Recently I made the decision to add some non-vegan items to my diet, as a sort of trial. I thought I’d start with eggs and salmon, and give myself about 90 days to see if I notice any differences in my health and general well-being. It may not seem like much, but I’ve been a vegan for 15 years, so to me, it is a big change.
So imagine my excitement when I saw this headline in the Wall Street Journal this week:
It seems like it was meant to be.
The recipe included other items besides the salmon, but I was only interested in how the chef recommended preparing the salmon.
Here were the two steps that mention the salmon:
- Season salmon’s flesh side with salt and pepper. Set a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to coat pan. Once oil is shimmering, season with salt. Tilt pan away from you and lay in salmon, skin-side down. Gently press on fish and cook until skin evenly browns, 2-3 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium and add butter, garlic and half the thyme. With a large spoon, baste salmon with hot fat and aromatics from pan. Continue to baste quickly and continuously until flesh turns opaque, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat, add a squeeze of lemon juice to pan and continue basting fish 1 minute more.
Now to many, perhaps most, people, these two steps may seem quite simple.
As I read it, I thought – this is why I don’t like to cook.
Here are the issues I had:
- I don’t know which side of the salmon is the flesh side.
- What is medium-high heat? Give me a temperature…
- How do I know when the oil is shimmering?
- It seems like if I tilt the pan away from me; there could be a problem. Won’t the oil spill out onto the medium-high heat burner, staining the burner and smelling up the kitchen? Plus, if that did happen, do I add more oil again?
- is the skin side the opposite of the flesh side, or just another name for it?
and that’s just with the first step. The problems continue with step two:
- do I add the butter, garlic, and thyme directly on top of the salmon, or do I pour it into the pan and swish it around?
- I can look up what baste means, but isn’t there an easier word for someone like me?
- What is the hot fat they mention, and what are aromatics?
- the recipe says to continue to baste quickly. The word continue suggests I should have already been basting quickly, but that was never mentioned prior to this.
- I would have no idea how to tell if the flesh has turned opaque, even after I looked up what opaque meant: “not able to be seen through”. Does that mean I was able to see through the flesh before I started cooking?
- it seems pretty clear that the squeeze of lemon juice goes on the pan, not the salmon. Do I slide the salmon around on the lemon juice once it is on the pan to soak it up?
Like I said, many people likely view this as a simple recipe.
Me? I see trouble every step along the way.
And so I wondered, is that how my students feel when I teach something?
It may seem simple to me, yet it may sound like a foreign language to them.
I’ll continue to do my best to explain things as clearly as I can, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them are thinking that they will never have to do this, so what’s the point.
After all, that’s what I was thinking.
If I want salmon, I can just go out to a restaurant and let somebody else worry about things like basting and flesh-side vs. skin-side and opaque and shimmering oil.
Accounting never seemed so easy…
*image from the WSJ