There is a row of shops on a tree-lined road in Dublin, with O’Briens Wine in the centre, a butcher and grocer on either side and a mini market at the end. All together they have almost everything you need to prepare meals. I know because I dragged my daughter into every store and explored every aisle.
I dropped her off at the university across the Atlantic, where she was supposed to cook for herself, and it was a relief to know that the groceries were a 10-minute walk from her flat. (Her twin sister stayed in the United States, attending a school with a meal plan.)
I cook to eat, and I had been feeding my twins from the moment I found out I was pregnant with them, months later than I should have known and a decade ahead of schedule. Eighteen years later, faced with the reality that I would no longer feed them on a daily basis, I still felt compelled to do so in every way I could, starting with sourcing ingredients and creating a new recipe.
Inspired by my daughter’s new home in Ireland, this salmon and potato dish was designed to keep her unventilated kitchen—or anyone else’s—from smelling like a harbor on a balmy day. Instead of frying or searing the fish, which releases an intense aroma, I came up with a cooking method that is faster than baking salmon, but produces a comparable silkiness.
The trick is to reverse the usual steps of glazing salmon. Instead of wiping a finished sauce over at the end like a final coat of nail polish, cook the fish in the mix from scratch. A simple blend of whiskey, sugar and Worcestershire sauce will thicken as it simmers and coat the pan like oil might, but it won’t splatter. The bubbling liquid gently heats the fillet from bottom to top, imparting a savory sweetness without drying it out.
With this technique the fish does not get a crispy skin. If there’s any skin, it comes off easily after cooking – the feeling is just as satisfying as removing plastic protectors from new electronic devices. (I keep the hides as treats for my dog. You can do the same, eat them yourself or throw them away.)
Potatoes on the plate provide a contrast in textures, their buttercup-tinted skins crackling with salt. Their snowdrift coating makes this dish look complex, but that delicate casing is easy to reach. Based on papas arrugadas, wrinkled potatoes with a salt crust and mojo from the Canary Islands, these potatoes are boiled in generously salted water until tender, then shaken with a splash of water in the pan until it evaporates and the salt crystallizes on the puds. The savory cut of the creamy rounds is just what you want against the subtle sweetness of the glazed fish.
My daughter hasn’t made this dish yet (“I’m busy, Mom.”), and maybe she never will. But the compulsion to eat isn’t purely maternal — it’s also why I cook professionally — and cooking to eat isn’t completely selfless. When putting together meals to solve the puzzles of another’s needs, I reach out for creativity and gain knowledge I wasn’t looking for.
The mere feeding, whether on plates shared at the table, via recipes sent across an ocean, or in other forms of food supply, nourishes the giver as well as the receiver. When everything else gets out of hand, there’s comfort in being able to nurture through food.