Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

Posts tagged shame

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Broiler (Maple-Glazed Salmon with Pineapple and Jalapeño)

When I first started cooking, I was afraid of high heat. And if I can extrapolate out from my own experience (of course I can, it’s my tumblr, n=1 in these here parts), I think that’s not uncommon.

High heat means that things go from undercooked to charred much, much faster. And there’s greater potential for smoke, and the smoke detector going off, and things catching on fire, and burning myself (not really, but it felt that way). And those are all really stressful when you’re already unsure of yourself in the kitchen.

But my fear of high heat translated into a fear of the broiler, and that is ridiculous. The broiler is your friend! Be religious about setting a timer (leaving something broiling for an extra minute can make the difference between perfectly done and dried out), understand that there might be smoke, and watch your hands. Otherwise, broil with abandon! Why? It cooks food really fast! And it makes the outside of things nice and brown without drying out the inside!

You could start with this recipe. The salmon takes almost no time to cook and the outside gets crispy and browned while the inside stays moist. If you cheat like I did and buy pre-sliced pineapple* and microwave instant rice** it’s even faster.


This photo is from Real Simple, but is basically what my finished dish looked like (except I think my salmon might have been more browned on the outside and a little less well-done on the inside).

Maple Glazed Salmon with Pineapple

Recipe from Real Simple. This serves four, but I halved it, kind of. I halved the glaze, and probably halved the pineapple (I bought the small container of pre-cut pineapple, which I think works out to about a quarter of a pineapple). I used the whole jalapeno, and I used the full amount of salmon. I intended to only spread the glaze over two of the salmon pieces and broil and save the two non-glazed pieces for salads later, but it seemed like there was enough glaze to go over all the salmon, so I glazed everything and just had extra tasty salmon in my salad the next day.

  • White rice
  • 1/2  cup  maple syrup
  • 2  tablespoons  Dijon mustard
  • 4 6-oz salmon filets
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled, cut lengthwise into quarters, and then cut up into 1/2” triangles (or, you know, pre-packaged).
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  1. Cook the rice according to the package directions (I’m still really embarrassed about the microwave rice, guys. And yet, not so embarrassed that I wouldn’t make microwave rice again.)
  2. Whisk together the maple syrup and mustard in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Heat broiler. Place the salmon in a foil-lined 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Season with the salt and pepper.
  4. Scatter the pineapple and jalapeño around the salmon.
  5. Brush the salmon with the syrup mixture and broil for 5 to 7 minutes or until it flakes easily and is the same color throughout. (So…I don’t subscribe to this. I think if you cook salmon until it’s the same color throughout you’ll end up with overcooked salmon. I cook it until it flakes and is opaque throughout, but the inside is still redder than the outside. Overcooked salmon is terrible. I also like my salmon fairly browned on the outside. If you’re not getting enough browning, move the pan closer to the heat source. If it’s too far from the heat source, the inside will be overcooked by the time the outside is browned.)
  6. Serve the salmon and pineapple with the rice and drizzle with the remaining glaze, if desired. (I didn’t have any remaining glaze.)

* On the one hand: crazy expensive. On the other hand: it means I don’t have to spend precious minutes that could be spent showering or going to the bathroom or just sitting quietly and reading my email breaking down a whole pineapple, and I don’t have to carefully strategize about when to break down the pineapple during the day in advance of dinner. And there weren’t whole pineapples for sale at the grocery store.

** I really didn’t want to tell you guys about the microwave instant rice, because I am embarrassed about it, but I felt like I should be honest. It turns out that the difference between cooking real rice and microwaving rice translates to the difference between not having rice with dinner and having rice with dinner some nights.

Filed under dinner fear singing the praises of the broiler shame real simple

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Oh! And thanks to my friend Ralph at Laughing Stock Farm, I now know that pickling cucumbers make delicious eating cucumbers. They’re so crispy!
Many people think the following is disgusting, but I consider this tumblr a safe space for my embarrassing food predilections:
I like to dip cucumbers in a mixture of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and lemon juice. You just whisk it with a fork until it makes a smooth, somewhat runny dip. It’s my favorite.

Oh! And thanks to my friend Ralph at Laughing Stock Farm, I now know that pickling cucumbers make delicious eating cucumbers. They’re so crispy!

Many people think the following is disgusting, but I consider this tumblr a safe space for my embarrassing food predilections:

I like to dip cucumbers in a mixture of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and lemon juice. You just whisk it with a fork until it makes a smooth, somewhat runny dip. It’s my favorite.

Filed under cucumbers shame

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I have a somewhat shameful confession*: I am not good at making hamburgers. It seems so basic— small disk of meat gets cooked in a skillet or on a grill for a short period of time, flipped, and then done. And yet, I’m pretty bad at it. I don’t make them very often, so maybe that’s part of the problem, but I just can’t ever figure out when they should be done, and I’m constantly worried about over-working the meat, but I always end up with these big cavernous cracks in the edges when I don’t. Cookbooks and food safety people are always telling you to use a meat thermometer with food, but how do you do that with a burger? And doesn’t it let all the juices run out?

So when the Portland food blogger group decided that for our last set of burger reviews, we would make our own burgers (or write about our ideal burger if we are not make-our-own-burger type people) I was a touch apprehensive. My whole tumblr is about cooking, but I have produced hockey pucks before, and that would be embarrassing.

Happily, I have my Cook’s Illustrated The Best Recipe cookbook, and they have a whole two-page treatise on burgers. I’m going to summarize the key points, because if you are the kind of person that wants to read through the saga of determining the best possible burger, you probably already have that cookbook.

  1. Use chuck (which should be 20% fat).
  2. Grind it up yourself in a food processor.
  3. Toss the meat from hand to hand to create a loose ball, then use your finger tips to press lightly into a 1” disk.
  4. Make sure your grill or pan is hot before you add the burgers.
  5. Cook for 4 minutes per side for medium rare (5 minutes on the first side and four minutes on the second side for medium).

I had already failed on the first 2 points, which also meant I kind of failed on the third. Dave bought the fancy grass fed beef from the grocery early in the day, which meant it was 90% lean because it’s apparently hard for cows to get really fat grazing and eating only grass.** And the meat from the grocery was all smooshed into a log of meat in the butcher paper, so tossing it from hand to hand didn’t do a whole lot. I did make concerted efforts to gently flatten using only my fingertips and I ignored the less egregious splits along the edges, though.

So then I got my skillet good and hot, and I set my timer this time. I am horrible at remembering to take things off the heat at the right time, and the difference between rare and medium rare is a matter of one minute per side. If you’re looking at a digital clock, you can be more than one minute off based simply on how many seconds through the minute you were when you started and when during the final minute you took the burgers off the heat. (In other words: 6:05 to 6:10 could mean anything from 6:05:01 to 6:10:55, which is 5 minutes and 54 seconds, to 6:05:55 to 6:10:01, which is 4 minutes and 6 seconds. That works out to nearly a four minute difference in total cooking time.)

Friends, I did really well. The burgers were a little lean, but still juicy and not at all overcooked. The meat had a nice flavor, too, pretty gamey, like something between regular ground beef and lamb.

I also used my favorite burger toppings, which is sort of where I shine. Some of my fellow burger bloggers are purists. I am not. When I make burgers at home, I have them with caramelized onions and goat cheese on sourdough bread. I know, you have your tomato and your lettuce and your ketchup, but you can pry my little ball of meat with onions and chevre stuffed between two hunks of bread out of my cold, dead hands.

So before I started the burgers, I thinly sliced and caramelized an onion (melt some butter or heat some oil in a not-non-stick skillet (a stick skillet?). Dump the onions in and cook on medium-to-low heat until they’ve turned deep yellow/brownish and are completely soft). I added some balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking to deglaze the pan.

Then, as the burgers were finishing cooking, I topped each with goat cheese.

Finally, I piled a heap of onions on top and sandwiched between two pieces of regular sourdough bread (do not use regular sandwich bread, which will dissolve in the face of burger juice).

It wasn’t spectacular, but it was really, solidly good. And I’m counting that as a success.

* Probably less shameful than the banana.

** Fun story: my sister-in-law’s family runs an organic beef operation, and they tried fattening their cows once by bringing them to eat organic cookie leftovers and scraps before they went to the butcher, because otherwise the cows are too lean.

Filed under burgers Portland Maine I hope you're not reading this blog for the photos shame