Monday, May 23, 2011

Smoked Salmon Mousse with Salmon Roe and Crudites (Page 19)

RECIPE #1263

  • Date: Saturday, April 9th, 2011 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom, Helen, Charles, Clara, Chris C., and Whitney
  • Recipe Rating: C+

I put off making this recipe for a long time because, well, pureed canned salmon set with gelatin just didn't sound good. But now that I am nearing the end of this project it is time to make even the less appetizing dishes! We had a little dinner party last month when my special gentleman's friend Tom was visiting. I made this dish for the party. I started by oiling a charlotte mold and lining the bottom with waxed paper. I then oiled the bottom again and decoratively arranged some cilantro leaves. I combined water, lemon juice, and gelatin, then added some boiling water. In a food processor I ground together smoked salmon, canned salmon, sour cream, and Tabasco. I added the gelatin mixture and some scallions, salt, and pepper. I beat some heavy cream in a mixer then added it to the salmon mixture. I poured the mousse into a mold and refrigerated. To serve, I inverted it onto a platter and spooned salmon roe around it. I served it with sliced cucumbers. To be fair, this wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It also wasn't good though. I had never in my life cooked with salmon from a can before. I don't know why canned tuna seems perfectly reasonable to me and canned salmon seems absurd, but it does. This dish tasted much like you would expect pureed preserved salmon mixed with whipped cream and set with gelatin to taste. The one thing that did surprise me about it was that the salmon flavor was quite mild. I think I would have liked the dish better if it had a stronger flavor. For instance, more smoked salmon and less canned salmon would have made the dish more to my liking. I also would add less heavy cream were I to make this again. As it was there was a ton of cream and a very mild salmon flavor, and I didn't love it. The salmon eggs did add bursts of salty flavor, which was nice. I can imagine a version of this dish that would be pretty tasty (or as tasty as a fish mousse is ever really going to get), but as written I wasn't loving this recipe.

The recipe is here.

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I was at a conference last week at a math institute in the Black Forest in Germany. At this particular institute, conferences are fairly small, and invitation-only. It is a fantastic place. The setting is beautiful and the food and lodging are completely paid for by the institute, which is amazing. This was my fourth trip there and I look forward to traveling there again in the future. The conference that I was a part of last week had 25-30 participants. Throughout the week people kept saying to me, "You are the only woman here," as though somehow that fact had escaped me. For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, different fields of mathematics have different proportions of women. Women are certainly the minority in every mathematical field, but some fields are worse than others. I think of myself as an algebraic topologist and an algebraic K-theorist. Algebraic topology is a field with few women. In writing a proposal recently I needed to list all female algebraic topologists in the United States who are on the tenure-track at a research university. After much brainstorming, I couldn't even come up with five, including myself. There are another handful that already have tenure, but that's it for senior women in my field in the Unites States. Algebraic K-theory is even worse. There are very few female K-theorists around the world. The conference I went to last week was a K-theory conference.

So it was not the fault of the organizers that I was the only woman. Indeed, one other woman had agreed to come and didn't show up. And at this point in my career I am quite accustomed to being the only woman, or one of a few women, in a large group of men, so it didn't particularly bother me. It did get me thinking, though, about why it is that there are so few women in math that being the only woman in a group of 25 mathematicians seems normal to me. This is, obviously, a very complicated question, and one that I have many thoughts about, and few concrete answers. The numbers get worse at every career stage. The percentage of math graduate students that are female is higher than the percentage of math post-docs that are female, which is again higher than the percentage of tenure-track professors that are female. And the percentage of tenured math faculty that are female is lowest of all.

At every stage, a lot of women leave. In algebraic topology at least three very talented women have left academic math in the last year. These are women with PhDs from places like Stanford or MIT. There are people of both genders who leave math every year -- many of them forced out because they can't get a job. But that was not the case with these three. They chose to leave. And while I would like to say that I can't understand why they left, I do understand it. In a lot of ways being an academic is a fantastic life. But it also has some significant downsides. It seems that many people who leave are happier for it. It makes me sad though -- not because I think they made the wrong choice, or they should have done something differently -- I definitely don't think that. It just makes me sad because I miss them.

I hope that during my career I will see more women in my field. Honestly, though, I don't know if it will happen or not...


kingshearte said...

I did props for a play once that called for salmon mousse to be flung into various people's faces. I just used orange jello made with milk and whipped all to hell. Looked pretty good, and I gather it tasted decent, too...

Rachel said...

I often have similar conversation, but more "Why aren't there many girls in computer science". Why, I have no idea, but I suspect it has to do with cultural norms. My only evidence for that is that if you look at any robotics/AI student event, there will be a whole lot of females from Iran. I was once talking to an Irani AI PhD student and she said that over 50% of their comp sci graduates are female.

I have had a maths class that was majority female though - Wavelets. Out of 20 students in the class, 12 were female. I've also had a computer science subject (evolution of programming languages) that often was majority female (as in 3 female will turn up, two males (including the lecturer), it was majority males enrolled).

Teena said...

kingshearte: Orange jello make with milk sounds way more delicious than this fish mousse! What play calls for the flinging of fish mousse?

Rachel: Yeah, I agree that cultural norms do seem to play a role. There are definitely countries where the percentage of mathematicians that are female is much higher than it is in the US. Someone once told me though (and I have no idea whether this is true or not) that the countries with a higher percentage of female mathematicians tend to be the countries where being a mathematician is a lower prestige job. So that's a little depressing...

kingshearte said...

It's called "Too Many Cooks." It's a farce set in a restaurant in Niagara Falls. It's very funny, or at least it was in the hands of those involved in this production.