Welcome To Our 1 Man Kitchen

Salmon Pasta

Comfort Food 55

The Scenario:

Let’s say, just hypothetically, that you are an idiot. You don’t know your ass from your elbow. You certainly don’t know how to cook a nice meal that would satisfy four people. In fact, if presented with a frying pan, your first instinct may in fact be to smack someone with it while expectantly waiting for the cartoonish “bong” noise that never comes. Only the cops appear when you do that, never little birds flying around their head.

So assuming you are this much of a dumbass but you don’t want the people around you to recognise the depths of your stupidity, you are going to need one or two fancy looking meals that you can prepare. You crank one of these meals out every month or so and people just assume that you are too busy to do it regularly, not that you don’t know how to cook. You get a nice meal and the illusion of being competent, all for following the simplest instructions you are ever likely to meet.

If I make this meal any simpler it is going to be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

What You Need:

A stovetop

A big pot

A skillet

A big spoon

A pair of scissors

A strainer

Ingredients to feed 4:

A ready to eat 3 ounce pack of smoked salmon

A tablespoon of crushed garlic

A packet of fresh Pasta, the kind you find in the fridge at the grocery store. Fresh pasta doesn’t get bigger when you cook it, so pick the right size of packet or risk going hungry.

White wine vinegar

A tablespoon of unsalted butter, if you get salted, that is all you will taste

1 and a half cups of heavy cream

1 cup of milk

A surprisingly large amount of ground black pepper

A little bit less paprika

Optional extras:

Crusty white bread and butter always go nicely with a creamy pasta, garlic bread and their pre-packaged cheesy bread cousins are likely to overpower the flavours of your pasta, so better to keep it simple. As far as drinks go, the best pairing for this meal is a dry white wine, which cleanses the mouth between creamy mouthfuls. If that isn’t an option, then you are going to want light, citrusy drinks rather than anything too rich or sweet.

How To Do It:

1. Slam the big pot on the back of the stovetop on a high heat, half full of water, and let it come to the boil.

2. Throw your butter in the skillet and squeeze that onto the front of your stovetop on a medium heat. Keep a close watch on it to make sure the butter melts but doesn’t burn. Pro Tip: if you are worried about it burning because your pan heats unevenly, add a drop of olive oil first.

3. Grab your scissors and your salmon and start hacking away. You want the thin slivers of salmon diced up into teeny pieces, but if you are in a hurry, just cut it as fine as you can and trust it to flake apart as it cooks.

4. Garlic and salmon go into the skillet at the same time. Give them a good stir around and keep them moving so nothing burns. Gradually you will see the salmon change colour.

5. When the salmon is opaque, add tiny splash of vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan for any stray bits of fish.

6. Once the vinegar has burned off, pour in the cream and top it off with half of the milk, the other half is in case of emergencies.

7. Keep the salmon and sauce on a medium heat, stirring occasionally as it thickens up and turns golden.

8. Throw your fresh pasta into the boiling water, it should only take a few minutes to cook to perfection, so keep an eye on it.

9. When your sauce starts to thicken, give it a good long grind of black pepper and add an equally big sprinkle of paprika. Don’t go nuts. There should be a pink tint to the sauce, it shouldn’t look like a prawn cocktail. Too much paprika will make the meal too sweet. If it is looking too pink, add a splash of your emergency milk. Stir stir stir.

10. Keep the whole thing moving around until the pasta is cooked, then drain it off and mix it, and the salmon and sauce in your big pot until it is thoroughly coated.

Dish the pasta out and eat it while it is hot. Take a quick look at the faces of your dinner guests, look how happy they are, how much they are enjoying this, and consider how unlikely it is that they would believe that it was cooked by an idiot. You have pulled it off. They don’t suspect a thing. You are safe for another couple of weeks. Phew.

G D Penman writes books. He lives in Scotland with his partner and children, some of whom are human. In those few precious moments that he isn’t parenting or writing he likes to watch cartoons, play video games, read more books than are entirely feasible and continues on his quest to eat the flesh of every living species. He has worked in just about every job you can have in a restaurant and now he is here to yell at you for using a microwave when there is a perfectly good oven right there.

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