Grilled Salmon | Mango Salsa | Curry-Butter Sauce

I’ve always looked at cooking like science–I figure I could eventually learn to cook anything if I follow the correct sequence of steps with the right ingredients. This led me to try to learn both what tastes good together, and why it tastes good, and ultimately the way I cook now. Every dish is an experiment, and another opportunity to try something new. Since I don’t have to worry about sponsors, or grant funding for my “lab”, I can basically go in any direction I want, and it’s unlocked my creativity. I digress.

Science (and cooking) is about solving problems–whether it’s stopping the spread of disease, preserving food for a long winter, or keeping my mind occupied. I cook when I’m hungry–but some of my best ideas come when I’m working through stress (which explains the huge inventory of pictures I’ve been sitting on since college). I think cooking is a great analogy for problem solving; I start off with an flavor or plate in mind, and work backwards through huge array of ingredients, equipment, and techniques until I’m eating it. It’s the process that helps me find flexible solutions to challenges at all levels of life.

This process was even more significant last year, during my recovery from the latest round of surgeries to replace my shunt–a device that regulates the pressure in my skull. I’ve lived with a neurological disorder called hydrocephalus for my entire life, but aside from roughly ten “brain surgeries”, I’d say I’m pretty ‘normal’ otherwise. I’ve even developed a twisted sense of humor to make sense of all my crazy hospital experiences, and I’m still working toward my lifelong dream to become a physician (if I had enough characters, I would have put this URL in my personal statement). I even decided to study neuroscience in college so that I could make better sense of my brain, and find a way to use some those difficult experiences for good.

In 2016, seemingly out of no where, my shunt failed again–but this time, it was worse than ever. I’ll spare the details (this is a food blog after all), but the short version is that I experienced some pretty terrifying memory problems due to complications during one of the operations. I’m a lot better now, but I still remember that period best through the crazy stories from my family and friends, old text messages, and the occasional things I jotted down. Somehow, in the middle of all that, I still remembered how to cook, even if most of my other memories were hazy. My sister thought cooking would help bring me back, so she and mom bought a bunch of ingredients, and let me get to work; this is what I came up with.

She was right–once I got back in the kitchen, things started to make sense again. It still took a few weeks before I was back to “normal” but I’d say cooking really did help me regain my usual focus, problem solving skills, and ‘scientific method’. This was not my most glamorous meal, but at the time it tasted like a masterpiece because it proved that my memories, abilities, and preferences were all still in there. Good thing, right?

Let’s cook.

You’ll need:

2 lb Skin-On Salmon Filets

1 Mango, peeled and cubed

1/2 White Onion, minced

1 Shallot, minced

3 Cloves of Garlic, minced

1/2 Cup Parsley, chopped

1/4 Cup Cilantro, chopped

1 Small Bell Pepper, minced

1 Tsp Flour

1 Tsp Curry Powder

1 Tsp Paprika

1 Tsp Black Pepper

2 Limes, juiced

3 Tbs Butter

1 Cup Chicken Stock

1/4 Cup White Vinegar

1/2 Tbs Cumin

1/4 Tsp Turmeric

1/4 Tsp Coriander Powder

Salt and Pepper to Taste

  1. Preheat a cast-iron grilling pan on med-high heat. Use tongs to brush paper towel dipped in vegetable oil to coat the pan, and prevent sticking.
  2. Place the filets skin-side-up on a cutting board, and cut one or two shallow slits in the skin–this will help the meat remain flat on the pan, and cook evenly. Pat dry, then season with with kosher salt, cumin and paprika.
  3. Place the meat on the pan skin-side down, and sear. Flip after roughly seven minutes, or when the fish begins to firm up. Continue cooking for roughly five more minutes, or until it reaches your desired temperature.
  4. Combine chopped mango, parsley, shallot, and vinegar in a mixing bowl. Season with cumin, coriander, black pepper and salt.
  5. Heat butter in a sauce pan on medium. Stir in minced onion, garlic, and bell pepper, and stir. Season with salt, pepper, and curry powder, and stir until fragrant. Mix flour, and lime zest into warm chicken stock, then pour into the pan, and reduce until the sauce thickens.
  6. Plate and Serve.

Done.

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