Thursday, May 3, 2012

Homestead Eating : Salmon

Duck eggs make the smoothest, softest, silkiest quiche imaginable.  It is like holding melted velvet in your mouth. 
A year and a half ago, we traveled to Italy for a dear friend's wedding: in our travelling we ended up in Cinque Terre, in a restaurant above a cove.  It had tiny tables and kitschy wall art - but amazing local wine and fresh fresh fish.  Darlin'Man had a dish that was sliced potatoes under a filet of fish, drizzled in olive oil with tomatoes and capers and olives and herbs and things.  All wrapped in parchment paper and utterly delicious.  I've made a few versions of it since.  My latest plan was to take the mediteranean idea and run with it a bit, using salt preserved lemons.  I've run across a number of recipes using salt preserved lemons in greek and morrocan style fare recently as well; so I bought organic lemons (since you're eating the rind) and packed a quart jar with lemons and lemon juice and lots of salt.  They are supposed to ferment. When I opened the jar to use some - having waited many weeks - I was greeted with a thick colony of mold.  The fungal spores were happy.  My lactobicilli living in lemons?  Not so much.  It broke my heart a little, as it so closely mimicked the outcome of my post-harvest attempt at saurkraut, and an attempt at wine a few years ago.  So, I took out a head of red cabbage and made a new jewel-colored batch of saurkraut.  The brine looks good so far; hopefully this will be my fermented redemption...

Meanwhile,  I had a whole salmon (thawed) sitting on my counter and no brined lemons.  I filleted the salmon with my ulu - best knife ever - and did surprisingly credibly.  I usually have the Woodsman do my filleting.  I peeled the zest off of a(nother) lemon, and went with that instead.  Potatoes lining a baking dish, filets on it, zest and oregano and thyme and basil, all drizzeled over with garlic olive oil.  Baked.
Meanwhile, I simmered the freezer burnt bits of the salmon for the husky pup.  Keep in mind that this is salmon from the summer before last summer.  I'm really quite amazed at the overall lack of freezer burning.  And because I'm not that great of a filet-er (and I hate the thought of wasting wild salmon, however little), I cleaned the fish carcass, scraping bits of good meat off the ribs and spine with my fingers.  These I saved and set aside in a bowl... for quiche.

I mixed up a vinagrette.  I am out of balsamic vinegar - a staple on the shelf by my stove.  I had a moment of almost panicked disbelief.  When I say balsamic is a staple, I mean I use it damn near every day. But, as is the way of most crises, it led me to rely on my own resourcefulness.  I realized that I actually had a jar of nasturtium vinegar I made last summer, sitting nearly unused on the pantry shelf.  Let me tell you, olive oil and nasturtium vinegar vinegrette is delightful - a hint of spicy summer flavor from the flower infusion adds a quality entirely different from, and just as good as, a good balsamic.

Between the four of us, of course we ate all the salmon.  I had some kale and some carmelized onions in the fridge, so what else was I to do with the scraped off salmon bits the next night but make a quiche?  As the french might say "mais, naturallement!"  I had stopped by the local meat shop, Homegrown (which also sells a variety of other locally produced food and artisanal items), after yoga a few days before.  I was hoping to pick up some eggs, as I would rather support the local egg sellers - regardless of whether the feed they use is organic or not! - than pay the same price (food prices are ridiculous here in the interior) for 'organic free range' at the grocery store.  I felt like I'd hit the jack pot when I was able to snag the last carton of eggs.  It wasn't till I brought it up to the counter and noticed that the top of the commercial carton wasn't actually fitting over the eggs that I realized they were actually duck eggs.  Even better!  I've heard great things about duck eggs, especially for baking.  And I can now say that they live up to every expectation that every glowing blog post or book chapter ever created in my over-active gastronomic imagination.  They are really good.  Maybe not so good that I'll plan on introducing ducks to our land that lacks any open water...  but certainly so that I'll go out of my way to barter for or to buy them!

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