Monday, November 17, 2008
Finally, after five years of wanting to go to Taylor Creek in Lake Tahoe during the annual salmon run, Joel and I made the trip.
When I was at King's College in London, my friend Ben, who loved to cook, made some lovely salmon in a caper-lemon-cream sauce, little red potatoes, and green beans for me one night. We also had a lot of white wine, and that night when I went to sleep full and a little drunk, I had an extremely vivid dream. I was a salmon turning red, developing a hook jaw, and swimming up stream. I could feel my body starting to decay and I was surrounded by other salmon that were dying. To escape my salmony fate, I crawled up on the shore and caught a commuter bus towards a city I could see in the distance. I'm not a spirit animal type of person, but after that dream I didn't eat salmon for about two years. But I'm back on the pony now.
At Taylor Creek, you walk down this beautiful little path through aspen groves and past wetlands. Eventually you get to the stream, where you can go out onto the sandy bank and watch the fish. The creek was packed. Some fish were, as advertised, swimming upstream; others were just hanging out, guarding egg packets they had already deposited in creek bottom from other fish and hungry ducks. Already there were a lot of dead fish washed up on the bank and floating against rocks. I overheard a woman say that if you got there at five in the morning you could often see black bears come down to the stream and feast.
This month's recipes to test included this sole francese from a new cookbook by a New York City Southern Italian restaurant. I've been trying to eat more fish, and more sustainable/not laced with heavy metals fish specifically, and Monterey Fish Market had a sole that fit the bill, so last night I made it.
An hour and many, many dirty pots, pans, and plates later, Joel and I sat down to dinner. I was a little worried because the sauce required a ton of butter, but didn't look thick or rich. Instead, it looked pale and watery. And the fingerling potatoes, which had been boiled in advance and left to sit (to be rewarmed in the oven at the last minute along with the roasted mushrooms and the sole), hadn't gotten properly warm in the amount of time the recipe alloted for them. And since this is a recipe test, I dutifully didn't stray from the instructions (a feat which has taken a lot of willpower. As it turns out, my natural relationship to recipes is to use them as a general roadmap and then alter according to my mood, gut instinct, and opinions).
The other thing that worried me was the amount of lemon I was supposed to put in the sauce. It called for the juice of two lemons, but I was halving the recipe, so I used the juice of one lemon. I think my lemon was larger or juicier than the writer had accounted for, because it masked with its intense citrusity any subtle flavors the sauce may have had.
All in all, I was underwhelmed. For the number of dishes this meal created, the amount of oil and butter it required, and the length of time it took to put it all together, I thought it was pretty disappointing.