Saturday, May 14, 2011

Breaking in the New Camera

After weeks of research, review reading, and polling, I finally purchased a new camera. I bought a Canon Rebel T3 DSLR, with the intention of increasing the quality and volume of pictures I take and most importantly, improving the documentation of dishes for my blog. After spending about an hour at B&H talking to one of the photo representatives, I made my purchase and rushed home to shop for food and get cooking. I wanted to make something that was as visually pleasing as it was delicious. For the protein, I picked salmon. I love the orange hue of salmon, and when contrasted with a crispy brown skin, the salmon is a truly beautiful fish to serve. To accompany the fish, I spent a long time spinning around in the produce section, looking for the most colorful veggies I could find. I picked a red pepper, jalapeno (I was tempted to get a habanero for the color, but my taste buds told me that was not a good idea...), radishes, and mint. The green, red, and white would be a great visual foil to the more earth toned fish. I also wanted something to serve the fish over, so I picked sweet yellow corn. The color is very bright and sunny, but wouldn't take away from the fish and the pepper salsa.

I got home, set the camera up to be ready to capture the meal, and started cooking. I made the salsa first so it could sit and the flavors would have time to expand as the fish and corn wouldn't take long to cook. I cut both peppers and the radishes in a fine julienne (thin slices), chopped some garlic (saving some for my corn), and cut the mint in a chiffonade (literally means ribbon in French). Once the peppers, radishes, garlic and mint were cut, I squeezed a lime over them, added a touch of salt and pepper and a spoonful of sugar for some sweetness and let it sit. Once the salsa was done, I cut up the shallot in a rough chop and heated some butter and olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Once the oil and butter were hot, I added the garlic and shallot for about 2 minutes, and then added about a cup of frozen sweet yellow corn. I tossed the pan to coat the corn, and let the dish sit to brown a bit, tossing every few minutes. Once some of the corn was nice and browned, I put all of it in a food processor with some salt and pepper and pureed it, adding a little water to thin it out. (Afterwards, I realized I should have added some crushed red pepper to give the corn puree a little bite)

When I started cooking the corn, I put a large pan on medium high to heat for the fish. When I cook salmon, I like to sear the skin first and then flip the fish over to finish it. You can serve the fish skin-side up, and not only is the skin crispy and delicious, it makes for a visually pleasing presentation and adds more texture to the fish when you eat it. In order to do this, you need to get the pan very hot before you cook the fish, otherwise the skin will break off from the flesh and you'll have skin (usually burnt skin) stuck to the bottom of the pan. I also use olive oil and butter to cook it. The butter adds some nice flavor and gets the skin a little crispier than if you only use olive oil. While the pan was heating, I rubbed the fish with salt and pepper, and rubbed some olive oil over the flesh. Once the pan was hot, I cooked the skin for about 4-5 minutes until it was browned around the edges, being careful not to move the fish at all while it cooked so the skin made a clean sear. I flipped the fish to finish it for about 3-4 more minutes, put some corn puree on the plate, laid the fish (skin side up!) over the puree, and spooned some of the pepper salsa on top.

The dish was delicious, though the salsa could have used more heat and a little vinegar to contrast the sweetness of the fish and corn. All in all, the meal was a visual and gustatory success, and I was happy to begin the era of my new camera with an artistic take on a relatively simple menu.

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