Et Voila Cooking* is based on the concept that you can pull together a few high quality ingredients and make a dinner that is, if not magnificent, at least reasonably tasty and nutritious. It is a work in progress that I am creating for my lovely niece, Caroline Grace Williams, who has requested some cooking guidance. My food preparation is very simple, and once she realizes exactly how simple, she will, as my daughter has done, leave me in the dust on this front. She’ll also realize how often I repeat the things I prepare and get so bored that she’ll want to create her own unique dishes (or, perish the thought, grab something at Mickey D’s).
So the first rule of good cooking and good eating is high quality ingredients. You can make a much more delicious meal in your own kitchen than you can get in 90 percent of the local eateries just by buying good quality food. We’ll talk more about this as we go along.
Tonight, for example, I’m preparing salmon roasted with balsamic raspberry jalapeno sauce, with mashed potatoes and salad. The salmon is wild caught and hasn’t been frozen, so it costs a little more (but still way less than it would in a restaurant, about $11 for two people). The sauce is made by combining my favorite balsamic vinegar (and there is a wide range of quality in balsamic, you want aged and my favorite brand is Napa Valley) with raspberry jam (I use Bonne Maman) and chopped jalapeno (about half a teaspoon, maybe 1/4, depends how hot it is). Place the salmon (half to 2/3 pounds) in the center of a piece of foil, poke a few fork holes in the fish, spread the sauce on top, fold over the edges to close it up, and pop it in the toaster oven at 375° for about 15 minutes (you’ll notice I’m very approximate in my timings, bad quality for a chef!).
If you don’t like salmon, this would also work fine with chicken breasts, but they would have to cook a bit longer. Slice them in half across the flat side so they don’t take forever and get crunchy on the edges while still raw in the middle.
Meanwhile, cut up some potatoes, preferably small red or Yukon gold, into chunks and put in boiling water. When they are tender, drain and add milk and/or butter and mash to perfection. Tonight we have only buttermilk in the fridge so that’s what I’ll be using. Plain coconut milk or almond milk also works fine, but not vanilla flavored… too sweet for a savory dish.
We’re also having salad… chopped up lettuce, carrots and green pepper with a dressing made of olive oil and… here it is again, balsamic vinegar (love that stuff). But you could use something from a bottle just as easily, at least til you start to get the hang of this.
*The name Et Voila Cooking is based on a frequent comment by my esteemed brother-in-law Richard Williams, MD.