As promised, this is the first installment of homemade cocktails accompanied by a quick and delicious dinner.
And so we begin. But why start cooking without a beverage? I can’t give a good answer to that — so get out your cocktail shaker.
Add some cucumber, mint, ginger and lime juice to taste (preferably all fresh ingredients). If you are missing an ingredient, that’s fine. There is no exact science here. Just add what you like or what you have — in whatever amount you prefer. Go with your own palette. Muddle. Add some ice cubes (more on types of ice later). Then add a decent gin.
I tried Farmer’s Organic Gin I found at a local wine shop (shown in the photo). But Hendrick’s or Plymouth would be good. Or if you are on a budget, go with what you can afford, but I would suggest adding more amounts of the flavor enhancers that start the drink.
Next add some sparkling water, seltzer or club soda. You can play with this and add flavored beverages if you prefer the taste. I am a purist (and by that I mean I don’t like bubbles for the sake of bubbles) so I usually just add straight water, but many people balk at that. Then shake or stir all the ingredients — just to mix the flavors — and chill. Pour into your favorite glass and garnish with a cucumber and mint if you have it. Taste and enjoy. Now you are ready to cook….
Onto the salmon. I am all about flexibility. Today, I went to Whole Foods and got what was on sale. It happened to be a nice piece of salmon for $5.99. You can do the same at your local market whatever it may be. Recipes are fluid so adjust according to what is available.
I had some leftover sour cream in my frig (Cabot- delish!) or you could use creme fraiche. I mixed that with some lemon juice (either fresh or bottled), some dijon mustard (if you want) and lots of fresh ground pepper. Obviously you should have enough sour cream that adding the lemon juice won’t make it too thin, but in general just mix to taste. If you like a spicier sauce, add more mustard or pepper. If you like more lemon, add more lemon. You really can’t mess this up. Blend it all together, put it back in the frig and you’re done with this part.
Preheat your oven (or even a toaster oven) to 400 degrees. Take your salmon or whatever fish. Drizzle it with some honey, a citrus of your choosing, ginger (particularly if you have fresh handy and used it in your drink), and some salt and pepper taste. Add some fresh herbs if you have them. Not a big deal if you do or you don’t. Lightly oil some tin foil and place the salmon or other fish skin side down on the foil. Then roast for 10 minutes or so. It may depend on how thick your salmon is or how well you like it done. But 10 minutes is a fair estimate. (And under $50 for all the ingredients assuming you are starting from scratch, including a whole bottle of gin- so really less than $15 for most people.)
You could even prepare the lemon cream sauce while the fish is cooking. But instead, I whisked together a dressing of olive oil, tangerine juice (that was what was in my frig but you could use OJ instead), minced shallots and some vinegar (white or balsamic). If you’re not a fan of oily dressings use about equal parts juice to oil and then use the vinegar to cut it. Again- lots of freedom here. I can give specifics if you want but my goal is to give ideas here people.
Then chill the dressing till the fish is about done. Take some watercress (or spinach or arugula if you don’t have watercress) and mix it with a bit of dressing to taste. Add some lovely blue cheese of your choosing.
Plate that on the bottom, add the fish on top when done and drizzle with the sauce. This whole thing should take about 15 minutes at most. And here is what it should look like:
Yes, I realize you need to have the ingredients- but if you are in a walking city, you can stop at a market and pick things up. If you are driving, it’s the same thing. You could either cook this delicious meal while enjoying a cocktail or you could order food like you do on any other given night. Personally, I feel much better knowing what goes into what I’m eating and am relaxed by preparing an elegant drink and meal.
Now for the zinger. I actually taste-tested my cucumber gin drink with the salmon and compared it to a glass of rose and a glass of white wine – of the sort you may typically see on a restaurant menu (no, I did not drink the entirety of all three drinks). Hands down, the gin was better. It was not as sweet as the wine. It brought out the flavors in the salmon and the salad. The wine actually overpowered the fish. Honestly, I was surprised by how well it worked. And it is my promise to you that I will let you know when I attempt a food and cocktail pairing that is unacceptable. After all, trial and error is a part of the adventure.
So feel free to ask me if you want more specifics. I will be happy to share.