October 18 – October 31, 2021
Friday 10/22: Cracked Pepper Seared Salmon with Irish Whiskey Sauce
Sunday 10/24: Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes
Monday 10/25: Emiglia-Romagna Sunday Soup with Antipasti and Toast
Tuesday 10/26: Shepherd’s Pie with Leftover Pot-Roast and Potatoes
Thursday 10/28: Dinner at the D’s with Friends
Saturday 10/30: Arugula Salad with Potatoes, Cremini and Pancetta Vinaigrette
A Great Dinner with Friends in Pittsburgh a Great (unpretentious) Food Town
As you can see from the dates above, this is really two weeks in one, another attempt to catch up with the ridiculous schedule I set for myself about 6 years ago. Compressing two weeks into one yields the further benefit of choosing the dinners whose photographs will annoy Billy (our very own Ansel Adams) less.
On Thursday we gathered at the D’s house for a great dinner and hilarious conversation and catching up. The dinner was cooked by Garnett Livingston of Ma Maison, Pittsburgh and, while I have forgotten many of the dishes, featured a lobster en crèpe, sous-vide lamb chops that would have made Shari Lewis consider cooking her puppet, and two desserts that we didn’t even deserve. The dinner was great, but the conversation was transcendent. Among other things, we heard how Gretchen and Judd and Tom and Becky met, and were reminded how JC was maneuvered into his first date with AC and – well, the rest is history. Short of a transcript, which, thankfully is not available (some emphatic language was used), it would be impossible to give you even a hint of how much we laughed. But what is possible to state, if not convey, is the great treasure of having good friends, and being able to refer, in a word or phrase, to events that happened 50 or 40 years ago and elicit a smile, or a laugh or, on occasion, a guffaw. Guffaws can be problematic at our age, but the mental benefit outweighs any physical injury that may result.
As for the cooking we did ourselves – I had forgotten, until just last month, about a cookbook based on Pittsburgh’s growing list of fine chefs and restaurants.* And, feeling particularly burgherish, I decided to devote at least a few meals to copying what the Kevin Sousa’s, Justin Severino’s, Bill Fuller’s, Sonja Finn’s and Lynette Bushley’s of the world cook up most nights of the week.
*Pittsburgh Chef’s Table [2013 – Morris Book Publishing LLC]
We had Richard DeShantz’s pot-roast and mashed potatoes on Sunday, which would have been superb if we had bought the meat somewhere other than at Giant Eagle. It was still pretty good and gave us great leftovers for some time. But we hit the ball out of the park with Andrew Topping’s Cracked Pepper Seared Salmon with Irish Whiskey Sauce. Now, it’s not a surprise that a couple whose grandparents include a Duffy, a Kelly and a Dunn would find anything with Irish Whiskey Sauce worth sharing. Indeed, our recommendation would be to put Irish Whiskey sauce on pretty much everything, with the possible exception of apple pie.
This is a great, rather fancy dinner that is, nonetheless, appropriate for a weeknight because a) salmon is widely available, b) the whole shebang doesn’t take long to cook, c) sprouts are good for you, and d) we said so. Actually, we love roasted vegetables, brussels sprouts, broccoli and asparagus being high on the list. And who doesn’t love mashed potatoes? And finally, how can you resist a tasty sauce and one with whiskey (the alcohol cooks out) to boot?
So, below you’ll find your assignment for this week’s cooking. Good luck, and, if you’re making extra, please invite us over.
Cracked Black Pepper Seared Salmon with Irish Whiskey Cream Sauce
(adapted from Andrew Topping – Piper’s Pub)
Timing: 15-20 minutes
Ingredients: Serves 4
4 6 oz. salmon fillets
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste (we like a lot of pepper – just place whole peppercorns in a baggie and whack with a meat mallet or a small pan)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (we used grapeseed, but any vegetable oil will work – I would not use olive oil since the salmon has such a strong, unctuous flavor itself)
For the whiskey sauce (you can skip this, if you wish)
½ cup fine-diced yellow onion
½ cup of whiskey
2 tablespoons of honey
½ cup of chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon each, chives and parsley
Note: we served this with mashed potatoes and oven-roasted brussels sprouts which cut through the richness of the salmon perfectly. Prepare mashed potatoes using your favorite method – to ensure they cook in the requisite time, dice the potatoes into 1-inch pieces before you boil to tenderness.
So buy some potatoes and some sprouts if you’re going to use them
If using, you’ll want to cook your potatoes and mash them now.
If cooking sprouts, preheat oven to 425F, halve sprouts, toss with olive oil, pepper and salt and put in oven for 15-20 minutes, about 10 minutes before cooking salmon.
Get pan large enough to hold salmon hot – over medium to medium high.
Sprinkle Salmon Fillets with cracked pepper and sea salt (or kosher salt).
Swirl oil in hot pan, then add salmon and sear on both sides for 2 minutes each.
Reduce heat and cook on each side for another 3 minutes each.
Set salmon aside and keep warm while you prepare the sauce.
In the same skillet, add finely diced onion and caramelize. Deglaze skillet with whiskey and honey and cook until almost reduced. Now add chicken stock and heavy cream and reduce till it thickens slightly. Strain to remove onions, return to pan and add chopped chives and parsley.
Plate salmon leaning against a mound of potatoes, pour the sauce over about 1/3 of the salmon, then place the sprouts on the plate. Enjoy.