Almost Damned Perfect Pairing
Hello again hungry readers!
This post is brought to you by things that sound like they shouldn’t go well together, but surprisingly, they do! Like a legal thriller and the supernatural or dried figs, mustard, and fish. Sounds crazy, but I assure you, somehow, they work.
What first drew me to Almost Damned was actually the author. Chris Leibig is a real-life lawyer and one of his most famous cases was Chelsea Manning’s. Remember Chelsea Manning? Obviously, this guy is already interesting. Then, I read the description for Almost Damned. Almost Damned is the sequel to Almost Mortal. Both of these books combine legal thriller with the supernatural: Angels, demons, psychics, and more. I had to read this book and see exactly how Chris Leibig did this.
Turns out, it can be done and it can be done well. I do suggest reading Almost Mortal first, otherwise, it would definitely be easy to get lost in Almost Damned. There is quite a bit of backstory from the first book that carries over into the second book. If you skip over the first one, you are likely to get confused in the story.
These books move quickly so you’re never bored and because they’re blending two genres, it makes for a really cool and unique experience. There were definitely times when I was ready to go to bed but I got into the trap of one….more...chapter…
So I wanted to pair a meal with Almost Damned that was equally unexpected in a tasty way. I did some testing and what emerged was Salmon with dried mission fig and dijon mustard jam. It sounds weird, fish with dried fruit and mustard jam, but I promise it’s delicious. Sometimes when you combine things that you never thought would really go together, good things happen guys.
I made a whole meal for this pairing, including some quinoa that I served with the fish. I thought it went really well and I definitely recommend it. If you’re not into quinoa, you can absolutely substitute another grain or pasta in its place.
First, I got the quinoa going since it takes the longest to cook out of everything I was making. This whole meal comes together actually super quickly. Less than 30 minutes actually. I rinsed the quinoa well in a mesh colander first. You need to always be sure to rinse quinoa because it’s naturally covered in something called saponin. It’s basically quinoa’s natural predator repellent. Saponin gives quinoa a weird bitter taste, so all you have to do is give it a good rinse before cooking to get it off.
Once I rinsed my quinoa, I put it in the saucepan with the chicken broth. Quinoa works about the same way as rice and you need about a 1-2 ratio of quinoa to liquid when cooking. So I did one cup of quinoa and 2 cups of chicken broth. The quinoa will expand the same way rice does so even though it doesn’t look like much, it does get bigger. I brought it to a boil and then down to a simmer and let it go while I moved on to my jam.
For my jam, I took about 10-12 dried mission figs and removed the stems. You can also use fresh figs if you want, but you can probably use about 8 if using fresh figs. I chopped the figs up pretty finely but definitely not uniform because they’re going to get squished up and stuff anyway so it doesn’t really matter too much what the cuts look like and then I put them in a saucepan. I added a quarter cup of white wine to the saucepan and brought it up to a boil and then back down to a simmer. You can use whatever kind of white wine you want, although I do recommend using a dry white wine. If you don’t drink or don’t want to buy an entire bottle of wine just to use a quarter cup, cooking wine is always available in the grocery store.
I let the wine and figs simmer for about 5-8 minutes until the wine is mostly absorbed and the figs are super mushy and breaking apart nicely. The alcohol in the wine by this point will have cooked out. Then I set it aside and let it cool for a few minutes.
While it is cooling, prepare your fish for cooking. I bought about 2 lbs of salmon, which is enough to feed about 5 or 6 people, but in my house, it feeds four because everyone goes back for seconds. Cut the salmon into filets, and you can either do skin on or skin off. I did skin off just because my kids are not a fan of fish skin. I seasoned to taste with salt, pepper, and thyme on both sides and heated my pan on the stove. After adding olive oil to my pan, I cooked my salmon two at a time.
While my salmon was cooking, I was able to finish up my jam. The fig mixture had cooled slightly so now I could puree it. I used my immersion blender, but feel free to use whatever you have available. If you want a courser jam, you can mash it with forks, for a smoother puree you can use a food processor or a blender, or if you have an immersion blender, you can go ahead with that. After my figs were smoothed out a bit, I added about a quarter cup of coarse grain dijon mustard. I like Grey Poupon, but feel free to get whatever kind you want or have available. Mix well. The result should be slightly sweet and a bit spicy.
My salmon finished cooking along with my quinoa and I was ready to plate everything. I put my fig jam on the bottom of the plate so that everyone could get as much or as little of the jam as they wanted. I didn’t want to overload the plates with the jam because, trust me, a little goes a long way. I then added some of my quinoa to the plate and then topped it off with my seared salmon. To garnish, I used my grater and shaved some brussel sprouts overtop. This gave a nice freshness and lightness to the whole dish. I know it seems like a very small thing, but I’m really glad I didn’t overlook the shaved brussel sprouts.
And there you have it. The Perfect Pairing to go with Almost Damned by Christopher Leibig. Both unique in their own way and both bringing the unexpected together. Make yourself a plate and dive into this newly released novel. Happy reading and eating everyone!
Salmon with Dried Mission Fig and Dijon Mustard Jam
10-12 Chopped dried mission figs, stems removed
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup coarse grain dijon mustard
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
2 lbs Salmon
1-2 brussel sprouts, shaved
Combine quinoa and chicken broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower temperature to a simmer and let cook until the liquid is gone and the quinoa is no longer crunchy. While the quinoa cooks, start the jam. Chop the figs finely and put in a saucepan with the white wine. Bring to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer. Simmer until the white wine is absorbed into the figs and they are soft and breaking apart. Let cool and then puree. Add dijon mustard and stir well. Set aside. Cut salmon into filets. Season on both sides with salt, pepper, and thyme to taste. Heat oil in a pan and then add the salmon, flipping halfway through cooking, until cooked through, about 4 minutes on each side. You will probably have to cook the salmon in batches. Serve salmon with jam and quinoa. Garnish with shaved brussel sprouts.