Another Wednesday night and another dish from The Kitchen Sessions by Charlie Trotter. The uncertainty surrounding the current week will probably not allow for this trend to extend into a third week.
The most obvious components in need of being made in advance are the red wine reduction and roasted portobellos. Both are easy, require minimal effort and can be done the night before while you’re doing the dishes.
Trotter’s method for roasting mushrooms is so good that it’s hard to believe I haven’t always done it this way (and I can’t understand why in the restaurants I’ve worked we simply sautéed the mushrooms rather than roasting them this way prior to sautéeing them, which yields a considerably deeper flavor). The roasting is really quite straightforward: chop a couple of cups of mushrooms, add some diced onion, a sprig or two of thyme and/or rosemary, half a cup of water, a little olive oil, salt and pepper, cover and roast at 325°F for 30-40 minutes.
The remaining components of the dish can all be prepared while the grits are cooking in the last hour.
Trotter’s recipe simply calls for 2 cups of cooked grits which leaves a lot of room for interpretation I suppose. Here’s how I made mine: sweat a tablespoon or two of onion diced small in a decent amount of butter, add a teaspoon or two of thyme and cook for a minute, add the liquid (2 C white chicken stock and 2 C half & half), bring to a boil, then slowly add half a cup of grits (or polenta) while stirring all the time, reduce the heat and keep cooking. You’ll have to add liquid throughout to achieve the desired consistency (I like mine fairly soft while others I know enjoy them stiffer). To the grits you’ll add the red onion that has been sautéed as well as some lemon juice and chives, season with salt an pepper.
There’s a basic vinaigrette that needs to be made that is later drizzled over the fish – olive oil, lemon juice, shallots and chives – as well as the mushroom sauce, which calls for 1/2 C of the red wine reduction to be blended with half the mushrooms. Season both sauces well, and put the mushroom/wine reduction sauce over low heat to heat through. Also put the remaining portobellos in a pan and heat over low heat.
The only item remaining is the salmon. The recipe calls for skin to be left on, which I was intending to do until I realized that the dickheads at Whole Foods hadn’t scaled the fish (nor had they removed any of the pin bones, but that I can live with), which I realized after I’d already portioned it. So I grudgingly removed the skin, which the dish definitely could have benefited from as all the other components are all a little similar in texture. Oh well.
The dish itself is really a play on juxtaposing all these acidic elements – the red wine/mushroom sauce, the vinaigrette drizled over the fish, and even the lemon juice that seasons the grits – with the buttery nature of the grits, mushrooms and salmon itself. And it works really, really well.