Saturday, September 17, 2011

Corner Story

As you know, I love Bon Appetit. It's my favorite food magazine, even with jerkface Andrew Knowlton's snarky, pretentious, name-dropping articles. The recipes are so consistently good, I know I can always reach into my clippings file to find something that will turn into a hit. No cookbook on my shelf holds that much clout, aside from maybe Pure Flavor. But there's something about the breadth of the magazine that goes beyond what one cookbook can offer. And when I can really sit down and dig into an issue (which doesn't happen as much as I'd like with only 24 hours in a day and all), I inevitably come up with a new idea I'm dying to try.

This time, it was a little snippet in the corner of page 32 of The September Issue (little Anna Wintour reference there... you're welcome).  It's a feature they title 3 Chefs, One Ingredient. This month the secret ingredient was anchovies. I just bought my first jar of anchovy fillets a few weeks ago for a recipe, and I was surprised by how not grossed out I was. The fillets are so harmless, with a familiar texture and salty, innocent aroma. A far cry from the creepy headed creatures in shady-looking tin cans that I tend to associate with the ingredient. I can sneak them past Matt, the most fish-hatingest person I've ever known, in a dressing or dish and he doesn't say a word. And this is a guy who can sniff out a pinch of rosemary in a whole pot of tomato sauce. (He doesn't like rosemary, by the way. Add THAT to the list.) Chef Kelly English from a restaurant in Memphis's Deviled Eggs with Anchovies were a little much: entire fillets atop deviled eggs. I'm a purist when it comes to my deviled eggs. No bacon bits, no relish, no pimentos or olives or dukkah or whatever else is a hit at the Fancy Foods Show that season. I want them clean and simple, like my grandma makes at Easter. A tiny pinch of paprika is as wild as I'm willing to go there. The Anchovy and Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette was nice, but not exactly a dish. It was the vibrant green Crispy Potato Salad with Anchovy Chimichurri that caught my eye, down in the corner. Chef Tim Byres from Dallas said, "this salad is my gateway dish to anchovy addiction."

I had time to read and discover this recipe last weekend, while I was visiting my parents on their Oregon coast camping trip. They were stopping by for dinner on the way back up home, so I said I'd make it when they were here. Challenge accepted.

A fabulous side dish requires a good entree to headline the act. Also on a relaxing weekend, Matt caught a ton of salmon in the Columbia, so that was the ingredient of choice. First I pulled up a Bobby Flay recipe for grilled salmon. He wanted me to reduce vinegar, chop up a ton of tomatoes and garlic and tomatillos, set it aside, do some more crap with the sauce, use special smoking wood. I had the recipe printed in my car, ready to go in for ingredients when I decided "eff that." Delicious, fresh caught salmon doesn't need a Flay attack of sauces and spices. I popped onto the Epicurious app, holder of all Bon Appetitness, and picked the first simple salmon recipe I came across. Grilled Salmon with Lime Butter. Limes, butter, salt, pepper. Oh, okay, garlic too. Gotta have that. But with that combination, how can you go wrong?

The salmon, as promised, was super-easy. The butter sauce was made in the food processor by emulsifying melted butter with the other ingredients, reserving and drizzling over the completed fish. Planked and left to its own devices on the top rack of the grill, it slowly grew light and flaky, mildly infused with the smokiness of the charring wood. We had enough to feed an advancing army, or at least a ravenous wedding crowd, but we made a pretty good dent on our own. The butter sauce? Decadent without feeling heavy, the bright citrus perked everyone's tastebuds up, and played nice with the potato salad.

The potato salad! A very cheffy dish, I spent about ten times as long with that, but it still wasn't much of a headache. The chimichurri whirred up in the blender, disguising the rogue anchovies in blazing green. The combination of cilantro, parsley, lemon and garlic brought the whole kitchen to life. The potatoes were pan-fried, and while the recipe called for olive oil, I used half-and-half olive oil and vegetable oil. Olive oil has such a low smoke point, it's tough to get a good crispiness on something without burning the oil and funking up the food. I've done that so many times, and just played it off like nothing happened. It did happen. And we have to accept that. The recipe called for sticking a garlic clove and another anchovy fillet in the oil to flavor it for the potatoes, which was a fun little trick. The clove got charred and melty (and was snapped up right away by my dad), and the anchovy disintegrated to become one with the oil, lending its salty, briny afterlife to the pan. They took probably 15 minutes on medium-high heat before they became brown and crispy. They have to be watched and flipped fairly often; you don't want them to char too fast, and you definitely don't want burned potatoes. Raw potatoes, also bad. I've slowly learned not to turn my back on frying potatoes.

To plate, you get fancy by pooling some of the sauce on the bottom, then layering it artfully in between layers of crispy-perfect, thin potatoes. As I said, very cheffy. And if there's one thing I love, it's being all pretentious and cheffy.

Hmm, maybe I'm being a hypocrite with the Andrew Knowlton hate.

I could not get enough of these. I don't think of them as an anchovy dish, but it does have a depth to the saltiness that I figure the 6 fillets can be heartily thanked for. It goes beyond sea salt flakes into a dimension of slight brine savoriness that is caper-olive-anchovy-blue cheese exclusive territory. Combining that with potato, the most salt-loving vegetable there is? Yes, I think I have a new addiction as well.

Both recipes credited to Bon Appetit/Epicurious are below, since I'm dying for you to try them. We rounded out the meal with corn on the cob, and skipped dessert.

Crispy Potato Salad with Anchovy Chimichurri
3/4 cup fresh basil
3/4 cup celery leaves
3/4 cup cilantro
3/4 cup parsley
6 finely chopped anchovy fillets plus 1 additional
1 sliced celery stalk
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus 2 additional
Red pepper flakes
1 tomatillo
4 medium potatoes
1 garlic clove, plus 1 additional for pan
Additional olive oil and vegetable oil for frying

Mix basil, celery leaves, cilantro and parsley with anchovy fillets. Transfer 1/2 of mixture to a medium bowl, add 1 sliced celery stalk, olive oil and lemon juice; reserve for garnish. Puree remaining mixture in a food processor with tomatillo, 1 garlic clove, 2 tbsp lemon juice, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Season chimichurri with salt.

Cut 4 potatoes into 1/4" slices. Heat olive oil and vegetable oil in large skillet; add potatoes, 1 garlic clove and 1 anchovy fillet. Fry until crispy. Divide potatoes among 4 plates, spoon some chimichurri sauce over, top with garnish, and drizzle with more chimichurri.

Grilled Salmon with Lime Butter Sauce
6 (6-oz) pieces center-cut salmon fillet (about 1 inch thick) with skin
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lime zest
6 tablespoons lime butter sauce
(This is Bon Appetit's instruction. I used a whole salmon fillet and grilled it on a soaked cedar plank. Either way would yield the same succulent result).
Prepare grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).
Season salmon all over with salt and pepper, then grill, flesh sides down, on lightly oiled grill rack (covered only if using gas grill) 4 minutes. Turn fillets over and grill (covered only if using gas grill) until just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes more. Sprinkle fillets with zest and top each with 1 tablespoon lime butter sauce.

Lime Butter Sauce
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
Purée garlic with lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. With motor running, add melted butter and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds.

No comments:

Post a Comment