Home-schooler and I prepared our stations. Our partnership was less skipping-off -to-the-swings, and more a skipping-off-to-the-enormous-salmon.
Our recipe was a marinated salmon. It was a great recipe for us. We worked on the marinating part together, but then were given free range to present individually. Again, the working together part was not so great. A lot of whiny insipid questions were followed up with passive aggressive finger-pointing. My God. How can one make such a simple task so friggin’ complicated!
This recipe was basically a ceviche. Raw, well-trimmed and thinly-sliced salmon is dressed in a citrus, oil and herb marinade. So Home-Schooler and I, marinated our salmon fillets in onion, lemon, basil and chiles for 15 minutes until it was “cooked”. The acid reacts in a way that “cooks” the fish; accent on the ‘ ” ‘.
I never order ceviche. If I’m not in a sushi bar, raw things do not pass my lips.
(Well, except for that time in college where my date took me to an Ethiopian restaurant. I was trying to look very cool and gourmand while I scooped up raw minced beef in injera. The whole time I was worrying about the operating hours of the school’s medical clinic. Could I get antibiotics to kill the E-coli on a Sunday?)
Raw– unless it’s sushi, where their job is ‘raw’– is not good in my book.
But ceviche is apparently sublime to the other half of the hemisphere, so who am I to judge. Most importantly, it was our assignment and after the stock success, I want to do it right.
Our instructions were to simply serve the salmon on a plate garnished with diced tomato and sliced avocado. Home-schooler did it to the letter; a tidy mound of marinated salmon with a fan of avocado topped with tomatoes at its side. She received a nod of approval and a smile from Chef, and was beaming.
Watching that nauseating exchange, I threw caution to the wind. Something came over me, and I decided to take it up a notch.
I reached deep into my backpack and grabbed my pastry rings.
I thinly sliced an entire avocado half and placed my 3″ ring over it. Chef caught a glimpse of my actions through the corner of her eye and headed to my station.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m plating.” I replied.
Her eyebrow went up as I attempted to fan the slices of avocado into a tidy circle around the interior of pastry ring.
I then plopped the salmon, tossed with thinly-sliced onion and dressing, into the center of the still-surrounded avocado ring.
“What makes you think it will hold?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” I said lamely, as I garnished the mound with a teaspoon of tomato concasse.
We both stared in suspense, as I slowly raised the ring upward.
The avocado circle remained intact and beautiful, acting as a cup to display the glistening pink salmon.
We locked eyes for a millisecond before she turned away.
“Class! Please come see! A lovely presentation of one of our recipes!” she chimed.
Everyone was talking. No one heard. No one looked my way.
I carefully carried my plate to the demo table. It remained intact. I was just as surprised as she was, and feeling pretty good.
Chef did not comment again, but she did not have to. I took a risk. And I know that it paid off.