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Salmon: A Cookbook Kindle Edition
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Another Diane Morgan success.
The first and foremost reason is that there is already a less expensive book on the market on exactly the same subject by very highly regarded culinary writer and teacher, James Peterson. I will concede that there is more than enough room for both books if there is little overlap between the two. I will investigate this in a bit.
The second reason is that several things early in the book seem to be done in a less than totally thoughtful manner. The book opens with great anecdotes about travels around the world to major salmon fishing and farming venues, but aside from the mildly titillating travelogue value, it is hard to see how any of this has contributed to the value of the book. These tales are accompanied by smallish, unlabelled snapshots done by the author. Some of the pictures could have been taken in Alaska, Oregon, Scotland, or Norway. The oversights include no labels on very nice pics of whole and filleted salmon, plus long, careful descriptions with scientific names and everything on the various salmon species, but NO PICTURES! Then, we get a text for how to clean and gut a salmon, with NO PICTURES! When the book gets to descriptions on how to scale, de-gill, and fillet, there are some smallish line drawings which are better than nothing. In all fairness, I will concede that Peterson has few illustrations for these techniques as well, but Morgan does little to redress this omission. The very best illustrations for some of these techniques are in Peterson's book `Essentials of Cooking'.
On the latest issues of salmon farming, wild fishing, and health, Ms. Morgan's book is a bit more up-to-date than is Peterson's, as his was published in 2001, before all the scoops on farmed fish contamination came out. Overall, on basics I believe the two authors tie, with a small edge to Ms. Morgan for giving us a technique for skin-drying salmon.
Ms. Morgan's recipes are organized by course. The recipe chapters are:
Appetizers - Ten recipes, including tartare, gravlax, grilled salmon sandwiches, and dips.
Soups - Eight recipes with chowders, gazpacho, Thai Coconut, corn stews, and salmon stock.
Pasta, Pizza, Risotto, and Sandwiches - Eleven recipes with tacos, burgers, and poorboys.
Main-Course Salads - Ten recipes with lentils; spinach; fennel; asparagus; noodles; corn; rice; endive and bacon; and Salade Nicoise.
Main Courses - Sixteen recipes for roasting, poaching broiling, grilling, and cedar planking.
Brunch and Lunch - Nine recipes for salmon on bagels, blintzes, omelets, frittatas, tartlets, poached eggs, potpies, and quiche.
I find this organization just a little confusing as there is so much overlap between categories as with the Appetizers and Brunch and Lunch chapters, yet unlike things are bundled together as with pasta and sandwiches. Wouldn't most sandwiches also be appropriate for lunch?
In contrast, Peterson gives us recipes by cooking method, which I find much more satisfying, especially when you are unsure of the quality and variety of salmon you will find at your fishmonger's counter. Fish that may not be the very best for a raw recipe may be quite all right for poaching or broiling. One of the most important aspects of this difference is the fact that while Morgan gives us sixteen recipes for smoked salmon, Peterson actually tells us how to smoke salmon with both hot and cold smoking methods. Even Alton Brown hasn't gotten to that subject yet.
Basically, Ms. Morgan gives us a very nice collection of Salmon recipes, but she neglects to cover several of the most basic salmon cooking techniques. For example, Peterson has a whole chapter on poaching salmon, including the method for poaching a whole fish. I Looked in Morgan's index and could not even find an entry for poaching. As I just saw a poaching recipe in `Main Dishes', I checked back to find the `Riesling-Poached Salmon' recipe. This is a fine method for a few fillets, but it may be wise to also have a recipe for those who are alcohol intolerant, especially as poaching is such a healthy method for cooking and such an easy one for large groups of people. Even if you don't have a whole fish-poaching pan, the whole court bouillon method is a good one to master for salmon and other fish.
Ms. Morgan does also include very good wine recommendations for each dish. How can I not have some respect for a book that recommends Austrian gruner veltliner (fresh, green) wine to go with salmon tartare!
All in all, Peterson's book does a much better job of covering the full range of salmon cookery, but Morgan's book may have just a few more recipes for everyday use. If price is no object, get both. If you want a text that touches all bases, get Peterson's book. If you just happen to like salmon, raw and cooked, get Morgan's book, plus Peterson's `Essentials of Cooking' for the full scoop on how to handle big salmon operations.