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Cooking is certainly a fishy undertaking

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POSTED January 19, 2011 1:57 a.m.
When I was 8, I put a filet of salmon in the microwave.

My bewildered parents frantically removed the fish and opened the kitchen windows.

Thus began my adventure in cooking, more precisely articulated using scientific jargon than culinary.

In college I experimented with pasta sauce made from Italian dressing, ketchup and assorted spices I took from the student union. It was every bit as awful as one might imagine — ingredients angrily revolting against palatable cooperation.

In the past few years, my affinity for fresh meals has over-taken the ease of frozen or boxed meals. I guess it started when my buddy Justin brought over the head of a 44-pound king salmon.

We made a fire in front of my house and hit golf balls into the ocean while the head boiled in a stock pot, then picked and ate the cheeks with our fingers.

We even tried the eye balls. Not bad.

From there I lucked out into a nice recipe for salmon cakes, crab rolls and a few other ways to season and cook fish. I even tried a few different salsas to top halibut tacos, though one batch of a mango chutney thing ate a few layers of my esophagus and stomach lining.

I shouldn’t have been too surprised, since I rarely follow recommended amounts of ingredients.

For a guy that isn’t really a Star Wars fan, I sure do use The Force a lot when cooking. Once I worked out the kinks in my mango salsa, and recovered from the first batch by eating soft, neutral foods for 48 hours, I put it on a king salmon flank and loved it.

By the way, fresh salmon is much more versatile than people think. You just can’t think of it as steak, which sounds at least moderately obvious, but some people buy their steroid enhanced, artificially colored slabs, and grill it until it has as much moisture as California has money, then wonder why they don’t like fish.

Anyway, I’ve even got myself a family that invites me over and tries out whatever uncalculated, unmeasured concoction I throw together involving fish and have become almost as fanatical about salmon as they are about Disneyland, which is certainly saying something.

The kids are even offering to help or cooking meals themselves using fish from this summer, which is still fresher than the grocery store.

After a dozen flanks of salmon, cakes and dip I decided to try smoked salmon chowder on Sunday.

I’d never made soup before. All of my crock pot experiments involved chili which is neither soup, nor salad. Chili just has to be meaty and spicy.

A smoked salmon chowder can absolutely be messed up.

I cubed some potatoes, emptied 32 ounces of vegetable broth and immediately realized that a chowder would need a creamy consistency such as that of a cream of celery or corn soup, and it wasn’t until after it was cooking along with the salmon, that I looked at a few recipes that all called for no more than 16 ounces of a liquid base.

Why did I even other to look if I didn’t use it?

I do not know.

So three hours in to its low cooking, I added carrots and celery. Upon tasting the mostly cooked taters and smoked salmon I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t terrible, and there was no indication it would cause severe lower digestive rejection.

But before I allowed myself to become too enraptured by my ability to get ingredients to act like a meal, I let the chowder stew.

About a half hour before I took it over for dinner, I added flour.

The hearty stew was surprisingly good. Seconds were spooned from bowls before the Coho salmon was even taken from the oven.

I took special pride in my latest take on seafood cuisine, knowing just how far I’ve come.
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