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Pan Cooking from Andrea's Puerto Vallarta Kitchen

May 13, 2020

One of my favorite go-to meals is salmon, quickly sautéed medium-rare in a little butter with a splash of Dry Sack medium sherry. But yesterday I just wasn't in the mood for salmon in Dry Sack butter sauce.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - These days - staying home - I have a lot of time of my hands. Don't we all! Anyway, I love to cook and I love good food. So that means I get to play in my kitchen whenever I want! Sometimes I feel like trying my hand at a new food project. Like the other day, I thought a brown sauce or demi-glace would be a good idea. It took 2 ½ days, but hey, I'm home anyway!

Actually, it's pretty straight-forward. It is definitely "slow food." Wow, did my house smell good! But I could never have pulled this off without the internet and the videos of "The Seasoned Cook," John Terczak, whom I accidentally found while searching for Jacques Pepin's recipe. Anyway, Terczak is the real deal and he really cuts to the chase. So, thank you John!

Oh, one more thing, before I switch gears. My brown sauce started with a big stock potful of meaty bones and mirepoix (the French holy trinity - that's onion, carrots and celery) and about THREE GALLONS of water.

After 2 ½ days of simmering and reducing, I decided to freeze the final result in an ice cube tray. I got exactly 11 cubes. Eleven. But wow, talk about a jolt of concentrated flavor! The difference between one of these cubes and some crappy bouillon is like the difference between eating at BK's steakhouse (Burger King) and a fine dining establishment.

Even with all the time I have, sometimes I just want something to eat that's good and easy. One of my favorite go-to meals is salmon, quickly sautéed medium-rare in a little butter with a splash of Dry Sack medium sherry. It takes about 5 minutes. I like it so well that ever since the first time I happened upon this (my very own creation), it's the only way I've been cooking salmon for over a year.

My favorite accompaniment is asparagus, grilled in a hot pan with olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and finished with a few grates of lemon zest. I love my Micro-plane grater-zester and highly recommend it if you don't already have one. The Micro-plane also makes quick work of grating Parmesan cheese. It is one of my all-time favorite kitchen gadgets.

But yesterday I just wasn't in the mood for salmon in Dry Sack browned butter sauce. It was time to cook that salmon while it was still nice and fresh. I also had some heavy cream that needed to be used up. So I thought, how about some pasta with salmon in a lovely white sauce? I hunted for recipes in my favorite cookbooks - Julia, Claiborne, Silver Palate - nada. However… inspiration! This came out really good. I will definitely make it again.

Pasta Andrea a la Salmon Cream Sauce
Serves 1 person. For 2 people, double the amounts. Ingredients are in bold text.

1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan.

2. Gently sauté minced onion, about ¼ - 1/3 cup, about 5 minutes. DO NOT BROWN THE ONIONS. If you want to get fancy, you can substitute shallots. They're so delicious!

3. When the onions or shallots start to get translucent, about 5 minutes, sprinkle about 1 tablespoon flour or Wondra and blend, adding a bit more butter if necessary.

4. Little by little, add 1 cup of chicken broth, stirring well after each addition to avoid lumping. (Or use "Better than Bouillon" brand chicken base, 1 teaspoon mixed in 1 cup hot water) (Hint: if you've opened a whole box of chicken broth, you can freeze the leftover in an ice cube tray. Later, pop the cubes into a plastic bag.) BTW, if you added the broth too quickly and your sauce is lumpy, just throw it in the blender.) About now is a good time to put a pot of water on the stove for your pasta, such as a flat broad noodle or a few nests of tagliatelle.

5. Bring sauce to a boil and stir in heavy cream (about 1/3-1/2 cup), simmer uncovered and reduce to about half the original volume. It is ok to boil cream. It will reduce and thicken. Add a shake of dried dill weed.

6. While your cream sauce is reducing, in a separate pan add some white wine, about ½ cup or more (a lot will evaporate), bring to a boil, add 1 portion salmon and quickly poach until medium-rare, about 3-5 minutes. If possible, cut into pieces the same thickness so they cook evenly. DO NOT OVERCOOK. The salmon will cook more in the cream sauce.

7. When the sauce is ready, add the salmon and the wine you poached it in. Add a splash of Dry Sack medium sherry or dry white vermouth. Cook a minute or two to burn off excess alcohol. Taste the sauce. If you have fresh dill, add a few chopped tablespoons at the end. Serve on top of pasta. Delicious. NO CHEESE. Buen provecho.

Copyright © 2020 by Andrea Jupina. All rights reserved.

Andrea Jupina lives in Puerto Vallarta full time. Previously she wrote the "Accidentally Delicious" column for the Vallarta Tribune. Great thanks to Patsy Meyer for the inspired name "Pan Cooking" for this column.