One of the things about having a platform in which to broadcast your food fetishes, likes and dislikes, is that the people who read it know all about the weaknesses in your eating armoury. As any regular or occasional Omnivore reader will know, my two particular Achilles heels are lamb and salmon.
I recently had occasion to eat some very good lamb rack, which may just have gone at least some of the way to curing my aversion. Which leaves salmon as my sole bugbear.
So, when my dear friend Mrs Scheckter, from the marvellous On Trays Food Emporium in Petone calls me at work to enquire whether I will be in at about 4pm, as she has some food to bring to me, there is no possible reason to assume that it may involve my last remaining food frontier.
All day I am tantalised by thoughts of what the "care package" may consist of. Perhaps some cheese. Probably some cheese, I would say, given that cheese is one of the many things that the Scheckters do fabulously well. Some Gorgonzola? Taleggio? Probably.
Or perhaps some jamon iberico, only, probably the bestest, most delicious-est ham in the world. Perhaps they have been oversupplied, and need me to help level out the stocks - a task I am more than capable of assisting them with. I am so distracted by this prospect that I can barely manage my lunchtime nasi lemak.
But no. Ohh, no. Mr Scheckter, in his infinite wisdom, has decided that enough is enough with my salmon-loathing ways, and to remedy this by supplying me with a slab of fish so fresh and pink and perfect that even I, with my nonsensical prejudices and ludicrous rules as to what I do and do not like, could not be so churlish as to rebuff such a magnificent, and generous, and thoughtful gift.
Now I've just got to figure out what to do with it.
I am eating a lot of Asian food at the moment (probably something to do with this) - lots of stir-fries and noodles. Asian food is really good for showing off very fresh, delicate flavours of really top-drawer produce. If I'm going to face my food phobias head on, I'm going to cook it and eat it my way.
I go and pick up some very fresh veges from Cuba Fruit - some broccoli, red pepper, red onion, carrots and yellow courgette - lots of colours and textures, so if I hate the salmon, I can just have a vege stir fry. I chop them into evenly sized pieces, and get to work on a dressing - sesame oil, soy sauce, a garlic clove, a grated finger of ginger, a little brown sugar for sweetness, and some rice wine vinegar to give it a bit of tang.
I heat the wok 'til it is just smoking, add a little oil and stir fry the vegetables until they have just a little give, then set them aside. I soften some of my favourite organic ramen noodles in some boiling water, and heat a tiny swirl of oil in the wok. I fry the portioned salmon with nothing but a grind of pepper and sprinkle of salt - really hot, forming a bit of a crust on the outside and leaving it moist and tender (to the touch) in the middle. I set it aside to rest a little.
I stir some of the dressing through the combined noodles and stirfried veges, and serve it into bowls, setting the salmon atop of the pile of veges and noodles, sprinkling it with a little more soy-sesame dressing and some coriander leaves. It looks appealing, with the colourful veges, and the salmon has some nice caramelisation, and the dressing is perfectly balanced between salty, sour and sweet.
The salmon. It's delicious. It is delicately flavoured, moist, succulent, and has taken on just enough of the flavour of the dressing. The texture works well with the vegetables, and the slight bite of the noodles. Bloody hell - I think I'm cured!
There is, however, the proviso that this is spectacularly good and fresh salmon, so it lacks that gluggy, unctuous quality that inferior quality salmon may have. But for something deliciously fresh, quick and lightly cooked, this is a bit of a revelation.
Thank you, Mr & Mrs Scheck - a quite glorious piece of produce that I felt the same compulsion to do right by as I did my earlier goat leg. And another case of the quality of the produce being all important, similarly the way it was prepared - in a fashion not dissimilar to how I might deal with a piece of pork, chicken or whitefish - made it more palatable than if it were smoked, or poached in a way that would have made it more cooked through.
Very pleasing. I've conquered my fear of lamb, and this is another giant stride in my quest for perfect omnivorousness. Whatever next ?! Insects? Kina?!
What's the best salmon you've ever eaten? And how was it cooked? Have you ever attempted to defeat a food phobia? How did you go about it?
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