No, I don’t mean that blissfully strange 80s band, nor do I mean a fix for what ails ya.
Unless what’s ailing ya is a hunger for something really salty and yummy.
In garde manger class this week, we studied curing, pickling, smoking and that sort of thing. In the days before chest freezers, these methods were used to preserve meats and other foods so they wouldn’t spoil and kill you. These days, they’re just paths to increased yumminess.
In the lab, we divided into groups, working on different projects. Ours made the assigned recipe for cured salmon with (get this) beet and horseradish. Don’t get me wrong; I love beets, and I can tolerate horseradish most of the time. But this was some powerful stuff. My mascara did not survive the grating process.
We placed the finished rub on the side of salmon (carefully checked for pinbones, of course), and I realized I should have taken an earlier process photo so you could see the lovely flesh. My fellow student just scraped off a bit, and the flesh was already stained a beautiful shade of red. Although I don’t think I’ll care for the pungency of this dish, the color and flavor of the beets will likely prove repeating at home.
Norwegian Beet & Horseradish Cure
From Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen, published by the Culinary Institute of America
- 1 salmon filet, skin on (3 lbs)
- 12 oz. finely chopped or grated raw beets
- 1 lb. grated fresh horseradish
- 6 oz. sugar
- 6 oz. kosher salt (don’t use table salt!)
- 1/2 oz. cracked black pepper
Remove pin bones and score the skin of the fish. Center the fish skin-side down on a large piece of cheesecloth or plastic wrap, inside a perforated pan atop a hotel pan. (Ghetto-fab home cook workaround: Get two cheap plastic storage containers and poke a zillion holes in one. Put the holey one inside the other one, and construct your fish inside the top one.)
Mix the cure ingredients and pack evenly over the salmon. Use less at the thinner end of the fish, toward the tail, to avoid overdrying. Wrap loosely with the cheesecloth or plastic wrap.
Refrigerate 3 days to cure. After third day, gently scrape off the cure. Slice and serve immediately, or wrap and refrigerate up to one week.
After wrapping and putting our fish away to cure for a few days, the chef told us to create our own cure or brine for whatever meat may be in the school’s walk-in refrigerator. I was hoping for some pork, but there were only whole chickens.
Always wanting to do something different, I came up with this: kosher salt, turbinado sugar, dry mustard, fenugreek, a bit of dry garlic, and finely ground black pepper. I spatchcocked the chicken (a fancy word for just cutting down the backbone and spreading the bird out flat) and coated both sides with the dry rub, then wrapped it with plastic wrap.
Not familiar with fenugreek? I wasn’t either, until I was a nursing mother some years ago. I took it as a supplement to (sorry dudes) boost milk supply. I was told you had the dose right when your skin is oddly perfumed with the smell of maple syrup. In fact, fenugreek is often used in synthetic maple syrup production because the smell is so similar. It’s a lovely sweet/savory spice frequently used in Indian cuisine.
My chicken will sit in a perforated pan for a day or two until the chef or a student she assigns will come wash off the rub and cook it. (If it sits in all that salt for a whole week, until our class meets again, it will be completely dried out and “cadaverous,” as she put it.) I hope I’ll get to try it and see how my blend worked out.
Another group worked on duck confit, something I’d like to try for myself soon. The duck pieces are slowly cooked while submerged in duck fat (I mean, really!). The whole thing gets cooled, and as long as the pieces stay submerged in the solidified fat, they can stay in the fridge for several months. Confit is seriously delicious, so I’ll have to tackle that one another time on my own.
This was one of those fun days in culinary school where we get to play and develop something on our own. Even the assigned recipe, despite the horseradish, was cool, because I feel confident I can now cure salmon at home.
Maybe I can carry some of this renewed confidence to Food IV restaurant service this Thursday night. I’m starting to feel like a whipped puppy in there. Not the chef’s fault…he’s just bringing out all the things I need to work on. **whispering to self: this is why we go to school. this is why we go to school.** :/