and stick to this rule anytime I try a new recipe.
And here’s why. If I don’t try and create a dish as specified by the author, how can I form an accurate opinion about whether it’s worth making again? If I don’t like the results, is it because of the recipe itself or is it because in tinkering with it, I broke something that did not need fixing?
SFC’s most recent meal is my latest case study. In theory, it should have been outstanding. But after dinner, we both looked at each other and said it was missing something. I’m not sure what this elusive something is. Maybe more spice? Maybe more heat? But it definitely needs the volume turned up. And I don’t understand what the marinade really does for the dish, besides give you the 20 minutes to make the salsa. Maybe next time we will make more spice rub and skip the marinading.
For now, this recipe is tagged with a question mark and goes back into the test folder. It’s got one more chance to impress me because in my kitchen, a recipe rarely gets a third try.
Chili Rubbed Salmon with Pineapple Avocado Salsa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
2 (4 to 6 ounces each) skin-on or skinless salmon fillets, pin bones removed
1 lime, for garnish
4 ounces fresh or canned pineapple, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice (1/2 cup)
Flesh of half a medium avocado, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice
1 scallion, white and light-green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices (about 2 to 3 teaspoons)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 to 2 limes (to yield 1 tablespoon)
Combine the oil and vinegar in a shallow dish.
Combine the chili powder, salt and sugar in a small bowl. Use it to rub the salmon fillets all over, gently pressing it into the flesh, then place the fillets in the oil-vinegar mixture. Turn them over so both sides are coated; let them marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes while you prepare the salsa.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the pineapple, avocado, scallion, pepper, salt and the tablespoon of lime juice in a mixing bowl; toss to mix well.
Heat a medium nonstick skillet that is ovenproof over medium-high heat. (Alternatively, lightly grease an ovenproof baking dish with nonstick cooking oil spray.)
When the pan is hot, add the fillets (if skin-on, place them skin side up) and cook for 1 minute. Turn them over, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness or to desired degree of doneness.
Remove from the oven; use a wide spatula to transfer each piece to individual plates. Spoon the salsa on top of each fillet. Cut the remaining lime in half and squeeze over each portion. Serve immediately.