This past Wednesday was a special day, my wife's and my first wedding anniversary and the 10th anniversary of our first date. With the celebration coming on a weeknight, we knew it would be difficult to get child care for the evening, plus we didn't want to be out late on a 'school night', so we decided to cook a special meal at home.
In a lot of ways, it reminded us of when we were dating. I used to cook things deliberately to impress her. Like making whipped cream with nothing but a bowl and a whisk. (Yes, I know professionals do this all the time. I bet they use it to impress dates, too.) It still impresses her, but the tendonitis in my elbow isn't very impressed by it anymore.
As I said, it was a weeknight, so while we wanted something special for dinner, we also wanted something that would be simple to prepare. After a long, busy day, the last thing we wanted was to have to cook a complicated meal.
Typically we go for a nice steak on these kinds of occasions, but since we had been grilling tri-tip almost every weekend this summer, steak just didn't cut it this time.
Coincidentally, I had recently unearthed a piece of smoked salmon that was in our freezer. I thought back to a cooking class I took with our friend Marty a few years ago. That night, we learned how simple it is to make a nice cream sauce. The plan was formulating.
Pasta with smoked salmon cream sauce. Oh yeah. That's right.
So simple and so incredibly easy, it was all ready in about half an hour.
First, we thawed the beautiful piece of smoked salmon we'd purchased from our friend Shannon, proprietor and fishing boat captain of Two if By Seafoods. She catches the fish herself, has it smoked to her specifications (about 50% less salt and sugar than regular cures) and then sells it to friends and at local farmers markets. It is the best smoked salmon I have ever eaten. (This is hot smoked, so the fish is fully cooked, not lox-style, incidentally.) Really, if you are local, you should get some. Check them out on Facebook.
When you have the best ingredients, simple treatments are best way to show them off.
Pasta with Smoked Salmon Cream Sauce - served 2 entree portions
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream (local and organic preferred...it will have a better flavor)
4 - 5 oz. northwest-style smoked salmon (not lox)
freshly ground black pepper
about 5 oz. dried fettuccine or other medium-width noodle
Set a large skillet on medium high heat (I used my 12" saute pan). Pour in the stock and cream, stirring to combine. Let the liquid come up to the boil, then turn the flame down to medium or medium-low to maintain a good simmer. Where you end up setting your burner will depend on your cooktop. Err on the side of caution if you are nervous. A slightly lower temperature will just mean it takes a few extra minutes for your sauce to thicken.
Let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. (What does that mean? Well, if you swish a metal spoon in the sauce, getting the back of the spoon covered with the sauce, the sauce should stick to the back of the spoon in a layer thick enough that when you swipe your finger through it, it leaves a line.) It'll take about 10-20 minutes depending on how fast your simmer is simmering.
While your sauce is simmering, cook your pasta according to the package directions. I used a thin egg noodle, about the width of a thin fettucine, but not as thin as linguine. You want something for the sauce to cling to.
Drain your cooked pasta, reserving a little pasta water in case your sauce thickens a little too much.
When your cream/stock mixture coats the back of a spoon, toss in your flaked salmon, stir to distribute, then dump in the pasta, tossing it with the sauce.
If you are looking to impress a date, you could do the chef thing and toss the pasta using the skillet. If you are concerned about dinner landing on the floor, you might want to just use tongs. I was tired and hungry that night...I used tongs.
Divide your pasta between plates, put a little shaved parmesan on if you want (though you don't have to...there is enough salt from the salmon and most people don't believe in cheese with fish), maybe a little parsley for color, and you're done.
We served ours with a side of baby carrots roasted with olive oil and agave syrup. This is also lovely with maple syrup, just a little to help them caramelize.
Pour a couple of glasses of your favorite beverage and enjoy a simple, impressive, romantic meal.
I have always thought that Nancy and I make a good team. We have, since we started dating 10 years ago, had an uncanny ability to think something that a moment later comes out of the other's mouth.
We have built a life together by relying on each other's strengths and working together. This meal was no exception. The pasta dish was my idea, my creation. The carrots were hers. And the rosé she randomly picked up at the store was a beautiful, bright complement to the meal. Light, tart and fruity, just enough punch to cut through the fat of the sauce, but not too much to overpower the delicate smokiness of the fish.
So here's to our wonderful anniversary meal and to you, my love. May we continue to make beautiful meals and a beautiful life together.
Thanks for stopping by.
Enjoy a meal with someone you love. It'll make your soul smile.