April’s Charcutepalooza challenge was to smoke either salmon or pork. The Accidental Locavore chose salmon and ended up smoking in more ways than one. In the process of developing the website and as a blogger member of Charcutepalooza I’ve been cooking to a higher standard these days. To have conceptualized a dish, executed it (more or less) as planned and have it be not terribly interesting, is terribly frustrating and had me fuming, if not exactly smoking. The dish in question was supposed to showcase smoked salmon for this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge. I pictured a spring pasta with the silky, smoked flavor of the salmon alongside asparagus with its grassy taste, with fresh linguini and some cream to finish it off. For my husband who thinks they’re much less superfluous than I do, some baby peas I had frozen from last year’s farmbasket.
Maybe you just can’t cook to such a degree if you’re not feeling well. How much of what one feels emotionally and physically gets reflected in what we put on the table?
First issue, the smoker I was promised for Christmas was still at my parents’ house in Boston and time was running out. In its place a shiny new red one, which of course had some assembly required. On the way home from buying the smoker, a stop for a lovely piece of wild salmon; why not use great ingredients and give it a fighting chance?
Salmon brined, and put to chill in the fridge. Bright red Brinkman Smoker assembled. Now, just need to put everything together. Started smoking the salmon, thinking it wouldn’t take too long. Wrong. It ended up smoking for about a half an hour, and developed a nice, lightly smoked taste. The pasta which should have been simple, simply refused to co-operate. Too dry and shredded through the pasta machine. Added water, looked like it might work, but no. Finally decided that it just wasn’t going to work and trashed the batch. Maybe it was the fancy local flour from Wild Hive Farm, maybe it was doing it in the food processor instead of by hand. Anyway, the lovely handmade linguini wasn’t happening. Thank goodness there was some spinach spaghetti in the pantry.
While the pasta was cooking, I sautéed asparagus and peas in olive oil with a little butter for flavor and a lot of thinly sliced garlic. Salt, pepper, some fresh thyme, a little lemon zest to finish it off. Just before the pasta was al dente, I added the smoked salmon which I had coarsely shredded, then the pasta, a little of the pasta water and a big splash of heavy cream and let that cook down a little. Tossed everything together and served.
The verdict, ho-hum. While the salmon was nicely smoky (and I’m looking forward to doing more with the smoker), the spinach spaghetti was a little thick, not the delicate linguini I had pictured. The asparagus was delicious, peas as always; superfluous. A little salt and pepper helped, and then I let some crumbled chèvre melt into it. Better. Frank added Parmesan to his which he said added a little character, however he thought it needed a lighter pasta. Agreed.
Am I the only one who thinks peas are generally superfluous? They’re like the mix-in version of garnishing with parsley. Comment and let me know if I’m alone in this idea…I can take it, and promise it won’t show up in my cooking!