Have you ever been curious about what restaurant chefs serve their family for dinner? I certainly have. Alec Le Sueur traveled with Food & Wine’s 2006 Best New Chef of the Year, Virginia's Cathal Armstrong, to Canthal’s native Ireland to find the answer to that question. For the family reunion Chef Cathal chose a fennel and Atlantic lobster salad with a creamy tarragon-lemon dressing, pan-fried salmon fillets in a citrus sauce, and skillet-seared lamb with slow roasted tomatoes. His parents are extremely proud of their son and rightfully so. “Gorgeous” was the word heard over and over around the table to describe his beautifully prepared homecoming feast. The entire article can be found on Food & Wine’s website, along with all of the recipes, including the Irish brown bread and puff pastry apple pie that completed his meal.
We eat a lot of fish, particularly salmon and tilapia. I’m always searching for new ways to fix these old favorites. For the salmon Chef Canthal prepared a bright, citrus vinaigrette and served asparagus alongside. I changed a couple of things to suit my style. Broiled salmon is our preferred method for cooking salmon, so that’s what we did instead of pan frying. The chef cooked his asparagus in salted water. Every time I do it this way I think its flavor is flat, perhaps because chefs use more salt in the water than I do. I like to cook asparagus in a mixture of half beef broth and half water and never leave its side, checking frequently for doneness. There’s nothing worse than limp, overcooked asparagus that turns a murky brown. When I buy asparagus, I prefer fat asparagus to the thin stalks because they have much more flavor. This is one time "small" isn’t what you're looking for when you choose vegetables.
Salmon with Citrus Vinaigrette
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine - Recipe from Cathal Armstrong
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds fat asparagus, stalks snapped & peeled
8 six-ounce salmon fillets
3 tablespoons canola oil
In a small saucepan, combine the three citrus juices and simmer over moderate heat until reduced by half, about ten minutes. Pour into a heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature. Whisk in the shallot, chives and the 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Add a mixture of half beef bouillon and half salted water to a large skillet, just enough to amply cover the asparagus. Add asparagus, cover, and bring to a boil. As soon as the liquid boils, turn the heat down to low and cook for three or four minutes, checking the asparagus for doneness. With large, fat asparagus, it may take five minutes. When done, remove asparagus with slotted spatula and dry well on a kitchen towel. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with good extra-virgin olive oil.
Preheat the oven to broil. Arrange the pieces of fish in one layer, skin side down, on an unheated broiler tray or large sheet pan lined with heavy duty foil for easier clean-up. Smear with the canola and season with salt and pepper. Place the fish under the broiler about six to seven inches from the source of heat. Broil about six minutes or just until the pieces are cooked through. It’s not necessary to turn the fish. If the fish begins to brown too much, turn the oven to 400 degrees F and bake for a few minutes until they achieve your desired doneness.
Transfer the salmon to plates and spoon with some of the citrus vinaigrette. Serve the asparagus alongside and pass the extra vinaigrette.