My brother has many talents: He’s a pastor, an actor and a devoted cinephile.
He’s also a crab — especially when it comes to movies.
“Romantic?!” he exploded several years ago when I told him I’d just watched — and liked — Breakfast At Tiffany’s. “Why do you think that relationship will work? Because they found the cat?!”
For anyone who hasn’t seen this 1961 movie, my brother is referring to the final scenes. Holly Golightly (nee Audrey Hepburn) and Paul Varjack (George Peppard) have had a terrible fight. To prove she’s not the sentimental type, Holly throws her nameless cat from a car, only to go searching for it minutes later. She and George find Cat in the pouring rain then clutch each other as strains from Moon River swell and credits start to roll.
“Did you weep?” a colleague asked after I’d seen the movie.
“Did you cry?” my brother demanded.
But times change.
I watched Breakfast At Tiffany’s last month on Turner Classic Movies. Maybe it’s because I’m older or more cynical or a crab myself now, but it made me tired. All that drinking. All that partying. All that smoking and affectation. It gave me a headache.
And the end scene?
“Oh brother,” I thought as Audrey Hepburn clutched her cat and George Peppard. “This relationship is doomed.”
I thought about Breakfast At Tiffany’s last night. I blame the salmon. I’d bought a coral-hued, wild Alaskan, center-cut fillet at our local market and was pondering how to cook it.
Now, I love wild salmon. Its vibrant coral hue is so much prettier than the wan pink of its farm-raised cousins. It’s thin and sleek. Its skin glistens.
But just like Holly and those little black dresses she wears to mask her hillbilly roots, looks can be deceiving. No matter how carefully I roast it, my wild salmon ends up oozing albumin (a sure sign of overcooking). It loses its red-tinted allure. It tastes as dry as one of Holly’s martinis (half gin; half vodka; no vermouth).
I was about to chuck the roasting idea and either poach or pan-fry it when I remembered the salad I made a few weeks ago: A sleek wild salmon fillet is baked in a barely hot oven over a pan of heated water, then spooned onto greens. Surely that technique would work (and be just as delicious) sans the lettuce.
It did (and it was). After a 30-minute sauna, my wild fillet emerged from the oven moist and vibrant, with no nasty white albumin. It had a clean, assertive flavor. It peeled off its skin in large, creamy flakes.
My family didn’t get it.
But I bet my brother would.
Spoon Salmon With Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
I cribbed this technique for cooking wild salmon from the LA chef and restaurateur Suzanne Goin, who could probably even teach me a headache-less way to swill martinis all day.
- 1 wild Alaskan salmon fillet
- Zest from 1 Meyer lemon
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
An hour before dinner, pat your salmon fillet dry. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper, the Meyer lemon zest and the thyme leaves. Refrigerate:
Fill a 9X13-inch aluminum pan with water. Place it in the bottom third of your oven.
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. (Yes. 250.)
Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.
Place a rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the fish, skin-side down, on the rack. Put the baking sheet in the center of your oven.
Bake for 30 minutes.
While the fish is baking, make the vinaigrette: Whisk together the Meyer lemon juice, the mustard and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
When the fish is done, carefully spoon the flesh onto a serving dish or individual plates. Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of the vinaigrette (save any extra for salads).