Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dinner: Making it All Happen

Confession:  A lot of what I know about cooking came from watching chefs cook on TV.  There was a time when I didn't actually have cable, but for some reason I was able to get the Food Network and a couple other channels, so during that time I watched many, many hours of Food Network.  During that time, I really started to develop my love for cooking.  I loved watching people in the kitchen especially Alton, Giada, and Ina. I have watched hundreds of hours of competitive cooking shows like Iron Chef, Chopped, and the verbal abuse pageant that is Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen.  I know... it's SO bad, it's good.

These shows don't just teach recipes and sell celebrity chef products, they taught me how to put together a meal, time-wise.  Watching it happen over and over coupled with experience, I can now say that I have a pretty good handle on how to time things out when cooking.  Recipes don't always tell you that.  Especially when you are cobbling together a meal from various magazines and websites.  How many times did you finish one dish while there was still something with 20 minutes left to bake in the oven.  Oops. 

Here's how I put together tonight's dinner:

salmon with roasted brussels sprouts and an added bonus: mashed potatoes! (when cravings attack!)

This morning, I transferred a package of frozen salmon from the freezer to the fridge to thaw. 
Tonight, after work, I started by pre-heating the oven to 425 and putting a pot of water on the stove for the potatoes. 
Then came prep work:  washing and chopping the sprouts, as Ryan washed, peeled, and chopped the potatoes. I made a little sauce for the salmon.  (whisk together: 1 T lemon juice + 2 T olive oil + salt and pepper). Found the pans I needed to cook everything on and found a jar of capers (for the salmon) in the fridge.

By this time, the oven was beeping to let me know that it was at the desired temperature.  I know that the sprouts take a while longer (20 minutes give or take) than the salmon (10-15 minutes) so after I sprinkled them with olive oil, salt, and pepper I popped them in the oven.  Then, when the water was boiling I put the potatoes in. 

Now that the items that take the longest to prepare were on their way, I turned my attention to the salmon.  I was surprised to find that they were still partially frozen.  Oops! Even the best laid plans can go wrong.  So I knew I needed to get the salmon in the oven ASAP.  I Quickly brushed them with the olive oil and lemon sauce, sprinkled on a few capers, and last but not least,  inserted the automatic thermometer/alarm set to 145 for fish.  Done.  Then I quickly check and stir the brussels sprouts and check the potatoes.  While everything is in the oven, I exited the kitchen and Ryan got the potatoes ready to be mashed at the very last minute. 

I roast brussels sprouts very often*, so by now I have some kind of intuition as to when they'll be finished.  The leaves that have fallen away from the sprouts are black and crispy, the tiny, mini-cabbages are slightly browned and wrinkled. 
*exhibit A
*exhibit B

*exhibit C
 In spite of my plans, the sprouts were done at what I feared would be way before the salmon was done.  Not wanting them to burn, I took the brussels sprouts out of the oven and commenced eating them off the pan with my fingers.  Appetizers!

Even though it looked like the fish had a long way to go...

126 is the actual temp, 145 is the target temp. This amazing device which has a cord that goes inside the oven attached to a thermometor that goes into the food, beeps when food reaches the target temp.

 luckily, it was only about five more minutes before the the thermometer/alarm started beeping.  Ryan pulled the fish out of the oven and quickly mashed the potatoes.  Whew!  So things worked out pretty close to my plan.  Dinner was on the table. 

Though Gordon Ramsay would probably smash the fish, yelling  into my face, "It's RAW!", I thought it was pretty tasty...  and all done pretty close to the same time, so no eating in shifts. 

Practice makes this work.  The more you cook, they more you'll develop your kitchen intuition.

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