On the way home from work, Mr. Rose and I stopped in to see Bruce. He had the largest salmon head I have EVER seen in his fridge when I stopped in yesterday and I would take it home with me if he still had it. He didn't. But there was one little fillet of salmon left in his fridge, fresh off his friend's boat in Alaska. I considered myself lucky that the tidbit weighed in as much as 10 oz.
But then I wondered: How do I prepare this tiny fillet of salmon? It was bright red, but just a little flicker of a tail. It might be nice to have more protein. I opened the fridge and like a beacon of light, a glimmer of rich, whole milk ricotta flashed before my eyes. What else? Less than half a handful of capers, scattered on the bottom of a plastic container. A misshapen hunk of parmegiano reggiano. I opened the pantry and pulled out a box of panko. I went to the garden and pulled back a behemoth tomato plant to find that the spicy globe basil and the chives were miraculously flourishing underneath. This was very promising. Capers, ricotta, parmegiano reggiano, basil, chives... some acids, some fats, some aromatics...
Literally. That's what went through my mind while I waited for my little Aga to hit 375 degrees.
And then, I reached for a bottle of extra virgin and give the beaten egg a splash of it. I beat it some more. It frothed. The oven light went off. Show time!
Something about lipophilicity, oleophilicity, and/or surface tension made the egg-oil combination stick really well to the salmon skin and the exposed ricotta, and it did so evenly. It was freshman year organic chemistry right before my very eyes! I paused for a moment to bask in that knowledge. And then the panko mixture went on. Feast your eyes on this beauty.
Ricotta-Encrusted Salmon (serves 2)
10 oz. salmon fillet
1/4 c. ricotta
2 tbsp minced spicy basil
2 tbsp minced capers
2 tbsp minced chives
2 tbsp finely grated parmegiano reggiano
1/3 c. panko
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl, mix the basil and capers into the ricotta until well-incorporated. Add ground pepper to the mixture, to taste. Rinse salmon under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Spread the ricotta mixture onto the flesh side of the salmon so that it covers the salmon in an even layer. In another small bowl, mix the chives, parmegiano reggiano, and a pinch of coarsely ground pepper with the panko. In a separate bowl, beat the olive oil into the egg until it is well-mixed and barely foamy. Coat the ricotta-covered salmon with the egg mixture (N.B. not all of the egg mixture is used in this process). Sprinkle the panko mixture over the ricotta-covered salmon. All of the panko will be used. Place the salmon on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes, when panko is lightly browned.