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Thursday, January 21, 2016

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley

Tonight's scheme for supper was a delicious meal from the Annabel Langbein cookbook. But did it ever go agley! And get ugly to boot!   I worked hard to make it look and taste good, I really did. It seemed so easy and flawless when Annabel prepared it on TV, and it looked wonderful in the cookbook. Maybe I need to take a course in food styling or hire a food stylist or get a better photo editing program or something,  because I don't  think potatoes rosti look all that appealing when they're mostly grey, with  some burned bits here and there and a few flecks of green that you  think  are parsley but can't really be sure about, given the overall appearance.

Supper was to be  flash roasted pesto salmon, potato rosti, and braised fennel with lemon.See how lovely the finished  potatoes  look in the book: beautiful and creamy with bright green flecks of parsley, surrounded by   a perfectly   cooked golden layer of deliciousness? And the braised fennel-- again a lovely creamy color with  bright green flecks of parsley.  Oh, how I was looking forward to  presenting a meal of such beauty and  watching Mr. G gaze in wonder at  my glorious creation!

Everything began well enough.  Evening rain was predicted, so I had, earlier in the day, gathered some basil and parsley from the greenhouse and   put the  stalks in water to keep them fresh.  I'd roasted some pine nuts and had them standing by, chopped some garlic,and grated some Parmesan. They all went in the blender with some olive oil and out came a lovely pesto- it looked and smelled delicious! Then it all began to go downhill.

The potato recipe called for peeling and grating the potatoes. In the process of grating them I also
grated one of my fingers, which bled profusely. While I was stemming the flow of blood and trying to find the Neosporin and Band-Aids, the grated potatoes were just sitting there, getting surly and turning a rather  nasty color.  Once the finger was bandaged up, I  squeezed the moisture out of the now discolored potatoes as directed and proceeded with the recipe, which called for adding  chopped parsley.  

I mentioned in my last post  how  hopeless I am with a knife.  So I don't use one to chop parsley or other herbs. I use a wonderful little gadget called a mezzaluna- a rocking blade with  a wooden handle that makes  quick work of mincing  parsley or  most anything else. It's perfect for knife-challenged folks like me.  I have an addiction to kitchen gadgetry.  Most of the gadgets get used a few times then  are relegated to the back of a gadget drawer and forgotten.   This one however, is very useful and gets used a lot.

The potatoes were now formed into the disc-shaped portions called for, drizzled with olive
oil and ready to be popped into the oven. I began to tackle the fennel. Again,  opting to  use a knife substitute to slice the fennel into "thin segments lengthwise" as directed in the recipe, I used  a mandoline. However, "thin" is a relative term, and my  sliced fennel was much thinner than the fennel pictured in the book. Consequently, it browned much more and much faster than I anticipated, leaving a lot of brown bits in the skillet. When I added the freshly squeezed lemon juice and water,  the liquid  immediately turned brown. Meanwhile, the potatoes were in the oven, turning grey. This did not bode well.

The salmon didn't look too bad, in fact , it was quite nice looking.  Placed on a parchment covered baking sheet,  given a generous coating of pesto, surrounded by cherry tomatoes and capers, then drizzled with oil, it looked pretty darn good I thought. The   pink salmon,   green pesto and cheerful little red tomatoes complemented each other well .It got popped into a hot (425ºF) oven for  6-8 minutes and came out still looking pretty good.

However,  everything else lost something in  translation when  it all got together on the plate, as you can see.
The colors were off, so the presentation was sorely lacking, and as I said, when  you cut into the potatoes they were sort of gray and unappetizing inside.  The fennel looked OK but Mr. G said it  had way too much lemon and I think he's right.  The fennel is definitely worth trying again, but with less lemon, and the salmon was quite delicious and  is  worth repeating. The potatoes, on the other hand, were really not worth the trouble and I will leave them to    more skilled cooks like Annabel.

Oh, well.  Sometimes it all works, sometimes it doesn't. I still wonder, though, could  a food stylist  have made it look a little more  appetizing? I doubt it. Maybe  our next meal will be more photogenic and a little less lemony.  Hope springs eternal.

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