Cooking Novice Attemps Salmon Dish in Quest for Love!
August 29, 2009 2:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm a complete novice cook, but I'm cooking salmon tagliatelle for my girlfriend on her birthday. I've made it twice for myself but I think it could be better...

Ok, so far I'm frying the salmon fillets with a drop of oil till they are almost done, then adding some chopped spring onions to the pan during the final few min.

Then I'm adding cream and chives to the pan and mixing it all together, breaking up the salmon.

Add the salmon to the cooked tagliatelle, mix mix mix, serve. Serving with some nice bread and some wine.

It tastes fine, and my sister and dad have both enjoyed it. I just want to make it tastes a little bit more special. Any suggestions?

please note: I have never ever ever cooked anything before in my life. I don't enjoy it at all and I get extremely stressed during. Please keep it simple! :)
posted by lemonfridge to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Maybe some white wine? I would put it in around when you are putting in the spring onions and let it mostly cook off before adding the cream and chives. Something like 1/3 - 1/2 cup if cooking for two.

Also a little garlic, which I would add before the wine and chives, but not too far before that it will burn - I like to use the microplane to make the garlic very fine. This, to my taste, adds a bit of that restaurant pasta dish flavour.

Sounds really good though!
posted by AnnaRat at 2:15 AM on August 29, 2009

Adding chopped fresh dill would be my first thought for something like this and give it a bit of flavor. Also a small bit of fresh lemon juice (like 1 teaspoon) added at the very end.
posted by sundri at 2:15 AM on August 29, 2009

Here's what I would do:

-sprinkle salmon fillets with salt and pepper (seasoning=important!)
-cook fillets as you've done until seared on both sides. Remove from pan and flake into pieces.
-Heat a little bit of olive oil, add two chopped shallots over medium-low heat. Saute until soft about 3 minutes.
-Add a splash of white wine (or dry vermouth) and let simmer for a minute.
-Add cream, chives, tarragon, and salmon. Cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
-add tagliatelle to pan, or serve sauce over tagliatelle on plates.
posted by picklebird at 2:39 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I scrolled down to find that picklebird says almost exactly what I scrolled down to say! So instead, I will give further details for the extreme cooking novice.

Don't be afraid to use salt and pepper, it's very rarely going to be too much.

To flake the fillets after they've cooked, use two forks, and gently pull the fish apart into pieces by poking it with the forks towards each other and pulling them apart.

To make sure the oil is at "medium-low" heat, you can sprinkle a drop of water into the oil. If it sputters and pops, it's too hot. If it sizzles gently, it's good.

You should be able to find shallots very easily, but if you can't, you can use a combination of about half onion and half garlic, maybe a tablespoon chopped of each. Shallots will definitely make it taste "restauranty" though.

Once you've added everything but the pasta to the pan and heated it through, make sure to taste it before you add salt and pepper!

If you're heating the tagliatelle in the pan, cook it a little less than you normally would so it finishes cooking in the sauce, and you don't have overcooked pasta.

For a touch more over-the-topness, melt some butter into the sauce, too. And serve with a sprinkle of fresh chives on top, so it looks pretty!
posted by Mizu at 3:04 AM on August 29, 2009

Easiest things I can think of:

Cook the salmon in butter (like a couple tablespoons). Butter = better.

Splash of white wine (like a couple of tablespoons, into the pan--not on top of the fish--and let it bubble and reduce for a minute). Use a cheap Chardonnay. People say don't use wine you wouldn't drink with, but that's just not true.

Some lemon zest, like a little pile the size of your fingernail, into the pan with the white wine. You can grate lemon zest with the tiny sides of a cheese grater, before you start cooking, so you have it ready and it doesn't stress you out more.

Be generous with salt, but not nuts.


Bonus tip, chop a shallot and half a clove of garlic very small, add to the butter before the salmon. Again, not a ton, you don't want to erase what sounds already like a nice, elegant recipe.

Bonus relaxation tip: have everything, all ingredients, wine glasses out, table set, wine opened, before you start cooking.

I love the recipe, sounds great.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:30 AM on August 29, 2009

The wine thing -- do it when you add the spring onions. I would take the salmon out of the pan when you do that, and when you add the cream, and then add it back. It's just easier to stir it around and everything, but if you're breaking it up anyway you might not care.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:32 AM on August 29, 2009

Also, I'm not sure if you need or want spring onions, which are pretty strong, plus shallot plus chives.

You might want to drop the spring onions. They're not all that pretty once they're cooked, and they might be less subtle than the herbal oniony chives and the shallots, which are kind of a traditional addition.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:36 AM on August 29, 2009

As a fellow relative novice to cooking, I'll just add that you should translate "a splash of white wine" as "a splash of a decent Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio." I don't use high-end stuff, but don't get the cheapie shit, either.
posted by mediareport at 6:03 AM on August 29, 2009

You could also buy some slivered or sliced almonds, and sprinkle a couple of teaspoons over the dish, just before serving, to add some texture and smooth flavor.

Another, easy thing to do, is to add a green side dish, like a little mild bibb (or Boston) lettuce salad, perhaps with a few small canned black olives, some chopped spring (or green) onions, some pre-cooked crumbled bacon, and a simple dressing (I make a little home dressing with a couple tablespoons of mayonnaise, a couple tablespoons of the olive juice, and some black pepper and salt to taste, but you could also use any commercial dressing you like). You can make the salads (and dressing) ahead of time, and keep them in the refrigerator, until serving, so there is no extra stress on you, at cooking time.

And maybe get some tasty shortbread cookies (you might say "biscuits"), or whatever other variety you might like, to serve for dessert.
posted by paulsc at 6:07 AM on August 29, 2009

Oh, one more thing, about this:

I don't enjoy it at all and I get extremely stressed during.

There's a whole different kind of "cooking with wine," you know. :) A little glass by your side can really help.
posted by mediareport at 6:26 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Absolutely drop the spring onions, use chives or shallots instead.

Agree with removing the salmon from the pan when almost cooked, deglaze the pan with a decent white wine--whatever you'll be drinking with dinner--reduce, then add the shallots, cream, re-add the salmon right before you're done, toss with pasta and serve.

If you insist on using chives, don't add them until right before service.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:53 AM on August 29, 2009

When dnbb says "deglaze" he's saying that you're using the wine to release the stuff that is starting to cook onto the pan--you pour the wine in, it sizzles and smells nice, and typically you gently scrap the pan to get any bits loose. This adds deep flavor. Then take a sip of whatever wine is left and proceed.
Nice recipe y'all have going here--it's making me hungry.
posted by Mngo at 8:33 AM on August 29, 2009

Just wanted to draw your attention to this quote from Mediareport above:

There's a whole different kind of "cooking with wine," you know. :) A little glass by your side can really help.

Highly recommended. And getting everything set up before you start cooking. I'm a fairly experienced cook and often make dinners for two people at once or will do cooking for a week all at once, that kind of thing, but I still get a little freaked out sometimes if everything's happening at once, especially in instances where there's a short cooking time and there are a lot of things competing for attention in a short time span. So you'll really enjoy it more if you're not going, oh, crap, I have to chop shallots! At the very last minute.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:36 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had this at the Parker House in Boston in the 1980's and it was amazing. Tips:

Use good butter and fresh butter (no refrig taste). Don't burn the butter when sauteeing. And just before serving, add a pat of butter.

Use fresh pasta. Lately I'm partial to Buitoni Fresh Pasta.

The Parker House version had bright green peas on top.
posted by andreap at 11:12 AM on August 29, 2009

One more thing (I'm in high cooking mode today myself so I'm obsessed)--careful not to overcook the salmon.

Cook over medium high heat until lightly crispy on each side, then pull it out. It won't be cooked through in the middle but it can finish up in the cream.

And make sure the salmon is really dry -- blot it with paper towels -- it helps get it crispier.

I love cooking.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2009

1. Ditto on not overcooking the salmon. In fact, it should be a tiny bit rare on the inside.

2. Save about 1/8th of a cup of the pasta water and add to sauce. This adds a little "bite" to the sauce so it clings better to the pasta.
posted by Elsie at 12:44 PM on August 29, 2009

Just my opinion: the people contributing here are thinking about how to make the dish as tasty as possible, not the whole picture of how to help a novice cook best entertain. Don't change it too much from the way you've practiced it, especially if you like it already.

I'd make changes that aren't technique- or steps-based, but ingredient-based, so it's no extra work. I'd switch in a couple tablespoons of butter for the "drop of oil." Then I'd drop the spring onions and substitute shallots. Then I'd drop the chives entirely.

If the whole "remove the salmon and deglaze the pan with wine" set of steps is anxiety-provoking, don't do it. Far more important that you be relaxed and practiced than that the dish be "perfect." For a novice cook, the whole picture of "entertaining" is improved sometimes through practice and simplicity, even when the dish isn't.
posted by palliser at 8:34 PM on August 29, 2009

Response by poster: For anyone who checks back here;

I used butter instead of oil, used a plash of wine and some finely chopped garlic, and it went down extremely well. Massive brownie points :)

Thanks y'all!
posted by lemonfridge at 12:57 PM on September 3, 2009

« Older How to physically speed up MP3s for CD burning?   |   Wittgenstein's joke Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.