The Secret Ingredient (Coconut) Part I: Double Coconut Rice Pudding

RECIPE: Double Coconut Rice Pudding
Coconut Rice Pudding

Coconut Rice Pudding

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Down in Florida, we think coconuts are dangerous.  Flying through those gusty summer hurricane winds, they’re like cannonballs or exploded fuselage, flying through the air with the greatest of speeds.  You don’t want to be in a coconut’s way, oh no.  Or standing underneath one when it gets ripe enough to plummet down from its palm and clock you on the head.  That’s for sure.

Yes, coconuts are dangerous.  They are also dangerously delicious.  And what better to do with a menace to society than to eat it—take it off the streets for good!  This month I had no idea what secret ingredient to do.  I thought I had no secrets left.  That I had spilled them all.  But then it hit me, like a coconut on the head, and I want to do two months of it.  We’ll see.  It’s one of those few ingredients that really is sweet and savory, and that can taste so all-American, and also so ends-of-the-earth exotic.

Coconut comes in many forms.  This rice pudding uses coconut milk, and dried coconut, plus a few extras like rice and sugar and cream to make this creamy coconut concoction inspired by Thai coconut rice and coconut ice cream.  It’s luscious, not too sweet, decadent, exotic, and comforting.  How’s that for a dessert!

Double Coconut Rice Pudding
serves 6

Coconut Rice PuddingINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup Valencia rice
  • 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened dried flaked coconut, plus 6 tablespoons
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

PROCEDURE

Put the rice and 3 cups of water in a medium saucepot.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer the rice until tender, about 18 minutes.  Drain in a fine mesh colander.

Put the rice back in the pot with the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and dried coconut.  Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds.  Add the seeds and the pod to the rice.  Cook on the lowest heat, uncovered, until thick: 40 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and stir in the cream.  Remove the vanilla pod, and discard.

Spoon the pudding into 6 serving dish, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Place a wide sauté pan over medium heat, and add the remaining 6 tablespoons dried coconut.  Toast the coconut, stirring often, until just golden, but not brown—less than 90 seconds.  Take out of the pan immediately so it doesn’t burn, and sprinkle over the cups of rice pudding.

 

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Categories: Desserts, Easy, Eat, Fruit, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian
 

Working Girl Dinners: Pesto-Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Super-Garlicky Spinach

RECIPE: Pesto-Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Super-Garlicky Spinach
Pesto Roasted Fish

Pesto Roasted Fish

This week my newly engaged best friend Jamie, medical student and very-beginner-chef extraordinaire, joins me in a make-up free, unscripted session in the Working Girl’s kitchen.  Just to prove to you that you don’t even need to know how to shut off the oven to make the perfect dinner (check out the last minute of the video and you’ll see what I mean).  Just make sure you find someone to shut it off after you’ve eaten.

I love this idea: spoon store-bought (read: good) fresh pesto sauce onto fish before you roast it.  The garlic and basil and nuts have all the flavor already mixed in, and the olive oil roasts the fish so it gets crispy around the edges, and stays so moist.  Plus, the olive oil already tastes like garlic and basil.  It’s no-brainer simple.  To go with it, I show Jamie how to do the world’s easiest vegetable: sautéed spinach with garlic.  When the camera was off, she turned to me in astonishment and said, “That’s so easy.  I could really do it!”  Yes!

Pesto-Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Super-Garlicky Spinach
serves 2

Pesto Roasted FishINGREDIENTS

  • 2 6-ounce pieces of Chilean sea bass (ask for center cut, skin removed)
  • ¼ cup store-bought fresh pesto sauce (in the refrigerated section of the supermarket)
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces baby spinach, preferably organic
  • Salt & Pepper

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 475°F.  Take the fish out of the fridge 15 minutes before you want to use it.  When the oven is hot, place the pieces of fish slightly apart on a small parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper, and rub all over with the pesto sauce.  Bake until the fish is opaque and flaky, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the spinach.  In a wide skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, and cook about 30 seconds.  You don’t want it to brown.  Add the spinach; it will look like too much for the pan, but it will wilt down.  Season with salt and pepper, and stir with tongs until the spinach has just wilted, about 2 minutes.

Make a bed of the garlicky spinach on a serving dish, and use a spatula to place the fish on top.  Sometimes, I pour a little of the basil oil that bakes off the fish to the spinach.  Yum.

 

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Watch, Working Girl Dinners
 

An Almost Free Lunch: The Costco Hot Dog

Costco Hot Dog

Costco Hot Dog

There’s nothing like Costco on a Saturday.  The free samples could keep you going like a wind-up robot until at least dinnertime.  But I don’t stop there.

My friend’s father recently asked me if I’d ever had a Costco hot dog–not one I bought there to make at home, but a concession stand hot dog.  I told him I always see grandparents eating lunch there, but it had never occurred to me to actually stop and sit and eat in Costco.  Who does that?

I do.  I went to the concession stand, and it turns out that for $1.50 you get a more-than-quarter pound hotdog on a potato bun with a 20 ounces refillable soda.  Legend has it that the price has been the same from sometime between 1965 and 1985.  I tell my mom I’m taking her out, and I only have to put down less than $3.50 with tax.  Not too shabby.  The roll is steamed and warm, the hot dog is juicy but snappy and thick.  It’s seriously all the things a hot dog should be.  And you can refill your soda for that price!  The dogs come with sauerkraut (don’t ask for extra; it’s rationed!) or onions, but I don’t like to adulterate perfection.  Some deli mustard, and that big cup of seltzer.  Who knew thrifty could be so delicious?

Available at Costco stores nationwide

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French in a Flash: Olivey French Lentil and Barley Salad

RECIPE: Olivey French Lentil and Barley Salad
Lentil and Barley Salad

Lentil and Barley Salad

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This is the kind of food that makes me what to shout, “Look, Ma, I’m eating healthy!”

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, which I love, and it’s great, but it’s also inevitably gluttonous.  My days in Paris are not usually filled with thoughts of vitamins and minerals.  Maybe that’s why French food has such a reputation for being fatting–even though French women don’t get fat.  It’s because when we Americans get there, we can’t keep our hands off the croissants and macarons and gratins!  Not that I think we should.  Far from it.

But French food’s unhealthy reputation stateside is a huge misnomer.  The French people I know are some of the healthiest eaters.  They respect portion control, and listen to their hunger.  They eat balanced meals.  And they eat seasonably, with a ton of fresh vegetables and fruits and grains.  And lentils, the French legume, makes a frequent appearance.

This week, I wanted to show that being back from France didn’t mean I had to miss out on French food, or on recalibrating to a healthy equilibrium.  This salad is made from French Puy lentils and barley, dressed with fresh thyme, lemon, and tapenade, and tossed with parsley and scallions.  It can be served warm, or at room temperature.  And it goes perfectly with roast salmon, my virtuous food.  I try to always keep in mind, and in mouth, that virtuous can also be delicious.

Olivey French Lentil and Barley Salad
serves 6

Lentil and Barley SaladINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed and dry
  • 1 cup du Puy lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf, in half
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon tapenade
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped

PROCEDURE

Put the barley in a medium saucepot over medium-high heat, and toast, stirring often, until the barley smells toasty and little golden spots appear on the grains.  Add 2 cups vegetable broth, and 2 cups water, 1 garlic clove, half the bay leaf, and salt.  Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Then, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the barley is tender, about 40 minutes.  Drain excess liquid, and discard bay leaf and garlic.

Put the lentils in a separate saucepot with a lid, and cover with 2 cups vegetable broth, 1 garlic clove, half the bay leaf, and salt.  Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Then, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender, but have not lost their shape, about 30 minutes.  Drain excess liquid, and discard bay leaf and garlic.

While the barley and lentils are cooking, whisk together the tapenade, lemon juice, half the lemon zest, olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper, to form a vinaigrette.

Toss the barley and lentils gently with a silicone spatula in a large bowl with the vinaigrette, parsley, scallions, and remaining lemon zest.  Serve warm, or at room temperature (it's best at room temperature), especially next to a big piece of roasted salmon.

 

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Salad, Series, Sides, Soup & Salad, Starches, Vegetarian
 

GIVEAWAY! Lunch in Paris

 

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

I was just in Paris a few weeks ago, and Mr. English had to miss our train and stay back in London until dinnertime.  Hate to admit it, but I wasn’t totally disappointed!  Sorry, love.  I got to do two of my favorite things entirely undisturbed: go shopping at Petit Bateau, and have lunch in Paris.

There are only some cities where you can feel completely comfortable eating by yourself.  And Paris is the best place of all the places.  The chairs at all the cafés face out into the street.  Even if you are eating with someone, there’s no way they’re as interesting as the mismatched couple sauntering by, he with a dirty grin, she with an Hermes bag.  Or the old friends that embrace just the second longer than is natural, and you think to yourself how you will be just like that with your best friend when you’re eighty.  Or the other American darting across the street that you could have spotted a mile away.  It’s as filling as the meal.  And the meal, well that’s another thing altogether.

Croque Monsieurs I eat early in the morning or late at night, though it’s a lunchtime Parisian staple.  For lunch, I love French onion soup, asparagus vinaigrette, even a bowl of mussels.  A big pizza I can carve with a fork and knife.  Or falafel in Le Marais.  Or picnic food.  In the Luxembourg gardens or on the Pont des Arts, I like to bring a baguette and a wedge of cheese or a pot of caviar d’aubergines, and a bag of fruit.  Or I like to have a tartine of meats and Poilâne bread in the Place Dauphine, watching the petanque players.  Will I ever get tired of talking about those petanque players?  Not likely, because I never get tired of watching them!  But my favorite place to have lunch in Paris?  On tip of the Ile de la Cité, with cheese crèpe bought at L’Avant Comptoir and transported hastily to the spot where I sit with my legs dangling over the wall towards the Seine.  Those naughty little sparrows are company enough for me, as I watch the tourists on the Bateaux-Mouches, the pompiers on their flotillas, and the lovers strolling on the banks across from me.  I like to imagine all that has gone on on the river, for hundreds, even a thousand years.  Lunch in Paris is such a treat.  And I don’t like sharing my treats.

When I was asked to review Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard when it first came out, it reminded me just of lunch in Paris.  Because it was a treat.  Written by an American who fell in love with a Frenchman (who can blame her) and picked up and moved to Paris without even knowing the language, or what she wanted to be, or who her friends were, she sheds such comedic insight on Americans and French and the differences that make them so attractive to each other.  It is poignant, and romantic, and deliciously filled with the recipes that pepper any life in Paris.

With Lunch in Paris just out in paperback, Elizabeth’s publisher has agreed to give away a copy of this truly lovely book to one French Revolution reader.  This is our first giveaway–I hope the start of many!  So, do us all a great service, and tell us where the best place to have lunch in Paris is, in the comment section of this post.  That way, we’ll all have a destination next time we’re in town.  I will pick one at random at the end of two weeks, and you’ll get the book in the mail!  I can’t wait to discover all these new Paris places!

This giveaway has closed and the winner has been contacted. Thanks so much for all your wonderful Paris comments!

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Mahjong Dumplings: Lower East Side Cool Hits the Upper East Side

What is Mahjong?  Maybe someone can explain it to me.  All I know is it was a game my grandma used to play “with the girls”.  But now, I’m suddenly into it because I am, literally, obsessed with Mahjong Dumplings.

The Upper East Side is my hometown.  And I always thought that was pretty cool.  I mean, it’s not everyone who gets a TV show made about their hometown, right?  Except, suddenly, it’s not so cool to everyone else.  When I was growing up, the UES was the place to be.  There really were meat lockers in Meat Packing, and going to the Village meant getting the car out of the garage and going for a “trip.”  We went to Brooklyn, again, in a car, to buy vegetables from an organic co-op.  But these were all outposts; the center was uptown.

Now, I can’t get anyone to meet me uptown for dinner!  ”There’s nothing to do uptown!”  How ridiculous and nonsensical.  But, I guess, uptown doesn’t have what downtown is full of: small, upstart young restaurants with a delicious, gimmicky menu, and a line down the street.  That’s true.  We have more stately manors or cozy neighborhood corners.  Until now.  Enter Mahjong Dumpling.

On Second Avenue between 80th and 81st Streets is a little downtown outpost.  The bar is decorated with mahjong tiles inlaid in glass.  The walls are papered with cigarette-rolled magazine pages.  Funky bamboo chandaliers hang from the ceiling, and the place can’t seat more than 50 people.  Very downtown.  And then there’s the menu: it’s like dim sum went around the world in eighty days.  The left side of the menu is starters and noodle bowls, and the right side is all dumplings.

I called up my own little dumpling, Mr. English, to tell him all about my Mahjong dining experience, but then I realized: all I talk to him about is food, and dogs.  So I spared him, thinking “my readers will want to know about this.”  I walked in with my two best friends on the Upper East, thinking we’d have a little five o’clock snack.  Maybe try three or four types of dumplings.  We wound up ordering three times, tasting all but one kind of dumpling, plus pickles, pork buns, udon soup, and shaved ice.  Then, I went back the next day for lunch, and tried even more.  Before I get to the food, I have to say how much I appreciate that a restaurant of just a few tables, with such a creative, and truly good, menu opened uptown, when it could so easily have fit in downtown.  I think uptown is on the up and up, poised to reclaim the title of best New York neighborhood.  But what I love about Mahjong is I get all the quaint chic of downtown, all the great food, all the fun, but it’s not overcrowded, it’s not overly trendy, and in no way does it feel exclusive.  You don’t have to wear a pompadour to fit in here, because it’s the food that steals the attention.  What I love about my hometown is how easy it is, how truly casual despite its reputation for prestige.  It just doesn’t try too hard, and neither does Mahjong.  It knows it’s got a good thing: like any cool kid, it’s not going to follow the crowd.  It will let others come and find it.

I love the playful names.  I love the relatively inexpensive prices.  And I love the options.  You can spend a lot, or a little.  You can pig out, or get some very light dishes.  And, when was the last time you got free refills?  The only thing that disappointed me is that they were fresh out of apple pie and cheddar dumplings both times I was there!  All I know is, grandma, I’m taking up Mahjong.

Dumplings

Run Forrest

Run Forrest

Run Forrest: shrimp / carrot / ginger / scallion / panang curry sauce

This is my number one or number two favorite dumpling (it’s really hard to commit at Mahjong!).  It’s almost like a traditional shrimp dumpling or shumai that you would find a Sunday lunch dim sum, but that sauce is so creamy, and so flavorful, it started licking it off my chopsticks after the dumplings were devoured.

Grade: A+

Red Lantern

Red Lantern

Red Lantern: chorizo / paprika / sweet roasted yellow pepper sauce / charred corn salsa

Amazing.  A great example of how to correctly apply fusion: a Spanish dumpling.  The dumpling is crisp, the chorizo is full of that paprika flavor, and the sweet pepper sauce is so unexpected and Spanish and delicious.  The charred corn salsa is another unexpected but perfect flourish.

Grade: A

Boardwalk Crab

Boardwalk Crab

Boardwalk Crab: crispy maryland style peekytoe crab / light mustard aioli

Okay, maybe this one is my favorite.  It’s like a crab cake in a crispy shell.  And I love seeing the little bit of oil separating from the aioli: means it’s homemade.  Even my friend who hates crab thought this was one of the best ones.  And who can beat the originality?

Grade: A+

The Fresh Prince

The Fresh Prince

The Fresh Prince: grilled beef short rib / pepper / onion / aged provolone cheese

“In west Philadelphia, born and raised.”  This is a Philly Cheesesteak dumpling.  Genius.  Chunks of short rib and peppers and onions in this almost mini-spring roll dumpling, with another sauce that I licked of my chopsticks: aged provolone cheese sauce, with just a hint of spice and spiciness-maybe nutmeg and chili?

Grade: A

The Maine Event

The Maine Event

The Maine Event: lobster / chive / clam chowder sauce / oyster crackers

I love that there’s basically nothing inside that wonton besides lobster.  The taste is pure, and sweet.  The clam chowder sauce is so different from the soy sauce you’d expect–the polar opposite.  And it works.  And the oyster crackers?  I love a plate with a sense of humor, and this dish is composed almost like a snack off a tasting menu, instead of a plate of dumplings.

Grade: A-

The Big Easy

The Big Easy

The Big Easy: wild mushroom / lotus root / carrot / scallion / cilantro

This is the best vegetarian dumpling on the menu, and an example of a more traditional Asian approach gone right.  It’s light, and the sweet-tangy dipping sauce makes it the perfect bite if what you crave is traditional Asian dumplings.

Grade: A-

Traditional Monkey

Traditional Monkey

Traditional Monkey: pork / chive / tofu / ginger / sweet thai chili sauce

Another great traditional dumpling.  I don’t love pork dumplings, but I love the freshness of this one.  It’s light, and I’m not scared of what mystery meat might be inside it.

Grade: B+

A La Farm

A La Farm

A La Farm: spinach / mushroom / eggplant / sundried tomatoes / ricotta / truffle oil / parmesan

Another vegetarian option, but the weaker of the two.  I didn’t taste the truffle oil; instead, I detected a sort of misplaced hint of wasabi.  This wasn’t my favorite, but I certainly love the idea of it, and if I were going vegetarian, I wouldn’t shy away.

Grade: B

Mom's Style

Mom's Style

Mom’s Style: braised pulled beef / balsamic caramelized onions

My least favorite was also possibly the most creative and the most beautiful.  If you like meat and broth, you will like this.  I would liken it almost to an Asian meat-broth noodle soup, while I was expected more of a pot-au-feu.

Grade: B-

Starters, Noodles, and Desserts

Cucumber Pickles

Cucumber Pickles

Cucumber Pickles: wasabi / ginger / garlic / rice wine

I would come here just for this.  They are my favorite things on the menu; they’re amazing.  Fresh cucumbers, just marinated in the mixture long enough to just turn pickle.  Like, an Asian new pickle.  You can pick out each flavor component: the heady heat of the wasabi, the spice of the ginger, the pungency of the garlic, and the sweet rice wine.  Amazing.  I think my partners in dumpling crime summed it up best: “These are really good.”

Grade: A+

Steamed Pork Buns

Steamed Pork Buns

Steamed Pork Buns: crispy berkshire pork belly / hoisin / cilantro / cucumber slaw

These seem to be popular here, and for good reason.  The hoisin is so thick and fresh and sweet and pungent.  The pork is big hunks of crispy meatiness.  And the slaw is so light and fresh, and the bun to pillowy and soft.  It’s like a lovely dream.

Grade: A

Cold Sesame Noodle

Cold Sesame Noodle

Cold Sesame Noodle: soba noodles / cucumber / scallion / cilantro / carrots

Nothing like the thick and globby (if delicious) Chinese takeout sesame noodles.  This is very fresh, almost garden-like, and flavorful.  Perfect for a hot day.  I wished we’d ordered two, because this may be the only overpriced dish on the menu, at $8.

Grade: A

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Black Sesame Ice Cream: housemade / 2 scoops

It tasted like frozen, creamy halvah in a bowl.  Not too sweet.  Just right.  With that perfect fluffy homemade ice creamy consistency.

Grade: A-

Tuna Bites

Tuna Bites

Tuna Bites: sashimi tuna / nori / ginger / wasabi / bean sprouts

I’m a bit mystified by these, because the outside nori is battered and crisp, but the inside tuna is completely raw.  With a little bean sprout salad, and wasabi sauce on the plate, this is probably the most well-to-do, tra-la-la dish.  I missed the soy sauce, but they were excellent, and very beautiful.

Grade: A-

Mandarin Flower

Mandarin Flower

Mandarin Flower: yu choy / oyster sauce / sesame seeds

Perhaps the most dietetic thing on the menu!  Steamed Asian broccoli topped with truly fantastic oyster sauce (although, to me it tasted just like the hoisin sauce from the pork buns), and the perfect crunch of sesame seeds.  The only way to improve it would be to stir-fry those broccolis!

Grade: B+

Selling Ice to Eskimos

Selling Ice to Eskimos

Selling Ice to Eskimos: shaved ice / seasonal fruit

Like an Asian granita, this shaved ice is covered in lychee syrup, toasted coconut, and chunks of pineapple.  It’s big enough for 4, and it’s not too sweet and refreshing.

Grade: B+

Thick Rice Noodle

Thick Rice Noodle

Thick Rice Noodle: sliced beef / shiitakes / scallion / beef broth / lemongrass

This is not my cup of tea, or broth, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it.  The beef was very tender, in great large chunks that fell apart in that perfect way when you bit into it.  The soup very full, and meaty, and flavorful.  Just too meaty for me.

Grade: B-

Next time I go, I have to try the crispy tofu with rice flour, toasted coconut, and chili oil.  And the cocktails, which have ingredients like yuzu bitters, chili infused vodka, aloe vera, and jasmine tea.

Mahjong Dumplings

1542 Second Avenue (80th & 81st Streets)

212.717.7800

www.nycdumplings.com

 


So sorry about the dark bottom right corner in these photos.  My lens cracked, and I just noticed it at Mahjong.  Apologies!

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Working Girl Dinners: Guest-Worthy Salmon with Asparagus and Mustard Sauce

RECIPE: Guest-Worthy Salmon with Asparagus and Mustard Sauce
Working Girl Mustard Salmon

Working Girl Mustard Salmon with Asparagus and Boiled Potatoes

Salmon is the real chicken of the sea.  Everyone loves it.  It’s healthy, and guiltless, relatively inexpensive, and elegant.  This meal is so easy, but it’s the kind of food you could serve to in-laws or bosses.  Or, just to yourself, because it tastes good, and you don’t need an occasion to eat good food!

I know, gone are the Mad Men days when a girl is expected to entertain her husband’s boss in the family dining room.  We have our own bosses to worry about, and a separate dining room seems a little far-fetched.  But at the same time, I don’t think we see each other enough during the week.  After work, we think the best way to recover from the day is delivery.  But imagine, having your friends over, or some family, for a couple of hours of laughing and chatting and eating.  What could be more invigorating?  I would make this meal when my dad comes over.  To know him is to know he eats salmon with unusual gusto at least three times a week.  It’s a treat to have him over for a homemade meal.  Now go call your parents, and tell them to come over for dinner tonight!

This is an unusually effortless meal, because the oven does all the heavy lifting.  Roast the salmon on a bed of herbs, to flavor it, and right alongside simultaneously roasts the asparagus.  Ta da!  Both come out of the oven crisp, and tender, and delicious–and at the same time.  It’s kitchen magic.  On the stove, stir together a little water, sour cream, and mustard until you have a sauce.  That’s it.  Elegant dinner, done.  And the best part is, if you are having company, just double the recipe.  It cooks in exactly the same amount of time with no extra exertion on your part.  And if it’s just you, then halve the recipe.  Again, it all works out the same.

Guest-Worthy Salmon with Asparagus and Mustard Sauce
serves 2

Working Girl Mustard SalmonINGREDIENTS

  • 2 6-ounce boneless, skinless center-cut salmon fillets
  • 1½ teaspoons olive oil
  • A handful of fresh thyme stems
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons water

PROCEDURE

Place the top rack of your oven in the second highest position (one down from the top).  Preheat the broiler.

Rub each salmon fillet with ½ teaspoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Place the salmon on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper (so it won’t stick).  Under each salmon fillet, tuck a small handful of fresh thyme stems, so you create a bed of thyme for the salmon.

Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the woody ends of each stalk.  Place the asparagus on the parchment-lined baking sheet with the salmon, and toss with the remaining ½ teaspoon of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place on the rack you adjusted under the broiler for 12 to 15 minutes.  The top of the salmon with be golden-brown, and the asparagus will be crisp.

Meanwhile make the sauce.  In a small sauce pot, stir together the sour cream, Dijon mustard, and water over medium-low heat, just until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper.

I like to serve this with the sauce poured over the salmon, with the asparagus alongside, and maybe a few boiled potatoes.  Serve extra sauce on the side for the veggies.

FISH TIPS

Buying fish can be daunting.  You are looking for fish that is clear (not foggy), bright (not gray), and doesn’t smell like dead fish.  Readers have asked me for reputable fish stores.  From my experience, Whole Foods has good fish.  And in New York, I recommend Citarella, The Vinegar Factory, and Eli’s on the Upper East Side.  Don’t forget, you can ask the guy behind the fish counter to do almost anything.  So when I say boneless, skinless, center-cut salmon fillets, tell him those instructions, and he will do all the work for you.  And they won’t think you’re being difficult.

If you have guests, just double the recipe!

ON THE SIDE

The asparagus in this recipe are built in, which I love.  But if you want to add boiled potatoes, here’s how you do it:

Put small boiling potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes, or fingerling potatoes in an empty saucepot.  Fill the pot two-thirds of the way up with cold water.  Put the pot over high heat, uncovered.  When the water boils, add salt.  Cook until the tip of a knife easily pierces the potato.  Depending on the size of your potato, that could take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Watch, Working Girl Dinners