Moment of truth at the grill

My former Columbian colleague Don Chandler passed along this cooking adventure after the Fourth of July. It made me laugh, made me think and made me appreciate his tenacity. I expect no less from the newsman he will always be.

cropped-small-plates-blog.pngChandler’s wife of 52 years, Kim, died a year ago. From time to time, he tackles a cooking project and makes note of it for friends’ entertainment and enlightenment.  He reads cookbooks, Small Plates and other blogs, looking for ideas and learning dish by dish. He substitutes ingredients or modifies techniques with no fear.

Here’s his saga in his own words:

Sometimes things work out right despite the odds. That’s what happened with my Independence Day attempt at grilling a salmon.

First, I bought an el cheapo tabletop grill that needed assembling. Big mistake. Instructions said the fuel canister had to be upright even though by doing so wouldn’t allow the unit to sit flat. The canister was too tall. Customer service said something about needing a hose. Yeah, sure, on a holiday just minutes before grilling time. Enter improvise, adapt, overcome … attach the canister on enough of an angle for the grill to sit flat.

The grill was new and needed “curing” at high heat before use. That done, in went the foil-wrapped potato for baking.

Forty-five minutes later, the grill was ready for the salmon, but … uh oh, the fuel canister was empty and cold as ice. Never fear, just screw in a full one … uh, except the threads wouldn’t catch, regardless of how I tried. Not even with an expletive boost. The threads may have been stripped. So much for cheap grills made in a faraway land.

So, I quickly turned on the kitchen oven, popped in the salmon and the already cooked potato. But for how long, what temperature? None of my cook books listed baked salmon, so I turned to Google. Twenty-five minutes at 450 degrees, said the first recipe to show itself. Seemed long and hot, but …

Time goes by and I reread the recipe, just for the fun of it. Oops! Damn dyslexia, I’d misread it. Twenty-five minutes was total prep and cook time. The fish needed only 15 minutes to cook . And in haste, I’d forgotten to slather the cooking salmon with olive oil. Too late, for better or worse, the fish was done, and then some. The moment of truth had arrived …

Amazingly, the fish was just fine, mebbe a tad overcooked, but plenty tasty, thanks partly to a friend’s recipe. The skin on the potato, which had been under heat far too long, was like crinkly parchment, though the inside starch likewise was OK. A little mushy, but why quibble? So, despite the troubles, it all turned out respectable.

Admittedly, my taste buds may be desensitized with eating my own cooking most of the time, so it’s probably just as well I didn’t invite the guest over whom I’d thought about asking.

The grill instructions say I can order a new valve for connecting the fuel canister, one with unstriped threads. That wouldn’t help, though. The unit now is a part of the landfill. So much for cheap grills. From now on, I’ll stick to electric ovens. Man’s gotta know his limitations.

— Don Chandler


Janet Cleaveland

Janet Cleaveland

What happens when a retired journalist spends a lot more time in the kitchen than in past years? She tries new dishes and jumps at the chance to write a blog about food, family and good times. My kids are grown now, but I'll be looking back at how they learned to cook, what recipes my husband (the Intrepid One) and I are experimenting with, and how food and conversation make for happy times in the kitchen. I worked for The Columbian for 15 years as a copy editor and another 10 elsewhere, though I didn't start out as a journalist. I thought I wanted to teach English literature. My husband grew up in Clark County, and I've lived here since 1983. My kids have grown and left home. Like my husband of 52 years, our adopted chocolate Lab would never pass up a chance for a tasty meal.

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