If Yan Could Cook. . .

Salmon-Potato Patties with Chipotle; Spinach-Tomato-Shallot Rice

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Nothing makes you feel more inadequate than grad school applications. Stretching your accomplishments, giving them false titles, jamming them into inappropriate categories, rooting through everything you have ever done and finding it pitifully brief. Endless pages of blank text fields. I’m applying in creative writing, so there is the added esteem-crushing task of selecting a portfolio. Reading my life’s work, all I want to do is throw up my hands and yell, “It’s all terrible!”

As an act of sanity retention, I spent a day cooking and going to kitchen surplus stores. One of them had a graveyard of used industrial appliances, arranged haphazardly as in an attic or garage. Excitedly dragging the person I was with behind me, I marveled over the surreal sight of salamanders and table fridges and deep-fryers and broilers and deli cases and monolithic silver microwaves and plate warmers and flat tops and grills all crammed together in one place. “I think I’ve had a nightmare like this,” I said.

The $10 nonstick pan I bought in first year, and the one I kept as a damages settlement after an ex-boyfriend moved out, were both starting to fall to pieces. Their paper-thin bottoms were as warped as though I used them to beat rocks, with coating flaking off the peaks.

I went home yesterday with the Calphalon Contemporary 10″ + 12″ set, as well as an anonymous stainless steel with a thick, intruder-knocking-out base. In celebration (and justification) I made dinner for my old roommates in the apartment where they still live, traveling across town with a pan and several Tupperware containers on my back.


This was the first meal I can really say I made up – where I went entirely on intuition with no sense of how it would turn out. The truth is that it was a little bit busy; it had that excessively-trendy restaurant feel to it, where they have crammed too many flavours into one dish. Reasonably concordant flavours, but too many. At the same time – it might have been the tastiest, most complex and exotic thing I’ve ever made.

At home, singing merrily with that new-consumer glow, I chopped up two bunches of green onions, two large vine tomatoes, and shallots (very fine), pureed some chipotle peppers in oil, and peeled and boiled three large white-flesh potatoes. At their place, I mixed the mashed potatoes with a can of boneless, skinless red sockeye, as well as the green onions and one egg. These were rolled into balls and flattened, then briefly baked (5-10 minutes, 350 degrees) in the oven, until the tops changed colour just slightly.

The shallots were cooked in butter, adding red wine (this smelled ridiculously good), spinach, and tomatoes in turn. The plates were layered as follows: white rice, shallot-spinach-tomato mix, two salmon-potato patties, a dollop of chipotle, and then crushed pecans and dried cranberries. I really don’t know what should have been omitted. The pecans and cranberries are the obvious choice, but I liked their surprising, occasional notes.

My hosts supplied brownies and apple pie. Afterward, I stopped in at another friend’s birthday, and I’m pretty sure it’s the only time in my life I have refused cake. Oof.


Written by skimfu

October 19, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Fish

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