The finished product (bottom)
Not a Blog : A Story Collection = A Recipe
These last few months, I’ve been busy polishing up a short story/flash collection. I finally had enough work I was happy with and could marry together as a complete book—shout out to all of the literary journal editors who took the time to send me feedback on many of those pieces! Some were previously published, some not, but I think I was able to strengthen each of them through the comments of other readers, and I’m pleased with the collection that resulted.
After stumbling upon a publisher’s competition that seemed to share a theme with my collection, my days became narrowly focused. As a result, I’ve not posted a blog here in a while. I sent the book off yesterday, so ready to move on to the next project!
To make up for my missed blog, I’m sharing one of my favourite not-your-typical-family-dinner recipes that I made to celebrate my book’s departure. I promise it is not just tasty but also reasonably simple to create! Next time you have something to celebrate, give this one a try.
Blackened Salmon with Chipotle-Aioli, Celery Root Mash, & French Green Beans
Preparation Time: 15 minutes (for the spice mix, prep, cutting)
Cooking Time: about 5-10 min for fish depending on thickness, 40 minutes for the mash
If you like Cajun or New Orleans style spices, you’ll like this blackening recipe. It is easy to make and will please anyone with a thirst for spicy food or who prefers their fish well dressed. Professional chefs might consider this version on the milder side (more of a bronzing than a true blackening), but my family finds the heat just right!
TIP: While I usually prefer my non-stick frypan, when blackening, you should always use a stainless-steel pan if possible. The butter and fast, high-heat cook should ensure it doesn’t stick (or at worse, you’ll have a little scrapping to do after dinner, but it will be worth it!). Normally, I try to use olive oil rather than butter in my cooking as a healthier option. However, this blackened fish needs a little butter to balance those spices.
Combine the following spices in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed:
¼ cup paprika
2 ¼ tsp each of salt and dry thyme
1 tbsp each of onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil
1 ¼ tsp each of ground black pepper and ground white pepper
Either ½ tbsp OR 2 tsp cayenne pepper (7.5ml vs 10ml, depending on how spicy you like it)
All you’ll need is some skinless salmon fillets, the blackening mix above, and a stick of butter (you’ll use about 4-5 tbsp, depending on the number of salmon pieces you are blackening).
Begin with about 1/3 cup of your blackening mix in a bowl; set rest aside. You can always add more to the bowl as you go, but this way, if you have less fish, you can save the extra blackening mix for next time!
Rinse the salmon in cold water, pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the salmon into desired serving sizes. Dip each piece in the bowl of bronzing spices, turning until you coat all sides in a thin layer of spices. Add more mix to the bowl as needed.
Heat fry pan on high heat—wait until hot! Drop in 2+ tbsp butter and stir to avoid burning, then once melted, quickly place your salmon pieces across the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the bottom side browns, then flip each piece with a spatula and cook again, adding a tbsp of butter at a time if needed to avoid sticking. Baste the melted butter as the fish cooks until cooked through (you can test it with a knife, it should flake).
1. DIPPING SAUCE: My family likes the added punch of a spicy dipping sauce. To shortcut making a sauce from scratch, you can buy your favourite brand of chipotle aioli and whisk it with an equal part mayonnaise. If you want to do the work, there are many recipes online for aioli or spicy hollandaise, but I prefer the shortcut—the fish is the star, after all, and doesn’t need the labour of a homemade sauce to taste great . For those who prefer no sauce, you can always serve it with a few fresh lemon slices on the side.
2. CELERY-ROOT MASH: My family prefers the celery root mash rather than traditional potatoes—not only is it a healthier, lower-carb alternative to potatoes, but this creamy blend, while slightly runnier than traditional mash, has a unique flavour that balances the spiciness of the blackened fish really well. The celery-root mash is just as easy to make as any other mash, and as a bonus, it sounds more elevated if you are having guests for dinner, as well!
If you’ve never seen a celery root before, they look like something you wouldn’t want to eat . A dirty ball about the size of a small cantaloupe, with roots and stems poking out at one end. Happily, there is a treat underneath all that ugliness! The grocer may label it “celeriac” or celery-root, but you can’t miss it.
To prepare it, first cut that rind/roots off of the celery root. Depending on how young or old it is, this could look like a dirt brown to a pale green. You should end up with a white ball. Cut this into small cubes, then add them to boiling, salted water. Lower to simmer and cook until softens, just like you would with any mash potato recipe. This should take about 30 minutes or so. When ready, drain the pot and mash the celery root. Add in ½ tsp each of salt and ground black pepper (or to your taste), along with ½ cup sour cream and ½ cup coffee cream (I’d use a little less cream if the root you purchased is on the smaller side), and 3 tbsp of soft butter. Lastly, scoop the mash into a blender and blend until smooth.
3. GREENS/VEGGIE: In today’s version, I served the fish and mash with french beans, very briefly steamed, then melted a little butter over top with a dash of salt & pepper. This dinner would also go nice with cooked spinach, broccolini, or grilled corn.