Clockwise from upper left – taboule, red kuri squash, Bosc pears (I believe they were Bosc), seafood herb pack, four four-ounce portions of sockeye salmon, 12 Gulf coast shrimp (shell on), purple sweet potatoes and baby carrots.
I really had no idea at first as to what to do, but was happy with the seasonality of the ingredients. I knew I wanted to poach the shrimp, so headed to the freezer to get some nage out (to which I eventually added celery, the carrots pictured, parsley & chervil stems, star anise and shrimp shells, boiled for a while and then strained).
For the salmon I was initially going to make a roasted carrot and cream sauce, but that’s too similar to a sauce we have at work, so I decided against it.
I also knew we had the ingredients to make a modified Romesco sauce, so I set about roasting a red pepper and an onion, along with some almond slices and macadamia nuts. Sure, Romesco calls for hazelnut, but not having that I decided to substitute the macadamias.
I also got to work on making the taboule, since I knew this would take some time. To the taboule I added some diced pear, chervil, parsley, Banyul’s vinegar, salt and pepper.
At this point I got the idea to make a poached pear dessert since I had two and a half pears left over (plus some homemade vanilla ice cream in the freezer). For the poaching liquid I used some sauvignon blanc, water, sugar, two cinnamon sticks, 3 cloves, some black peppercorn and white balsamic vinegar.
I was still at a loss as to what to do with the squash, torn between dicing then sauteeing it and adding it to the taboule or making some sort of a sauce out of it. Once the red pepper and onion were done roasting I decided to roast the squash in the oven so that I could eventually make a sauce out of it for the salmon.
And I still had those pesky purple sweet potatoes, to which I eventually sliced thin and roasted with some vegetable oil.
So here’s how it came together:
I served the shrimp on top of the Romesco and purple sweet potato. I was really happy with the way this came out considering I had no idea how the sweet potato would play off the shrimp and Romesco.
The sauce for the salmon was pretty easy to make – roast the squash, puree it with some cream then thin out with some of the poaching liquid from the shrimp. For the salmon I just sauteed it in a cast iron pan to rare to medium rare. Sockeye fillets are so thin and dry out so fast that I didn’t want to have it overcook, so I just cooked them on the stove top for maybe 2-3 minutes. And the taboule worked pretty well for the dish, offering a nice flavor and texture contrast.
There’s not much to be said for the dessert – simple yet delicious. The only thing I’d do different would have been to save the seeds from the squash to roast/candy them to have some crunch with the dessert.
All in all I was happy with the way things turned out though, as I think everyone else was. The whole cooking process took no more than an hour and a half, proving that you can make really tasty meals at home in not that much time. If I’d have known in advance what I was going to be given I probably could have had things done inside of an hour.