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GOOD COOKING

Hooking a Salmon the Easy Way

February 22, 1996|ABBY MANDEL

People like to eat fish--in restaurants it's always one of the most popular items on the menu--but most are hesitant to try cooking it.

That's curious, because cooking fish is really fast and easy, as evidenced by this roast salmon dinner. Almost the entire meal can be prepared ahead of time and finished just before serving.

For those who are inexperienced at cooking fish, salmon is a good place to start. Because it's popular, it has a high turnover in stores--improving your chances of getting very fresh fish. If you are in doubt as to their freshness, ask to smell the fillets: A fishy odor in the store will only intensify in the oven (although rinsing the fillets in water with a squeeze of lemon can help a lot). Truly fresh fish will not smell up your kitchen.

ROAST SALMON WITH MUSHROOM AND SHALLOT WINE SAUCE

ROAST SALMON

3 tablespoons red wine

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon butter

6 (5-ounce) salmon fillets, each about the same thickness for even cooking, rinsed and patted dry

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat wine, Worcestershire sauce and butter in small saucepan until butter melts. Brush salmon fillets with mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Place fillets in single layer in lightly greased shallow roasting pan. Fillets can be prepared several hours ahead to this point and refrigerated, tightly covered.

Roast, uncovered, at 450 degrees until sizzling and browned, about 10 minutes. Do not overcook. To test for doneness, insert tip of small sharp knife in thickest part. Fish should just barely flake.

MUSHROOM AND SHALLOT WINE SAUCE

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 cup thinly sliced shallots

12 mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)

3/4 cup beef broth

1/2 to 3/4 cup red wine

2 1/2 tablespoons catsup

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Pinch sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 to 4 tablespoons water, as needed

3 to 4 cups baby spinach leaves

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add shallots and mushrooms. Cook until shallots are softened, about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add broth, 1/2 cup red wine, 2 tablespoons catsup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Taste mixture and add more wine if needed. Simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter until melted. Add remaining catsup, if needed for taste. Adjust seasoning. Add water as needed if sauce is too thick. Can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated. If refrigerated, gently reheat before using, adding more water if sauce has thickened too much and adjust seasoning.

To serve, arrange 1/2 to 3/4 cup baby spinach leaves on each dinner plate. Top each with fillet. Spoon hot mushroom and shallot red wine sauce over fillets and greens. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

268 calories; 522 mg sodium; 75 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 25 grams protein; 0.44 gram fiber.

GRATIN OF WHITE ROOT VEGETABLES AND LEEKS

Here, potatoes combine with parsnip, celery root and leeks to give the gratin a subtle sweet flavor. It's best to bake the gratin in advance and reheat it, allowing the flavors to deepen and mellow.

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 small leeks, thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)

1 tablespoon flour

2 large baking potatoes, about 1/2 pound each, peeled, thinly sliced

1 parsnip, peeled, thinly sliced

1 celery root, peeled, thinly sliced

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 3/4 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add flour. Stir well. Cook 1 minute more. Add potatoes, parsnip, celery root, whipping cream, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper, stirring until well mixed. Simmer, uncovered, until liquid thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring with a spatula to prevent sticking.

Transfer to greased shallow 6-cup baking dish. Distribute slices evenly. Gently press down to make surface uniform.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees until vegetables are tender and surface is browned, about 40 minutes. If not browned enough, place dish 8 inches from broiler. Broil until surface is browned. Serve hot, cut into wedges. Can be baked up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Reheat, covered, in a 350-degree oven until hot, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

226 calories; 477 mg sodium; 33 mg cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 27 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 1.34 grams fiber.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Kitchen Tip

Many recipes specify baking potatoes. Unlike boiling potatoes, baking potatoes--also known as non-waxy, mealy or floury potatoes--have a low moisture and high starch content. This helps give the potatoes a smoother texture when cooked.

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