Whenever it’s an election season and I’m rabidly following debates and interviews and throwing things at my television or radio when I get annoyed with someone (it’s a good thing for the sake of my blood pressure that it doesn’t happen multiple times a year!) I find myself getting so sick of the phrase “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” that I could just, I don’t know, throw another sock at the radio, I guess. Talk about a phrase that gets overused by politicians. So, imagine my feelings when I found myself describing my cooking and reflecting that while I love excellent food, I don’t want to “let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Ooops.
The thing is, when it comes down to it, it’s often true. If we set our expectations too high in the beginning, we wind up giving up before we’ve even started. I used to think of myself as a perfectionist, but that is total bull, actually. I like to dabble and keep it simple, rather than perfect. So, quite good is good enough on most occasions. Especially when it comes to cooking (and correcting typos, hehe), and I think that’s a good thing. Sure, I’ll never be a chef; I can just be a little too lazy to cook in ways that involve many intricate steps or any techniques much more challenging than chopping and whisking. But, at least I do it. I get home cooked meals on the table. And they’re good. Sometimes really, really good.
If I were striving for perfect food a) I’d never have time, I don’t think; and b) I’d be too frustrated each time something wasn’t totally amazing, even if it was good; so c) I’d wind up never cooking and have to spend a solid $40 every night getting food at one of the couple of restaurants where I felt like I’d had really perfect food. And my budget sure isn’t going to sustain that. I guess I’d wind up eating Annie’s mac&cheese every night for the rest of my life – turns out perfect every time . Don’t get me wrong. I’m really glad that there are people who are willing to strive and become perfect. I love those couple of restaurants where I’ve had perfect food. And I definitely wouldn’t want my gastroenterologist or dentist to just dabble in their fields, I can tell you that much! But, for my own cooking I’ll take the simple and good, with the occasional (often completely accidental) perfect.
This salmon recipe is an awesome example of an incredibly simple, borderline slack-off, meal that turns out nearly perfect every time. It’s a fabulous way to take that step and get dinner onto the table when you’re secretly eying the phone numbers of take out restaurants that’s hanging on your fridge. I learned this technique for cooking salmon from my tante Vigdis in Norway. The cream and salmon juices mingle together while the salmon roasts, which creates a decadent, flavorful sauce with no extra effort. The other fabulous thing is that you can switch up the lemon and pepper for other spices or herbs and get amazing results with a whole spectrum of flavors. Try it with dill, or curry powder, or thyme sprinkled onto the salmon. Or whisk a dollop of mustard into the cream. I even once baked salmon with cream and raspberries and just a splash of white wine. You could probably serve this every night for several days using a different spice each time, and it wouldn’t even feel repetitive. Can you ever have too much cream sauce? (I already know the answer to that, but I’m not sure I want to hear it!)
Lemon Cream Roast Salmon (serves 4)
- 1 1/3 lb wild caught salmon fillet
- 1 Tbs. lemon zest
- 2 tsp. fresh ground pepper (or you can just replace the zest and pepper with a couple tsp. of lemon pepper)
- ½ tsp. salt, plus more to taste
- 1 cup cream
- Preheat oven to 425F. Rinse and pat dry the salmon fillet. Place fillet, skin side down, in a lightly greased baking pan just large enough to hold it. Mix together lemon zest, ground pepper, and salt, and press onto salmon fillet. Pour the cream over the salmon.
- Roast in the oven until the salmon is just cooked, about 25 minutes (check for done-ness with a fork, the salmon should flake but not appear dry). Serve with whipped parsnips or roasted potatoes, with the cream sauce from the pan scraped/poured over each serving. Season with extra salt, if desired. Accompany with a cucumber salad or another green vegetable.