Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Salmon, Au Gratin Potatoes, & Spinach

This past Saturday night was an evening of improv all around. First, the LeCroys came over for improvised baked salmon. Ross, pictured above (isn't he ridiculously photogenic?!), improvised some cocktails. Then, we headed over to Improv Olympics, where our friend Robert was a contestant in a fierce head-to-head battle of wits.

I'll talk fish first, then give you the rundown on the show.



1 salmon filet per person
salt and pepper
1-2 lemons
salt and pepper
fish or all-purpose seasoning


1 c. white wine
1/2 pt. grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and all-purpose seasoning
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 T. half and half
1 tsp. sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon

20-ish baby yukon gold potatoes (or other small potatoes)
1 1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 c. 1% milk
3 T. flour
4 T. butter, divided
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

1 large bag spinach leaves
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper


Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 8-10 minutes. Do not cook them completely (they should still be raw in the center). Drain. Slice very thinly. Preheat the oven to 375.


Start the sauce. In a medium sauce pot, combine wine, tomatoes, and red pepper and cook over medium heat until vegetables start to break down. Add the mustard, lemon juice, sugar, and seasonings, and continue to cook. Stir in the half and half just before removing from heat to serve.


For the gratin sauce, make a roux with 3 T. of the butter and the flour. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, whisking constantly until thickened. Stir in the shredded cheese and whisk until melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Be generous with the salt, as this will serve as the seasoning for all the potatoes as well.


In a shallow baking dish, spread the potato slices. Pour the cheese sauce over them, making sure they're completely covered. In a nonstick pan, melt the remaining 1 T. butter and cook the breadcrumbs until they're all coated in butter. Spread the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the au gratin potatoes. Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes, until edges are bubbly and breadcrumbs are beginning to brown.


Rinse the salmon filets and pat dry. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it lightly with nonstick spray. Arrange the filets on the sheet and season with salt, pepper, and fish seasoning. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of the filets), or until fish flakes easily with a fork (this is for completely cooked salmon).


Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add the spinach and salt and pepper and cover. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until spinach is wilted, stirring occasionally. Serve with the fish, sauce, and potatoes au gratin.


I didn't do a very good job of recording what everyone said, but here is a direct quote from Taylor:

"Very well put together meal. I thought the salmon was perfectly cooked and went with the sauce very well. It also wasn't too watery like you might expect from a fish-with-sauce dish. For me though the potatoes stole the show. Nice creamy texture with a crunchy crust. The whole thing just oozed with winter comfort. I would definitely eat here again."

Nice! And Sarah's plate said more about how much she like the dish than any verbal comments ever could've - she ate more than I have ever seen her eat in one sitting - she actually ate almost all of the salmon! Any of you who have had the pleasure of eating with Sarah know that she is picks adorably, like a graceful little bird (cut to me licking cream sauce directly out of the pan). Ross, as we have come to expect, would have preferred his salmon to be breaded and fried, his sauce to be creamier, and for there to be an element of bacon on the plate.


7 stars. I think the sauce was a bit on the acidic side, and I would've liked my own piece of fish to be a little firmer (not sure what was going on with my piece). I did really enjoy the au gratin potatoes. I didn't even feel too bad eating them, since even a small portion was so creamy and satisfying that I wasn't tempted to gorge myself (OK, I was, but that's when you put the leftovers immediately into the fridge and don't walk through the kitchen until breakfast). The spinach was average - nothing creative about it, really.

And about the show (ALERT ALERT: shameless plug for friend's comedy show in 3...2...1...) - it was AWESOME! No offense to the great improv team that went up against Robert's group, but his was clearly funnier.

At Improv Olympics (former home to Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, and a whole slew of other SNL stars), each team gets 20 minutes to improv - and this is improv comedy in its purest form - no props, no suggestions from the audience, just pure made-up-on-the-spot hilarity. At the end, the audience votes for their favorite group, and that group advances onto the next round of the tournament. Robert's group won! The ultimate winners get $800, so Robert, we're all rooting for you.

At a very recession-friendly $5 a ticket, you really can't find a better deal on a funny Saturday night in the city.

Thanks to Robert, our hilarious friend, and to my dear LeCroys for coming over. Thanks for reading!

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