Stephen King wrote what some would consider another tweet-length horror story.
“Dinner: buy a good salmon fillet at the supermarket, not too big”, the author of “It” and “Carrie” wrote on Twitter. “Put some olive oil and lemon juice in it. Wrap it in damp paper towel. Nuke in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Eat it. Maybe add a salad.”
Some commenters began to express their disgust at the suggestion, saying it was college dorm kitchen at best and a form of cat food at worst. Even actress Patricia Arquette jumped into the fray with a warning about potential chemicals in paper towels.
Others, however, seemed undeterred by King’s recipe, saying the paper towel would likely keep the salmon moist. Not to mention that the prospect of having dinner on the table in three minutes seemed enticing.
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I was on the fence. After all, microwave cooking – which has long been called lazy or even dangerous – has had something of a renaissance. Celebrity chef David Chang is a strong supporter of using the device, enough that he co-wrote the cookbook”Cooking at home: or how I learned to stop worrying about recipes (and to love my microwave)with Priya Krishna of The New York Times and entered into a partnership with Anyday, a company that produces microwave-safe cookware.
Last year, New York writer Helen Rosner published a beautiful story titled “How to cook with your microwaveabout how she overcame the culturally ingrained perception that microwave cooking was somehow less legitimate than other forms of cooking.
“I found myself, in the height of a sweltering summer, mostly indoors, facing a pair of snapper fillets,” Rosner wrote. “I couldn’t bring myself to light a burner on the stove for a quick stir-fry; I swear the microwave winked at me from its bracket above the stove. Three minutes to full strength (taped dry, topped with ginger julienne strips, put in a glass dish tightly lined with plastic wrap) and those snowy fish wings were beautifully cooked, silky smooth and tender, ready to be drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil and zapped for another minute, with green onions to finish.
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She continued, “It was so fast and so perfect it was almost fake.”
False, perhaps, like the king’s salmon? To get a definitive answer, I contacted Culinary Education Institute Chief Instructor Joshua Resnick for his perspective on the preparation method. He wouldn’t classify it as totally wrong, although perhaps not ideal.
“Microwaves naturally produce steam, so in addition to covering the salmon with a damp paper towel, this would produce an environment that can properly steam the salmon,” Resnick said. “Lemon juice would also help with the steam and add flavor. Stephen King’s method would technically work, but it’s not something I would do or recommend.”
Stephen King’s method would technically work, but . . .
One problem with this method, Resnick said, is that it takes place in an enclosed environment.
“When cooking in a pot, on the stove or in the oven, you can open the door. You have more control over the cooking process because you can use all of your senses,” he said. “You can feel the texture of a protein, see if it denatures, smell its cooking, hear if the skin is crispy… Also, if the skin is on the salmon, it will be impossible to get crispy skin – which is one of the best preparations for fish with skin.”
That said, Resnick offered a tip for people wanting to try King’s method at home. Just like stoves, you can adjust the heat in your microwave so you don’t have to cook it at full power all the time.
“Use the power levels to reheat and cook food more evenly, so you don’t end up with a hot outside and a frozen inside,” he says.
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