It all started with the release of my last book, The Surreal Gourmet Entertains. To promote it, I traveled the globe throwing spontaneous dinner parties wherever I could rustle up a kitchen and a willing audience. The hazard of having a good publicist, however, is that guests tend to arrive with impossibly high expectations. Instead of trying to compete with their fantasies, I countered by turning an urban legend into a practical cooking method. My kitchen resembled a mad laboratory as I pushed my dishwasher well beyond the uses covered by its limited warranty. With a minimum of collateral damage, the process of testing and tweaking the following technique was good fun and yielded results that even surprised me.
As it happens, salmon’s very forgiving. Although temperature and cycle durations vary with each machine, a little more or less “washing” doesn’t greatly affect the results. To heighten the drama — and prove that you have nothing up your sleeve — let your dinner guests crowd around the dishwasher when you load the fish. Then, when the cycle’s complete, invite them back to witness the unloading.
Here’s all you need to know to set your doubts aside, put dinner in the dishwasher and watch your multitasking kitchen appliance steal the show.
1 T olive oil
1 Cut two 12-inch square sheets of aluminum foil.
2 Grease the shiny side of the foil with oil. Place two fillets side by side on each square, and fold up the outer edges.
3 Drizzle one tablespoon lime juice over each fillet. Season with salt and pepper.
4 Fold and pinch the aluminum foil extra tightly to create a watertight seal around each pair of fillets. Make sure the packet’s airtight by pressing down on it gently with your hand. If air escapes easily, rewrap.
piquant dill sauce
1 T butter
1 Melt butter over medium heat in saute pan.
2 Add leek, shallot, jalapeno and garlic, sauteing about five minutes or until the leek and shallot are translucent but not brown.
3 Reduce to medium heat and add chicken stock. Simmer, uncovered,15 minutes. (Adjust heat as required to maintain simmer.) The liquid should reduce by half.
4 Remove from heat and let cool.
5 Transfer to a blender or food processor and add dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Reserve and reheat just before serving. Stir in sour cream at the last minute.
the instruction manual
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COOK A WHOLE FISH!
1 Place fish packets on the top rack.
2 Add dirty dishes and lemon-scented soap. This optional step is not recommended for novices. However, as long as the salmon’s tightly sealed in its aluminum foil packet, it won’t absorb any soapy taste or smell.
3 Set dishwasher to the “normal” cycle. Modern dishwashers have “economy” and “cool dry” settings, which are undesirable since they conserve heat. However, on the other end of the spectrum, the “pots and pans” setting tends to overcook the fish.
4 Run salmon through the entire wash-and-dry cycle — approximately 50 minutes for most models.
5 When cycle’s complete, take salmon out, discard foil, place one fillet on each plate and spoon a generous serving of dill sauce on top.
troubleshooting The only time I’ve ever had a problem with this technique was, of course, on live national TV. Five minutes before going on the air I learned that the heating element in the on-camera dishwasher was broken. After a quick huddle with the producer, I was forced to make the most of the situation by baking the salmon in the (gasp!) oven. To avoid this pedestrian fate, ask yourself the million-dollar question: when your dishwasher last completed its cycle, were the dishes hot? As long as the answer’s yes, you’re ready to poach.
Don’t have a dishwasher? Bake foil-wrapped packets in a preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven 12 minutes.
le secret Make sure other items in the dishwasher, such as silverware, are securely stowed so they don’t fly around and pierce the foil packets.
recommended wine Australian chardonnay. Like a little thunder from down under, these big chardonnays are well suited to fish dishes with creamy sauces.