I seldom pause to take pictures when I cook for clients. It’s too time-consuming, intrusive and borderline annoying. Especially if I’m entertaining for the first time. I could easily subject myself to eye rolls, confused looks or plain ol’ “please step away from my plate!” I always have my camera with me just in case I get lucky enough to document the process. But, yeah, generally speaking, it doesn’t go down like that. But this truffle herbed salmon deserved a picture. Or two.
Last week, while in the utter madness of packing, organizing a massive move back to D.C. and major meetings, I get a call from my friend Chrystal of The DuoDishes asking me to cook a fabulous dinner for her mother. It was her Mother’s Day gift. How sweet, right? The only thing that struck me as a bit daring was that Chrystal is in LA and has never tasted my food. No matter the amazing work we’ve done together, we’ve never had the privilege of eating each others’ food. Not exactly sure how that’s been in the realm of possibilities.
I understood it all last week when I took a scenic drive to her mom’s lovely house. 45 minutes from my place — yes. That’s far enough to keep me and Chrsytal from breaking bread whenever she’s in town for a family visit. But, had I known her casa has two full-sized kitchens, boasting 14 burners total, I could have pushed that geographically unattractive drive to the side and moseyed my way to those parts of Metro Atlanta.
I don’t blame Chrystal for not leaving her mom’s house when she visits. There’s little incentive to drive into the city when a kitchen like her mother’s bears everything a foodie wants. Island range with a 4-seater bar, double oven, etc… So ideal for me when cooking in a stranger’s home. I get to slide back in forth in my heels with relative ease, making the experience rather entertaining.
That’s exactly what I did. I met Chrsytal’s mom last summer in L.A. during our Blogging While Brown kick-off cocktail party at the Capital Grille, so the meeting wasn’t all that formal. She invited herself to the bar and chatted away as me and A prepped. She asked questions but didn’t touch on what I was cooking for her special dinner. She had a general idea, but I pulled a few switcharoo’s on her — for the betterment of the evening — and her palate.
A private dinner for two is easy. Cooking for two with two completely different protein options makes it much more fun and engaging. I can’t rely on A to do the cooking so managing a few pots and skillets only results in a fantastic impression of my my real skill. And such actions were duly noted by her mom and husband. While I made her mom a truffle herbed salmon, her husband was inquiring about the heated steak sauce I was stirring. I’ll save that recipe for another post, but I’m a new fan of heat on my steak! I did myself in, I won’t lie.
The herbed salmon I proposed took a life of it’s own, however. The steak sauce was well-planned and thought out, but having 2 boxes full of ingredients allowed me to modify and really create something based on my and even their mood. There was a French aura in my mind. I had a bottle of white truffle oil for the asparagus she specifically requested. Her interest in the fancy (this is up for debate) oil lit my bulb and gave perfect excuse to use it to sear her salmon. That worked just beautifully with the herb, garlic and citrus fish I’d been seasoning for over an hour. The smell was intoxicating, as you can imagine and the flavor was something she’d never experienced — as reported by Chrystal.
A generous amount of minced garlic covering the salmon seemed to have taken over, but the balance of the oil and limon settled everything right into place. I opted for cauliflower purée for its nutritional properties and its natural pairing with the salmon’s flavor. Potatoes, rice, quinoa or any other every day starch would have been too predictable. The whipped vegetable was soft and ultimately, hinted of garlic. I couldn’t help it!
Mrs. R and me at her island bar after dinner
After 3 hours of comedy relief provided by A, wine sipping, party planning, serving 4 courses, tasting cordials and answering all queries on my artistic life, I took my 5″ stilettos off and folded up my apron.
All was good. Mr. and Mrs. R were satisfied, having experienced new flavor and textures; and I was one happy chef. Not only did I make some new friends that were extremely generous and exhibited that Southern hospitality Atlanta is known for, but I was able to pause for pictures without imposing. After all, Mrs. R knows her daughter takes pictures of everything — inclusive of the pan sizzling up something delicioso. I just ended up with the final plate. Hers anyway!