It’s been a while since Eats Meats West last posted a recipe. Cooking is hard. Just kidding. Really, it’s been tough to find a new angle. No one wants to read yet another article about roasted chicken? Wait, that wasn’t a question…don’t answer that! So here we are, preparing uncharacteristic yet still altogether familiar ingredients: salmon, cabbage, potatoes — a sort of bridge meal through this lingering muggy summer. Ostensibly, the goal was to prepare 1) new, 2) simple, and 3) healthy (/healthier) meals for J, who either defaults to pasta of his own divination or instead requests yet another meat and potatoes option from me. This meal has potatoes? Oh right. But they’re simple potatoes. So to put it simply: chopping will be coarse, there will be no marinades, and herbs will be kept to a minimum.
So let’s start with the prep work. Chop and saute a few slabs of bacon over low heat. The goal is to render and not burn, because as you’ll see we’re going to be using this pan a lot. While that’s cooking wash and cut your fingerling potatoes. I found these babies at the farmers market and opted to quarter them lengthwise to give the impression [but not wholly emulate] fries. Cover the potatoes in a generous amount of olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh rosemary. Simplicity’s the goal. Roast uncovered in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, check for doneness and increase the time by 15 minute intervals until you’re satisfied. I don’t like to give times, because ovens vary wildly. I use a small convection toaster oven, and it took about 45 minutes, after which I covered with foil and left on a warming setting until it was dinner time.
When the bacon’s done, remove, separate, and preserve the oil and cooked bits. Don’t scrape the pan or worry about leftover oil. More than likely whatever is left after you dump the oil will be sufficient for the next step, but as a general rule, as you progress through the following cooking steps just add a little bit of bacon oil (and likely, olive oil too) as necessary. If there are any black bits, sorry, but you have to clean the pan. You can still use the bacon solids and liquids, but you’ve lost some of the flavor. Bummer for you. Return the pan to medium heat and thrown in a coarsely chopped onion, garlic cloves, and salt. We’re looking for the onions to release their moisture, but we aren’t looking to brown anything especially the garlic (hence the rough chop on those).
Now add to the pan a chopped (again, coarsely) whole fresh cabbage, and occasionally stir. I went with white because I’m heading towards a white sauce, but red would be fine too. Just like other greens, eventually the cabbage is going to cook down from a comically oversized “did I put too much in the pan!?” to a rather delightful (if pungent!) mass of braised goodness. We don’t really need to add a ton of liquid, as the cabbage and onions provide plenty, but our end goal will be a somewhat soggy bunch of cabbage. This is less gross than it sounds. Transfer the cabbage to another pot, cover, and reduce the heat to almost off. You could throw in some of the bacon at this point if you want them to be less crunchy, or you can add the bacon solids at the end (along with a little vinegar) to keep the texture. Either way bacon is going into the final product. Preserve about a tablespoon or two, though.
Next pull out your glorious salmon filet and marvel in its amazing pinkness. Beautiful. Salt and pepper generously, then sprinkle [and rub in] plain white flour. Again, we’re not really adding much flavor to the salmon; we’re simply augmenting its texture and highlighting its own natural flavors. It’s at this point that you look back and realize, “well fuck a duck, I didn’t really have to do any crazy miso-cabernet-truffle-sage marinade!” Yes, such things are possible at Eats Meats West. You’re welcome. Anyway, salmon! Bring the original pan up to medium to medium-high heat, which should be enough to just barely smoke olive oil, which it should be doing since there is olive oil present. Did I not mention that? [Add olive oil.] Always saute fish skin-side last, the reason being you want to give the side you’ll be presenting/eating first, and if you do that it’ll have the lovely golden appearance you won’t be getting on the skin (which is fine). Technically you can eat the skin, which I do sometimes. It’ll probably take the filet 2-4 minutes on each side, depending on your temperature and the pan. Thankfully, it’s a fish that’s pretty hard to overcook, but unfortunately there isn’t so much color change to judge. You’re just going to have to test it in the middle if you’re worried about doneness. I am not, so I went with my instincts. As with any other big slab of meat, tent with foil and allow to rest before serving.
Finally, the sauce. You knew there’d be a sauce, right? Oh what magic you’ll have in that pan at this point! Think about it: bacon grease, onion/garlic/cabbage juices, and now some cooked flour and salmon run-off. Sure, most of that stuff is now an indiscernible brown mass, but still! OK, so throw in about a half stick of butter to the pan. When that’s melted add finely chopped parsley and garlic as well as whatever bacon bits you have left. Let this saute for, oh, a minute or two and then add in white wine (no more than the amount of liquid butter already present), salt, and pepper to taste. Let this cook down for another minute or so and then reduce the heat until you’re ready to serve. There isn’t much reduction in this sauce; it’ll be loose. At this point you could do a few other things to the sauce if you really wanted to, such as add cream or maybe mustard, but personally I like that it is…wait for it…simple. That was the goal right?