Kristine Kidd

Cabin Life, Cooking, Improving Lives

The First Dinner
Pan Fried Salmon with Mustard Topping
Crisp-Roasted Baby Potatoes and Broccoli

A place isn’t home to me until I’ve cooked a meal.

We’d gotten up early on a temperate Saturday morning in Los Angeles, packed the car with warm bedding, a card table, 2 folding chairs, a few groceries and 2 big dogs, then drove 6 hours to the high Sierra. We held our breath as we walked into the cabin we had purchased almost on a whim, and instantly fell in love with it all over again, even with raw plywood floors and next to no furnishings.

While Steve figured out how to turn on the water (in the mountains, it’s wise to shut off the water when leaving a house empty for a while because you never know when frigid temperatures will blow in and freeze the pipes), I made up the bed with flannel sheets and layers of cozy blankets (the forecast was for overnight low around 25°F, a good 20°F colder than what we were used to in Los Angeles).

Cooking dinner was next. Because this was our first night in the cabin and I wasn’t certain how the appliances would work or which pots and pans the seller had left for us, and knew the pantry was empty, I had planned an easy meal: pan fried salmon with mustard topping, and crisply roasted baby yellow potatoes and broccoli. I had packed only basic ingredients—homemade granola, yogurt, coffee, tea, and milk for breakfast; bread, cheese, mayo and mustard to make sandwiches; salmon, potatoes, broccoli, olive oil, salt and pepper for dinner fixings.

I turned the oven up high and put the vegetables to roast. Next, I seasoned the salmon with my favorite mustard-mayo topping, a technique I learned from LA’s top seafood chef, Michael Cimarusti—the mayonnaise keeps fish moist while the mustard adds lots of good flavor. Within minutes of placing the salmon in a skillet set over medium-high heat, the fish began sizzling, giving off an aromatic haze, which set off the newly installed smoke alarm. We opened windows and doors and yanked the alarm from the wall.

Once the kitchen was under control, I started searching for the flatware the seller was contracted to leave for us. I opened every drawer and cabinet twice, then again, but there were no knives, forks or spoons. Oops! I found 1 plastic fork in our lunch bag and had brought my favorite Swiss Army paring knife for cooking, and that was it. However, the fire Steve had lit in the wood stove was warming up the almost empty living room, casting an inviting glow on the card table he’d set nearby. I put out the red checked place mats the seller had remembered to leave behind and served our dinner on the vintage pine cone adorned plates that had been both promised and placed prominently in the kitchen cabinet. We passed the kitchen knife and plastic fork back and forth as we ate by candle light in front of the fire and knew we were home.

Pan Fried Salmon with Mustard Topping

Kristine Kidd
The fish is succulent, flavorful and takes only a few minutes to put together, thanks to a thin coating of mayonnaise mixed with mustard. I love to use wholegrain Dijon mustard, but regular Dijon mustard also yields great results. Although optional, a simple sauce of Greek yogurt mixed with more mustard, fresh lemon juice and a little olive oil adds extra goodness to both the fish and vegetables. The sauce so quick to make, you can stir it together while the fish cooks. Leftover sauce makes a satisfying dip for veggies. Makes 2 servings

Ingredients
  

Salmon

  • 1 8-10 oz salmon fillet, pin bones removed*
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Mayonnaise
  • Wholegrain Dijon mustard or regular Dijon mustard
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon wholegrain Dijon mustard or regular Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions
 

  • For the salmon: Pat the fish dry and arrange skin side down on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over the top of the fish, and then spread a little mustard over the mayonnaise. Heat a heavy medium skillet (cast iron will yield crispy skin) over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay the fish in the pan, skin side down. Cover the pan and cook the fish until just springy to the touch, about 10 minutes for every inch of thickness, do not turn the fish over. Transfer the fish to a plate.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Combine the yogurt mustard, lemon juice and oil in a small bowl and mix to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Cut the fish into two pieces and transfer to plates. Serve with the sauce.

Notes

*Pin bones are small bones that run down the length of fish fillets. Check to see if they are there by running a finger across the flesh side of the fish. If they have not been removed, pull them out with needle nosed pliers or strong tweezers.
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Crisp-Roasted Baby Potatoes and Broccoli

Kristine Kidd
Another super easy but very satisfying recipe-really more of a technique than recipe. It’s perfect for after a big day, like our first dinner at the cabin. We had driven 280 miles from Los Angeles, unloaded the car, set up for our first night in our mountain retreat, we were tired and very hungry.If you don’t want to peel the broccoli stems, just cut off the florets and toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and then cook according to the recipe. Makes 2 servings, with leftovers

Ingredients
  

  • 2-3 broccoli stalks, about 1 pound
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ pound Dutch baby or other small potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 2” pieces

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F. Cut ends off broccoli stems.Peel the stems by inserting a small sharp knife just under the peel at the base of the stem and then pull off the peel. Continue around each stem until most of the peel is removed. Cut each stalk lengthwise into quarters. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange on one side of the pan. Place potatoes in a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange the potatoes cut side down on the same pan as the broccoli.
  • Roast until the potatoes are brown and tender and the broccoli is tender, about 25 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
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