Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Salmon "Chops" with Celery and Black Truffles

Phone: Beep-boop-boop... Boop-boop-boop-beep. Ring.... ring....

Friend: Hello?

Me: Hi. I'm doing a tasting in about an hour, wanna come over?

Friend: Sure! We'd love to! Oh, I can't wait! Perfect timing! How cool! What are we having? Oh, I don't care -- I'll eat ANYTHING you make!

Me: Salmon with black truffles and celschmwubwa.

Friend: Salmon with what?

Me: Black truffles and celerblummble.

Friend: Black truffles and WHAT?!

Me: Celery. Salmon with black truffles and celery.

Friend. Celery, huh. What time did you say it would be ready?

Me: Oh, in about an hour or so.

Friend: Yeah, about that. See, we have to, um, be somewhere or something in an hour, so, yeah, I don't think we can...

Me: You suck.

Celery sucks more.

Nothing says lovin' from the kitchen like CELERY, right? Wouldn't you jump at a dinner invitation that included the word CELERY? I mean, c'mon, mmmmmm-mmmmmmm, who doesn't love CELERY? Oh yeah, me. And probably most of you. I've made a French Laundry dish with celery before, and it wasn't bad -- actually, it was one of my favorite dishes thus far, but really. One dish with celery was enough. Must I suffer through another one? Apparently so. I swear, the lengths I'll go to please you rascally rabbits.

Let's see, where to begin. Oh yes, with the CELERY. FFFfffggglllllleeaauurrgghhh....

I washed and peeled them, and then tried really, really hard to understand the instructions in the book. Apparently, I was supposed to peel them and at the same time cut off the rounded parts, slice it lengthwise on a mandoline, cut the slices into a fine julienne about one inch long, then do two salchows and a triple lutz while wearing a blindfold (ten points if you get that reference). Celery on a mandoline didn't sound like something I wanted to risk this particular afternoon, so I threw all caution to the wind and said, "HA! You cannot outsmart ME, Thomas Keller, with your wily celery slicing methods! I will cut them into matchstick-like shapes by HAND instead of risking femoral artery damage while using my mandoline! And YES I know the femoral artery is not on the hand! I am just using that reference because it is funny and I heard it on ER once! Ha-HA!"

Okay, so they aren't perfect, but it's celery fer cryin' out loud. I kind of felt like being mean to it. Maybe I'll be mature NEXT year. Soooooooo, I blanched the celery in salty boiling water, cooled it in an ice bath, then dried it in paper towels and stored it at room temperature until I was ready for plating:

Next thing to prep was this lovely, lovely salmon:

Even though I think salmon is a lazy cop-out item to order in a restaurant, I don't mind making it at home... especially when it's a piece of fish that is this fresh and perfect. The salmon "chops" The French Laundry Cookbook refers to in the title of this dish are actually little pieces of the salmon near the head. Thankfully, the book recommends using a salmon fillet, which I did. I cut the salmon into 6 pieces that were roughly 2x2x1":

I salt and peppered them, and put them in a sauté pan skin side down for about 2 minutes. I flipped them to cook on the flesh side for about a minute, then gently "kissed" the other sides of the salmon to the bottom of the pan to ensure the outside was cooked all around:

The last thing I needed to do was make the sauce. I brought a tiny amount of water to a boil, whisked in a few tablespoons of butter, then whisked in a little bit of truffle oil. I removed it from the heat and whisked in some heavy cream until it was slightly frothy:

It's kind of hard to see the frothy goodness in that photo, but trust me, it was there... and man, did it smell great, too.

Just before plating, I got my black truffle ready for slicing. Remember the truffle? Of course you do:

First on the plate went the sauce:

Then, a little bed of celery:

Don't you love how I just threw it in there and didn't artfully arrange it in any way? Stupid celery doesn't deserve to be artfully arranged, no sir, no how.

Next, a slice of truffle:

Then, a brioche crouton (toasted brioche with a little olive oil and salt):

And last, but not least the salmon:

The skin was nice and crispy, and truth be told, this dish was really delicious. Rave reviews from everyone at the table -- even about the celery. The kids fought over the brioche and wanted more, and nearly everyone liked the salmon. Was this dish easy? You bet. One of the easiest in the book, I think. Would I make it again? Perhaps. I wouldn't buy truffles JUST to make this dish, but if I needed a new way to make salmon at home and had the sauce ingredients at hand (as well as a few parsnips to mash), I'd do this again. It was clean and light, but still substantive. Would I do this dish with celery again? Probably not. Celery root, perhaps. C'mon.... join the celery hate. You know you want to.

Up Next: A Very Special French Laundry at Home; stay tuned.

Salmon from BlackSalt
Celery and chervil from Whole Foods
365 canola oil
Saveurs white truffle oil
Organic Valley cream
Black truffle from D'Artagnan
Brioche from the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op

Music to Cook By: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals; This is Somewhere. My cousin and her husband (Hi, Heather and Rob!) hipped me to Grace Potter well over a year ago. I hadn't listened to her stuff in awhile, so when it came up in shuffle mode on my iPod, I switched over to listen to her exclusively while I made this dish. I love this music -- it's perfect for a midweek January evening, curled up on the sofa under a blanket with a full belly, the lights low, a full glass of wine sitting in front of me, the dishwasher running in the distant background, and the dog laying here next to me snoring away.

Read my previous post: Tasting of Potatoes with Black Truffle


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this post as I too have a strong dislike for... alright lets just come out and say it... hatred.... for celery! I think the rest of this dish sounds yummy however and I might be motivated to try a little celery again in the future :-)

Unknown said...

south park! my points, please?! love your blog!!

Anna Banana said...

I don't like celery either. I'd use chard stems, much better flavor, but I bet you'd have to blanch them longer.

Anonymous said...

Again with the wet straw? Yick doesn't begin to cover it. THe salmon looked YUM! As always.

I always swore I wouldn't move again for awhile, but I may break my promise and look for some real estate in MD, because I am clearly jealous of your neighbors.

pdxblogmommy said...

Just think! A nice salmon dinner and the floss is included! MM-mmmm.

Slap that sauce and the slice of truffle on the brioche and have a nice warm open faced sandwich sans the celery dental floss.

Can you send me one for tomorrow? Thankyouverymuch.

EJ Takes Life said...

Brian Boitano cooked everything in the French Laundry cookbook and then pantsed Thomas Keller

Anonymous said...

I hate, hate, hate salmon and deeply resent your vicious defamation of the green, glorious, crunchy celery. What on earth did celery ever do to you?

That being said, if I were your neighbor (for instance, if I lived in a pup tent in your backyard), I would have come over for a tasting if only to have been there in your moment of need, thereby assuring myself of future invitations. Plus, I could probably slip the nasty salmon to your dog.

Anonymous said...

Ya buncha weinies! String the damn celery before cutting it. If you can't do that, you don't deserve knife privileges.

Judith in Umbria

Unknown said...

Celery..don't be a hater. It just seems to be a useless vegetable that sits in the fridge for weeks.

I got the ice dancing reference but then I flashed to my fav blogger getting all dressed up in black leather and dancing to the extended version of Prodigy's ""Smack My Bitch Up" at the next Olympics!!

I need to get out more!!!!

Shannon said...

I do hate celery. It's all stringy and just diet-y and ew.

Xani said...

"Stupid celery doesn't deserve to be artfully arranged, no sir, no how" I concur! Otherwise the dish sounds really yummy...

Cara said...

mmm, celery! its so crunchy and raw and green goodness. i have fond memories of kindergarten when my mom, instead of the fattening doritos and cookies other kids had for snacktime (which, i admit, to being a little bit jealous of as a 4 year old), made me celery with cream cheese. no ants on a log for me! i do have to say, not a big fan of cooked celery. tho quickly blanched might be ok.

Mary Coleman said...

My goodness, such hatred for a wonderful vegetable. I proudly LOVE celery. Not the outside stalks but the tender ones close to the center stalks...those are divine. Plus it's a great way to eat dips, cream cheese and olives and toasted pecans. Give it a chance!
Thought this looked absolutely divine, Carol, and especially love the Brian Botano aside. I had to clean my monitor after that!

Anonymous said...

You're keeping Up Next a secret?! Dang. You'd better post the next one soon, girl! I can't wait.

As for celery...hey, it brought beautiful color and crunch to the party. Please don't hate it. I love the pre- and post-blanch photos, by the way. What a pop of color after the blanch.

Victoria said...

I don't HATE celery. I use it in shrimp creole and in Marcella's Bolognese sauce. But I don't exactly EAT celery, if you know what I mean. I basically find it to be innocuous, not imposing. In any case, this recipe does look glorious.

Anonymous said...

Why do I feel so bad for a vegetable right now?

viewer zero said...

I seem to recall a dish from mastering the art of french cooking that had braised celery in a cream sauce. That was pretty good. All soft and none of the super green celery flavor.

Anonymous said...

Celery lost its allure when I stopped slopping peanut butter on it as a kid. Though as I "mature" I've come back to it like a lot of other foods with a stronger appreciation -- it is better than iceberg lettuce as a food, right?

I hope a "Very Special" edition is not like a "very special" edition of Facts of Life where some tragic life lesson must be learned - unless it involves the long-awaited butchering. Then I'm all for it.

kellypea said...

Great post. I still haven't made anything from this book, but I'm raring to go. And we are lovers of celery. It appears the only on this planet. :/

Karen said...

Celery!?!?!? HAAAAAAAAATE! And I couldn't care less about the stringiness: it's the revolting flavor that gets me. Pollutes everything it touches.

Anonymous said...

so, when i was growing up in oviedo, fla., it represented itself as the "celery capital of the world." and there certainly were fields of the stuff all over the place, and my friend's dad did some work at the "pre-cooler," which, apparently, is a big building where they store celery before the train takes it away to the parts of the world that AREN'T a celery capital. so before typing this comment, i did a quick google on "celery capital" and got several hits, none of them oviedo. clearly, they are all wrong. paramus? arvada? kalamazoo? pretenders all.

i remember being devastated when i learned that celery wasn't actually negatively caloric. i had based my entire weight-loss program around that belief. sigh.

that said, if you don't like celery, what on earth do you dip in your leftover bleu cheese after the wings are gone?

Anonymous said...

Poor celery... let it be!
Great, GREAT blog... I'm a long time lurker.
I always wonder how many recipes are left? I admire your patience to try recipes from Keller, congrats!


Helen said...

All you celery haters... It's cause celery can't cry. If it could get all teary, it'd be winning vegetable primaries left and right... what? Oh right. Ahem. Celery.

I'm all for it, actually. I bet it was just right with the truffle.

Nice lookin' piece of fish, btw. Yay Blacksalt! They'll never let you down.

Steph said...

I love celery! I will stand tall and be the lightning rod of dissent!

I love your site, too...I think this is my first time commenting, but I have read through your archives.
You are an inspiration, and a damn funny one to boot!

Celery will grow on you. I have faith.

Anonymous said...

i really dislike celery too -- i think it's the only vegetable i don't love! but to me, celery root isn't any better -- the rest of this dish looks wonderful though! the salmon looks so beautiful, even raw!

ljlkc said...

Wow. I've spent about...40 collective hours on the phone and/or driving up to Yountville to get reservations (and succeeded 3 times!), but the idea of attempting to cook anything out of that book scares the bejeezus out of me. I doff my toque to you.

Olga said...

Your salmon looked absolutely gorgeous! Was it cooked all the way through? I'm not a huge fan of celery and can't even remember the last time I bought it. But sometimes it adds a great flavor to mashed potatoes (I boil it with the potatoes, but then remove it before mashing)

Anonymous said...

Somewhere Brian Boitano is crying like a little girl because you're such a hater.

sarahsouth said...

exquisite! and i'm a celery lover, so it's perfect.

Anonymous said...

Will you stop it with the celery hate? I suppose you eat your tuna, chicken or even salmon salad with not crunch at all. You think celeriac is related to peaches, and yu'd rather hunt up and mince a water chestnut than be seen with the dreaded c-word.

Well, nertz. Celery is a noble veg. The palest inner stems are the best for snacking and the greenest the best for cooking. And if you want you can strip away the strings from the tough outer stalks and then the rest is much tastier.

It's als cheap-cheap-cheap, makes a great soup ingredient and keeps forever in your fridge.

You ought to give celery another chance!

Hillary said...

I dunno, I liked last week's celery that had been doused repeatedly in chicken fat and butter as it roasted with carrots and onion under a chicken (but maybe a pencil eraser would have tasted good that way).

Ditto about liking the "crunch" in tuna.

Also, I'll defend restaurant salmon as being a "gateway fish" for picky eaters... :)

Anonymous said...

I had no idea so many people hated celery. And here I thought I was one of a few. Thank you for outing all of the celery haters. No longer will I feel guilty for picking the celery out of things, as I am not alone. My mother won't guilt me (anymore) into eating celery. I will point her directly to this blog post in my defense. You have liberated me! :)

KELLY said...

Congrats on your award! This is such a good idea!

Anonymous said...

celery should die. gross.

Caitlyn said...

Carole so I've had a really crappy weekend and would really love it if you would post something new. Ok, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Words cannot express how much I love this blog. I started reading around July, so I'm going back to the older posts. Like a previous poster said, I'm too pussy to try these myself so this is vicarious culinary paradise. You are hysterical, and I love the pics (especially the one of the dog begging you for cheese).

RUN IT, bitch!!!!! *z-formation snap*


Anonymous said...

The main problems with celery, I think, are (1) it has a subtle flavor that can quickly get bitter and not play well with other foods (sort of like endive), and (2) it has all those strings. Usually you just dice the hell out of it and cook it in mirepoix, of course, but if it's a main ingredient you have these problems. To solve #1, you use a very good recipe, like Keller's. To solve #2, you need to do the cutting thing he talks about but doesn't explain as clearly as he might. So I'll try.

Hold the celery stalk curved-side up in your off-hand, with the base part away from you. Take a paring knife in your good hand, blade up. Now cut most of the way through the last 1/4 inch or so of the celery stalk by putting your thumb on top and squeezing, sort of like cutting a banana onto your cereal. Don't cut all the way through: once you have just a little bit left, pull the knife and the celery cut-off bit toward you over the top, removing a whole bunch of strings. Now do it again, but a little to one side, and again on the other side, and so on. In the end, you should have a stalk that is pretty much square on the end (instead of flared, the way it comes) and has very few tough strings. If you do this with about 10 stalks of celery in a row, using a very sharp paring knife, you will see that it is very fast and clean. Oh -- and throw all the trimmings into a tupperware and freeze them, along with onion and most everything else trimmings, for the next time you make stock.

Incidentally, if you really hate celery, you could try fennel stalks instead, as they have a similar texture and an interesting flavor of their own. But then, lots of people hate fennel too. Sigh.

Carol Blymire said...

Ooooo, I love me some fennel. That's a great suggestion. Thanks Chris.

And congrats to everyone who got the Brian Boitano/South Park reference.

Still hating celery, though, no matter what some of you say. So THERE. :P