We’ve all heard stories of hearty men cooking a meatloaf on the manifold of their car or home cooks who bake perfect apple pies in paper bags. And we’ve all known a kid or two who has fried an egg on a hot scorching hot summer sidewalk. Let’s face it, alternative cooking methods are intriguing to even the most traditional of cooks.
Several years ago my mother went through a phase where she attempted to convince anyone who would listen that cooking omelets in Ziploc bags was the salvation every lackluster brunch needed. Sure, I listened to my mom’s bit of kitchen witchery and threw a couple of zany boil-in-bag themed breakfasts, but this particular version of egg cookery failed to catch on at our house. A good non-stick skillet and a whisk suit me just fine.
Ever since, I’ve remained pretty loyal to traditional cooking methods so it came as quite a shock that I recently became fascinated by the concept of dishwasher cooking. Last April, I heard a story on the radio about the myriad of meals savvy cooks can prepare during a single high-heat dishwasher cycle. Apparently, passionate dishwasher cooks have turned out everything from lasagna to a lovely fish dinner in nothing more than a wash and rinse cycle.
Nearly seven months later, I finally succumbed to my most recent kitchen curiosity and cooked a duo of salmon fillets in the dishwasher. I sealed the rosy-hued fish in air tight foil packages with lemons and tarragon. I tucked the packet into the bottom of my dishwasher and ran the machine. I had my doubts about what I was doing as soon as I started the cycle, but when the aroma of cooking salmon started wafting out of my dishwasher vents I realized I was on the verge of a kitchen disaster.
At the end of the drying cycle, I unwrapped the salmon and discovered the fillets had miraculously remained intact, but a high heat dishwashing cycle had coagulated the proteins in the fish too rapidly and transformed them into an unappetizing white scum. The texture of the fish was surprisingly tender for being cooked for more than an hour, but it had a heavy water-logged feeling. To make matters worse, the whole thing tasted like dish detergent to me. The sudsy nuance in the dish was probably nothing more than a psychosomatic trick, but yuck.
I can see the value of using an iron to make a grilled cheese in a moment of culinary desperation, but I have to draw the line at soapy-tasting salmon. To redeem myself, I steamed a duo of salmon fillets in a far more traditional bamboo steamer and the results were healthy and delicious. It took a tenth of the time to prepare fish in a traditional steamer than it did in the dishwasher and the results were far superior.
I imagine I will stick to the stove top from now on, but I’m sure my kitchen curiosity will get the better of me at least once more in my life. However, I’m now certain that dishwashers are for washing dishes and nothing more.
Ditch the Dishwasher Steamed Salmon
I like to steam fish in a bamboo steamer, but you can still steam fish at home even if you don’t have a proper steamer. Simply place a rack into a pot and fill with enough water to leave 1-inch of room between the water and fish. Proceed with the recipe as directed, but be sure to cover the pot when cooking the fish. (Serves 2)
For the Fish:
2 (5-6 ounce) salmon fillets, skin removed
Salt and pepper
1 lemon, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
For the Sauce:
¼ cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
For the Garnish:
2 lemon slices, halved
2 tarragon sprigs
Fill a large skillet with 2 inches of water and place a bamboo steamer into the pot. Line the steamer with parchment paper (be sure to punch holes in the paper to allow the steam to pass through). Heat the water to a simmer over medium heat and place the lemon slices and tarragon sprigs on the paper. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place on top of the lemon slices. Cover the steamer and allow the fish to cook for 8 minutes per 1-inch of thickness (a 6-ounce fillet should be done in 8 minutes).
Meanwhile, mix all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the fish and sauce with a steamed green vegetable. Garnish with lemon slices and tarragon sprigs.