I have a certain reputation among friends and family. I am known, fondly I’d like to think, for blackened cuisine. Not blackened catfish from Louisiana, but rather blackened grilled cheese, blackened potatoes, blackened rice. There is nothing that I have not burnt to a crisp. And it invariably happens about two hours before Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is about to start. Last year, the vegetarian gravy I spent hours fussing over ended up on the ceiling, as I was not aware of the jet engine power present in a Vitamix blender. The year before that, I accidentally put a package of sweetened goat cheese into a recipe meant for a savory cheese ball. At this point, my family just asks me to bring a bottle of wine.
So, all of that is to say that when Martín assures me that even I can cook his grab-and-go dinner entrée, I am a little nervous. But for the sake of readers everywhere, I take the container marked Campbell River Salmon and Scallops. I pepper the patient Martín with questions, but he just smiles and says, “Just put it in the oven! When it’s golden brown, it’s done.” And as the directions on the package already say 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, it’s not as if I have to guess what to do. But what do I serve with it? He suggests green veggies and mashed potatoes. As I drive home, I realize, I have baking potatoes and a bag of frozen veggies. Maybe I don’t even need to swing by the store. I like this easy gourmet thing!
At home, I roast the potato until it’s soft and warm in its crispy jacket, and I carefully slide the salmon onto the baking tray. Martín has already topped it with everything it will need to be delicious: spinach pesto, scallops, and panko breadcrumbs. I pace anxiously for fifteen minutes, peering through the glass. I must make Martín proud! Well, I needn’t have worried. It is done at exactly fifteen minutes in, bubbling and crisped and just slightly browned on the edges. I put it on a plate with the veggies and potato, my mouth watering. This salmon is a steak, there’s no other word for it, half an inch think, corral, smooth, and substantial. On top a lemony, buttery broiled confection of herbed panko, garlicky rich spinach pesto, and little bursts of scallops. The bottom is just a little crispy and browned at the edges. This is the kind of salmon you get as your entrée when you go out to Christmas Eve at a very nice restaurant. But this is better. Because it came from my stove and the whole house smells glorious. And it isn’t burnt! I would serve this to my family in a heartbeat and they would thank all the Christmas Elves that I made something tasty for dinner! I start thinking to myself, “Maybe Christmas will be at my house this year!”
The taste is wonderful, the feeling of accomplishing a great meal at home is wonderful, but what is even better is that Martín thinks up a new dish each week as his grab-and-go, which are available Wednesday through Saturday. Call on Wednesday and see what he’s making. Or, like me, my mouth still full with scallops and pesto, I call him and ask, “So, Martín, what are you making for this Wednesday?”
“Salmon Wellington,” he says, and my heart starts racing. The salmon Wellington. Kanaloa’s holiday specialty. I’ve been waiting for this. “Save one for me, Martín,” I say gleefully, “I’ll be there bright and early on Wednesday!” Well, Wednesday evening, if you want to be sure it’s ready. I tell you this now, in all honesty, if I can make Salmon Wellington at home, it will be nothing short of magic. But magic is not in short supply at Kanaloa, especially not during the holidays!
Angela Borda is a Santa Barbara food writer who is delighted to be blogging about one of her favorite restaurants, Kanaloa Seafood.