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Racing Rachael: Steppin' Out

After complaining last week about the number of chicken recipes that Rachael Ray seemed to whip up, I thought I'd do a little research to see if it was, in fact, her or if I was just gravitating to the poultry. After a little search on foodnetwork.com, my suspicions were confirmed; there are an abundance of 30-Minute Meals that feature chicken. If you're a numbers person, here's how it broke down: 182 beef recipes, 113 fish recipes and 453 chicken recipes! No wonder I felt overrun by the fowl.

So, as promised, I'm expanding my Rachael Ray horizons this week with a salmon recipe. We're big fans of salmon at our house. Even my 18 month old can scarf down a 6 ounce filet with ease. Generally, I go for an easy method of preparation; sprinkle the salmon with some seasoning and throw it on the grill. Simple and delicious. Rachael's salmon requires a few more steps. Will it be worth it? And, exactly how long will creating this fancy salmon take? Here's the lowdown.

The food: Well-Dressed Salmon and Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes. Well-dressed in this case refers to topping the salmon with cucumber-tomato relish and a dill dressing. It was, as Rachael would say, yum-o! Although the recipe called for skinless salmon, I left the skin intact to ensure the salmon held together. The pan sear gives the fish a nice crust while maintaining a tender and juicy interior. The cucumber-tomato relish added a refreshing crunch, not to mention beautiful colors. And then that dill dressing. Oh, that dressing! Although I dressed my salmon liberally, I grabbed the dressing bowl and brought it to the table so that I could thoroughly douse my fish. So good!

I did not have high expectations for the potato cakes. First, I was leery of the lemon zest addition. And, after mashing, I was worried that they would be too loose to cook in cakes. Wrong and wrong. The lemon added a touch of bright tartness to the taters and they cooked up fine, although they are not the most attractive sides I have ever put to plate. Trying to form them into cakes prior to cooking is impossible, but after dropping spoonfuls into the pan, you can manipulate the shape a bit. A non-stick skillet it key as the cakes are fairly delicate.

The time: 41 minutes

The verdict: Although I need to work on my potato cake presentation, this 40-minute meal is a winner. The salmon is flavorful and the presentation makes it fancy enough for guests. While the cucumber-tomato relish may serve as a legitimate veggie for some, I'd serve a little broccoli alongside this meal next time. I should mention that these two recipes result in a lot of dishes; 2 skillets, 1 pot, multiple bowls. Be ready to stand in front of the sink for a while after this one!

Ways to beat the clock: So this is technically cheating, but using leftover mashed potatoes would save a ton of time. Jazz them up a little with the lemon zest, scallions and cheese and voila -- a quick, easy and delicious way to use up yesterday's spuds.

Happy speedy cooking!


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