I moved to Portland a little over two years ago. This burgeoning “foodie town” hasn’t let me down much, although I’m still skeptical as with all things Portland related that there isn’t a hype factor involved a bit. One thing I wont argue with is being so close to and surrounded by one of the agricultural Meccas of the United States. The produce! So good.
Felt like cooking up something special because it was a slow Sunday and I haven’t treated myself in a while. Thought maybe I’d play to the foods of my new home in the PNW, but add a little Spanish-French touch since, well, awesome + awesome…
Salmon With Poblano-Hazelnut Pesto, Potatoes, Asparagus and a Garlic-Pimenton Butter
My inability to gauge portion sizes from raw ingredients lead to a rather hefty plate, which is fine by me when the food’s this good and it’s Sunday (I can nap, dammit!)
First thing is you want to start your potatoes. Depends on their size of course as to how long you need to cook them. Just stab ’em with a fork, ice pick or whatever you have handy after a while to test.
OH! But you think cooking potatoes is just that easy, do you?! Here’s the best trick I’ve learned for doing potatoes: never add potatoes to a boiling pot. See the heat and hot water that carries it takes time to travel from outside to in, when you apply that heat too fast, too hard it doesn’t make that distance very equitably. It’s a caloric class system. What you get is over-done outer parts and raw insides. Also, unless you have health reasons like hypertension, douse the water with salt. Not only does it flavor your potato but I believe something with the osmosis process makes for a more tender tater–least it seems that way to me but I’m not a scientist.
Now the fish… I got a nice bit of salmon, quintessential PNW staple. A sadly rare treat because I’m broke and I will not buy shitty fish (I used to be a fishmonger.) I went with a poaching method with this. Convinience, mostly, there were a lot of dirty dishes with this meal. One my potatoes were done I just popped the fishy right into the water, which was on a medium heat, not at a boil. Water boils at 212 degrees and fish should be cooked to 145 degrees to be safe. See what I mean?
The recipe I adapted this from suggested throwing white wine, garlic and parsley into the cooking liquid. Which is cool, but I find never adds enough flavor to be worth the trouble.
Asparagus. Blanch it for a few minutes. If you want to keep it extra green chill it in ice water after cooking. I’m told a little baking soda in the water also helps.
Now comes the fun part, the condiments!
– One handful of hazelnuts (Oregon’s state nut!) Blanched if you want to put in the effort. Initially I was going to make this into a Romesco type sauce, but messed up my levels. But the pesto was a serendipitous result.
– One large poblano pepper, fire roasted. Don’t have a fire? A non-stick pan on the highest heat will burn that sucker black. I found putting our tea kettle over it for pressure got a nice blackness on the skin. You want black too. You can easily scrape off the burnt skin with cold, running water and a paring knife, and that’s the only way to get a soft, roasty pepper.
– Vinegar, just a capful. I like Sherry, but apple cider is more likely in your pantry and works fine.
– Cumin. Half teaspoon ground or about as many seeds.
Take food. Put in blender. Slowly add olive oil in batches or drizzle if your machine has an open top for such. Blend until you have a workable paste and, of course, season appropriately.
– Garlic. I used three cloves, small-medium sorts. You *could* just mince them. I have this super-handy toaster oven that I threw them in, in their jackets, for 18 minutes. Makes for a sweeter, less zingy garlic.
– Olive oil in a pain on med-low heat. Minced garlic in! Good dash of good paprika. And when I say good paprika I mean spend money on the real stuff. A lot of cheap brands are flavorless, basically coloring agents. I don’t normally advocate spending more for quality, but paprika’s an exception, the difference is night and day.
– So while your garlic slowly softens and the paprika/pimenton dissolve, how about a pat of butter? Nice texture, great depth, loves salmon.
Serving is pretty evident I hope from the picture! Just sliced the potatoes into rounds (careful that they’re cool), fish, asparagus and distribute the pesto over and sauce around so you can get nice even bites.
Salmon, hazelnuts and asparagus! The only thing essentially Pacific Northwest not included were rain and handlebar moustaches. But that… that’s another post.