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Monday
Feb232009

Last Minute [Pot] Luck

I'm not the kind of person to forget dates.  If you ask me,  when is the super awesome extravaganza taking place, I can easily recite the date.  However, the day before the super awesome extravaganza, if you ask me if anything is going on tomorrow, I may absent-mindedly say no.  This is what reminders are for.

For the last six weeks, I've known that the neighbors have been planning to get together for brunch- I wrote it down and everything.  It wasn't until the e-mail reminder immediately before, when I realized the date I had written down was the next day.

Going through the mod podge of e-mails I notice a trend- everyone around me has a sweet tooth.  With the exception of a very reputable quiche coming from upstairs, everyone is volunteering muffins, cakes, donuts, cinnamon rolls, etc, et cetera.  Immediately, my idea to do banana nut bread, one of the few things I can consistently bake well, is out.

I need to make something salty, something that doesn't have to be prepared and served a la minute, something substantial, and most importantly of all, delicious.  In my inquiry concerning what other patrons were bringing, it is recommended to do a potato dish or maybe lox and cream cheese.

I like lox and cream cheese- who doesn't?  Definitely a crowd pleaser, but making a platter of the stuff would be a bit pedestrian, and not really make a great impression to my extended roommates. 

Research begins by burrowing into my library.  I come across Charlie, and realize I don't need any stinkin' book.  The grand master taught me how to make a smoked salmon tartare months back.

Next step- jump on the red line to Fullerton and visit Trotter's To Go to procure the best quality smoked salmon, and keep the dish as true to the original as possible.  I arrive to empty shelves.  Not a good start to the dish.

I head back to the stop, thinking of the next best place to go.  Fox & Obel is always on point, but they're far away and with my luck, will be out of product as well.  However, they do carry the best prosciutto, I could always do a last minute change.  Alas no, I've already wasted an hour and am not going further out of my way on a gamble.

I left my place at 3:45. Note timestamps.As I raise my head from thought, quickly pacing in the Chicago cold, I see a chain grocer, who should be carrying what I am looking for.  First floor, nothing.  Second floor, nothing.  This should not be so difficult.  Twitter gets another entry.

After two failed expeditions south, I take the red line back north, past my home, to chain grocer number three.  Minutes into the store, I bump into the quiche master.

"Hello neighbor!  What are you making for tomorrow?"  I'm making a smoked salmon tartare.  At least trying to.  "Do they even have smoked salmon here?" 

Panic strikes.  They have to have smoked salmon.  I've seen it before on the far side of the butcher's station.  How can 12,000 sq ft of food space not have lox?  My neighbor and I part ways and I bullet across the store

Took long enough.There lies, beautiful red smoked salmon.  Just my luck- there's a variety of them too.  I decide to pick up a few ounces of a higher quality product (assumed solely on higher price tag), and the rest a standard brand that I'm familiar with.  Great success.

Morning comes and I get to work.  While the bread is in the oven I open the 'high grade' salmon.  Very pungent, very dry.  Great failure.  I prepare the rest of tartare, but fall short on desired quantity.  Time to get dangerous.

I have a wonderful mixture of smoked salmon, capers, shallots, chives, little salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Like Bob Ross, I [seemingly] ruin my masterpiece by adding something extra, in this case the dry 'high quality' salmon.  I remedy the texture by drizzling in high grade olive oil, and caper juice. 

First taste- needs more salt.  Just as my fingers dip into the salt bowl I recognize the deception.  There is smoked salmon and capers in the dish, how could I need more salt?  A common error is to mistake a lack of acid for a lack of salt.  I squeeze in more lemon juice, and the seasoning is perfect.

While the salmon and company's flavors continue to marry, I beat the cream to soft peaks- all with the same hand.  Fold in horseradish, salt, pepper, chives, and the cream is done.

I lay out all the croutons, spoon a healthy amount of horseradish cream 22 times, then delicately place a spoonful of tartare 22 times, then top with a fresh sprig of fennel 22 times.  Not a bad a representation for 1N.

The first Dash of Stash seafood dish- Salmon Tartare with Horseradish Cream

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Reader Comments (7)

so after a few wasted trips to the stores.. it was off to the chain stores, who'd have thought?! don't you wish the Food Dawg was still available as a shopping option? Nicely done sir, maybe i should just have you cater will's wedding haha

February 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersloth

You pulled it off!

February 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoie de vivre

The sad thing is this is actually the short version of what happened. There was a fourth trip to the store to get forgotten capers and then there was...

February 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterStash

Cool, you had me on the edge of my seat! So I thought I should come out from lurking and actually comment. GREG

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergreg

Mike, Thanks for adding me to your favorites. I hadn't noticed until someone clicked through from your site. I am honored!

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoie de vivre

Nice! I have capers and forget to use them! I have a nice appetizer that blows people away. I actually thought you were going to post about 'dates' as opposed to a real date, or calendar, lol... Stuffed Mahool Dates with goat cheese and apricot, or you could use something else, and wrap it in pancetta or prosciutto San Danielle (I hate ordinary prosciutto), and then pop them into the oven for a few minutes, and serve room temp...they are addictive...

The final product looks explosive in the mouth, and don't you hate those last minute grocery runs, I just blew mine off Saturday and went out instead!

March 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChef E

I didn't see it, but my dad made a really cool amuse by rolling a similar salmon mixture into a ball, and then rolling that in crushed wasabi peas to make a crust/shell. I thought that was really clever and the concept of mixing in [crushed] wasabi peas could be applied here somehow...

March 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterStash

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