Saturday, May 24, 2008

Twice-Cooked Food

When I fire up the grill, it doesn’t seem worth cooking just one meal, so I usually put on something for another day as well. Twice this spring while cooking up traditional grilling fare like burgers, dogs, and brats, I’ve thrown on a salmon filet or two afterward to use at a later time.

Leftovers have a bad name; they’re second rate, like hand-me-downs. They aren’t something to offer guests other than close friends or family in very informal situations, but a twice-cooked dish seems to me a legitimate meal. A pot of chili, stew, or rice and beans can provide meals for me for a week, and in my youth I was fond of cold pizza for breakfast, but twice-cooked food takes on a form different than the original food. It isn’t mere leftovers. Not only that, the term lends it a certain legitimacy (or at least I like to think it does). A twice-cooked dish sounds more appealing than leftovers—after all, there are already twice-baked potatoes and double boilers. And, the salmon cakes I have been making, golden brown and crispy on the outside while tender and flavorful inside, are definitely guest-worthy if the occasion calls for it, but perhaps more importantly for me, they also please the palates of two young boys.

I use Ron Berg’s recipe from Northwoods Fish Cookery as a guide, though I have been substituting shallots for garlic with great satisfaction, which is saying something coming from a garlic lover. I make a simple dip for it by combining bay powder and mayonnaise. The truth is I don’t know which I like more, the salmon cakes or the zesty mayo.

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