Helloooo, fellow cooking-for-small-children-ites! It's been a long, long, long, long time, hasn't it? I'm going to be that mother and place the blame for this unintended hiatus directly at my beloved child's feet. Those sweet little feet attached to the, er, obstinate son I seem to have birthed who sometime around 15 months decided that he wasn't going to eat anything but pasta, boiled rice and, maybe, on some days, yogurt anymore.
Those scrambled eggs he used to hoover up like a pro? NO. The bananas he used to eat, slice by slice? NO. The little cubes of cheddar cheese he used to delicately pluck from my fingers and then eat like a gourmand? NO. The bowls of blueberry oatmeal he used to down in an instant? NO. Steamed broccoli he used to gobble like it was going out of style? NO! Segments of sweet juicy clementines he used to eat like candy? NO NO AND NO.
And for good measure, to all of it: NO.
O-ho! I wept bitter tears over this turn of events (don't worry, it was mostly silently, in my head). I shook my fists and gnashed my teeth and mostly tried not to show it, but gaaaaah, was it ever frustrating. In retrospect, now that he's 20 months old, I think this was all part of the horrible, no-good 18-month growth spurt than in our case started a little on the early side. But of course while you are in the hell of a growth spurt it never occurs to you that one day it will end, and so instead silently you despair and beat your breast and resign yourself, in this case, to being the mother of a picky eater.
In the middle of this food strike, or whatever we're going to call it, I discovered a fishmonger at a market in my mother's neighborhood selling the loveliest, freshest wild salmon I've ever seen in Berlin. For several weekends in a row, we headed to that market just for the salmon and ate it in countless delicious ways, but Hugo always turned up his nose when we tried to give him some. Then one evening I found a nice, easy recipe at the Kitchn for teriyaki salmon, made some for Max and me with a pot of boiled peas for all of us and then, right in front of my eyes, the child downed an entire adult-sized portion of fish.
Let me tell you, victory (and a nice piece of fish) never tasted quite so delicious.
So! If you would to replicate our roaring success of a dinner, find yourself some salmon and mirin and then gather up your soy sauce and some sugar (and, optionally, some oil). Mix together the soy sauce, mirin and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and then lay your pieces of salmon in the marinade. You can let this sit for up to an hour, but 30 minutes is okay, too. Then turn on your broiler, stick a heavy pan in the oven to heat up, slip the salmon pieces into the scorching hot pan and watch them closely under the broiler for a few minutes. Literally, no more than 1-2 minutes.
And that's it!
You take out your skillet (the oven will be smoking), flip the salmon and serve it - it'll be lacquered and scorchy and deeply delicious and if you are very lucky, your child might like it too.
(If not, there's more of it for you to eat. Think positive!)
To our deep relief, Hugo is no longer in that awful growth spurt and is back to liking oatmeal and cheese, at least, though he still finds green things, shall we say, difficult. (An avocado will enchant him until it disgusts him and so on.) And while if his daddy shares his banana with him, Hugo will insist on finishing it and then eating a second banana, if I attempt to give him even just a piece or two, Hugo will look at me like I'm mentally deficient and walk away scornfully.
I can take it, though. He's awfully cute.
Makes 4 servings
1 pound salmon
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)
1. Cut the salmon into 4 portions. In a shallow container large enough to hold the salmon pieces, mix the soy sauce, mirin and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Coat both sides of the salmon with the mixture and arrange pieces skin side up in the container. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Arrange your oven racks so that the skillet you will be cooking in is as close as possible to the broiler flame. Turn on the broiler. Preheat a cast iron or other ovenproof skillet over high heat on the stove until very hot. Remove the salmon from the marinade and brush both sides with the oil. (If your pan is well-seasoned, you can skip this step.) Place the salmon skin side up in the skillet and transfer the pan to the broiler. Cook for 1-2 minutes and check for doneness. If it isn't done, flip and cook for 1 minute more.