A feeding frenzy with friends; Steak or salmon is on the menu

Photo from eatlivepaleo.com / This is a beautiful example of a pan seared Sockeye salmon. Sockeye salmon are a northern Pacific salmon, with a bolder flavor and redder, fuller body than Atlantic salmon. Sockeye salmon eat more planton and crastacions than most salmon, and it comes out in the flavor and color of the salmon.

Hello friends and welcome back to another week of food talk! ‘Tis the season to be jolly, and I have been doing my best to tap into that spirit.

Not too long ago, I had my friends Toby and Audrey, as well as their wonderful little tykes over for a nice Irish lamb stew dinner.

This Saturday, I’ll be doing my best to entertain my more dear friends, Andrew and Lisa, with their kids as well. I’ve also begun to notice a pattern; the people I have over for these little parties tend to be a few years older than me and have beautiful little families. They’re hard working parents that I know appreciate a nice home-cooked meal that they don’t have to make themselves. I like being able to give them just a little night of reprieve.

So with my next party incoming, knowing I’ll be cooking for six-top of various ages, myself and Natalie included, I have some work cut out for me.

So let’s talk about feeding the kiddos first. Andrew and Lisa told me they’re pretty good about eating what the adults are eating, and that’s awesome given their young ages. But I don’t get to cook fancy food for kids very often, so I’m going to take that chance.

No matter where you go, you’re going to see chicken strips on a kids’ menu, so that’s where I’m starting. We’re just going to do a simple dredged and breaded chicken strip from scratch. It’ll be a simple egg and milk dredge, but the breading is where we get to have fun.

Chicken strips can be amazing if your breading is flavorful and creative, and can be unique every time. We’ll start with a basic flour base, but from there we can add a bit of lemon pepper seasoning to it. I don’t want to do too much because these are little pallets I’m working for; I don’t want to burn their mouths or overzest the operation, but it’s a good flavor they’re not going to get from frozen strips. A little salt is only natural here, but we don’t want to add too much to the point that it overpowers the subtle lemon, which will be more of an accent, really. We can go with some fresh squeezed lemon juice. I’m going to use a real lemon and not from a bottle because I have plans for the rest of that lemon. That’ll come in later.

For the chicken itself, I’ll cut a chicken breast into decent sized strips; not quite fingers but smaller than a fillet. After the chicken is cut, I’ll dredge it through the milk and egg wash, and then through the breading. I haven’t decided what herb blend I’ll be going with yet, but I’m leaning towards basil and parsley chopped super finely, almost to flakes.

For a side, I’ll make homemade oven fries, which is just washed potatoes, peels left on, then hand-cut, oiled, and season salted before getting tossed in the oven.

For the main course, I’ve given my guests an airline dinner kind of menu, salmon or steak.

Saturday is going to look a lot like my New Year’s menu from last year. I’m planning to switch it up a little bit though, mainly by way of side, and by preparation.

I’m sticking with the sockeye salmon and the flat iron steak.

This time, I’m going to do some light overnight marinating for the salmon. I don’t want to over-handle the steaks, but the salmon is going to get a lot of love.

For the salmon marinade, I’m going to build it with orange and cranberry juice, and a touch of squeezed lemon, with a bit of liquid smoke and fresh rosemary. If there was ever a Christmas-style salmon, this is it. It’s going to be sweet and tangy citrus with a touch of fresh smoke, and salmon is naturally heady and full flavored, so I’m really happy about this.

When I’m ready to actually cook the salmon, it’s going to get a bit of a pan sear to it, and then it’s going to the oven in a foil wrapped pan with some of the marinade and added white wine. When the salmon is done, I’ll have some flavored butter to top it with, but the jury is still out on what I want to flavor the butter with. I might go with a gentle honeyed rosemary butter, but we’ll see.

The steaks won’t take nearly as much prep as the salmon. I’m going to salt and pepper it heavily with cracked pepper and smoked salt, and I’m going to bacon wrap them before putting them in a pan with a bunch of butter to sear it. Searing locks in moisture, stops the meat from drying, and gives it great appearance, but trying to cook the steaks fully through in the pan would leave it so dry.

So once out of the pan, the bacon-wrapped steaks will make their way to the oven like the salmon did, but with less marinade fan fare. I might end up putting a lot of butter in the oven pan, and then putting liquid smoke, apple cider vinegar, and water into a spray bottle to spritz them occasionally to keep them moist without completely taking the salt and pepper off.

For sides, I’m looking at making a classic from-scratch garlic butter mashed potato, because it pairs with the steak as well as it pairs with the salmon. For my veggie I’m looking at yellow squash and zucchini thinly sliced, oiled, salted and peppered, and oven cooked.

Natalie is going to make dessert, which I don’t know too much about. It’s a honey brittle that she’s going to pair with French vanilla ice cream, and I have every confidence that she’s going to nail it.

Next week we’ll find out how this blueprint of mine actually turns out. But that’s all I have for you today. Come on back next week to see what we’re cooking up, and until then, don’t forget to tip!

Chris Jaehnig has worked in Copper Country restaurants for six and a half years, and he’s never met a meal he couldn’t eat. You can reach Chris at chrisjaehnig50@gmail.com if you have questions or anything you’d like him to to write about in the future.


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