Science

MacGyver Chef: Dishwasher-Steamed Salmon With Cilantro Sauce

This second MacGyver Chef recipe, fish in a dishwasher, is a true classic, yet I had no great luck. I tried on two machines, and though edible, the resulting dish was either sashimi or cat food.


Equipment: A dishwasher. To make sure I got a good sense of the process, I tested out two machines, one from probably 1975 and one that’s maybe two or three years old. Both relatively cheap.

Ingredients:
For the Fish
• Two smallish fillets of salmon, about 4oz.
• Olive oil, salt, pepper

For the Cilantro Sauce (from Salon)
• 1 tbsp butter, lots of salt and pepper
• 1 leek, finely chopped
• 1 shallot, minced
• 1 jalapeño chile, seeds removed and diced
• 1.5 cups chicken stock
• 2 cups lightly packed cilantro leaves
• 3 tbsp lime juice
• 3 tbsp sour cream

Notes: This recipe cheats a little bit. The fish is cooked in the dishwasher, yes, but the sauce is made in usual boring fashion with a saucepan and a blender. A more MacGyverian side: Vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, etc) can be cooked in the dishwasher, sealed in a foil packet with butter, though you’ll have to take them out before the dry cycle kicks in or they’ll be overdone.


Step 1: Pull out three 30cm square sheets of aluminium foil, and coat the shiny side of two of them with butter, oil or that aerosol spray stuff. Put both salmon fillets on one of these sheets and season with lime, salt and pepper.


Step 2: Put the other coated sheet of foil, coated side down, on top of the fillets, then press the two sheets of foil together and roll tightly from all four sides. Make sure your foil doesn’t tear or your dishwasher will smell like fish for at least a week. Wrap the last sheet of aluminium foil around the packet, as a last measure to keep your landlady from knowing you put fish in her dishwasher.

Step 3: Stick the double-wrapped foil packet on the top shelf of your dishwasher. (You can also stick dishes in there if you want.) Turn on the dishwasher, both a wash and a dry cycle. The key, says the original recipe, is to disable the Energy Star power saver mode (it won’t get hot enough) but to use the regular cycle instead of “pots and pans” (which makes it too hot).


Step 4: Start making your sauce. I followed the sauce instructions from Salon to a tee—it’s an easy sauce to make and tastes pretty good, though I think it’d be better on a taco than on delicately steamed fish. It’ll be done by the time your fish is out of the dishwasher.


Step 5: Here’s where things started to go wrong for me. The first dishwasher I tried is probably 30 years old and on a normal cycle can barely clean dishes. After a full wash and dry, my first attempt at dishwasher steamed salmon yielded…


Sashimi. Dammit. Lucky for me, I happened to move that very weekend, and my new place has a newish dishwasher that I immediately broke in by following steps 1 through 3. Little did I know that this was no ordinary dishwasher.


There must have been some kind of nuclear reaction happening in this dishwasher because it overcooked the crap out of my fish. We’re talking straight-up cat food here. At least I could just stick the undercooked fish in a frying pan and then have dinner. Not very MacGyver, but still dinner. This time, the dried-out piece of gross orange fish carcass was in no way salvageable.

The Results: After two disasters in a row, I can pronounce dishwasher salmon too finicky to be worth MacGyvering. I’m sure I could have played around with it and gotten it right (ruining several whole salmon in the process), but I just don’t think it’s worth it. Dishwashers are just too varied in heat to reliably steam fish, even one as forgiving as salmon. If you have tried it yourself, and can shed some light, please share in the comments.

After the bland success of coffee-maker poached chicken, dishwasher salmon was a big disappointment.

Taste Test is our week-long tribute to the leaps that occur when technology meets cuisine, spanning everything from the historic breakthroughs that made food tastier and safer to the Earl Grey-friendly replicators we impatiently await in the future.

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