No, this is not a circus performance of an elephant and a mouse, but rather a riff on a classic, on the fly. Bubble and squeak is a traditional English dish that combines leftover vegetables, typically mashed potatoes and cabbage. I guess the consistencies of those two make this sound-taste word association a conceptual onomatopoeia. It is usually served with leftover roast meat and condiments such as pickles (you’ll see why in a minute). I first heard about bubble and squeak from a certain Oxford-educated, inspirational high school English teacher who (in the 1960s) thought that Dylan Thomas would appeal to us more than John Donne (he was right, though we studied that too). Cool move. He should be doing Teach for America now! When I went to Scotland to visit my uncle and aunt a few years later, they exposed me to kidney pie (woe), haggis (distress), and bubble and squeak (relief).
Since we’re on an English topic, I might as well admit that I am the “Queen of the Leftovers.” Sometimes I cook things just to have them available, like the roasted pumpkin that I later turned into soup or the mound of spinach that had been taking up too much room in the refrigerator. Having ingredients around makes me improvise and have fun in the kitchen. Especially on weeknights when I don’t get home from work until 7 or so. This evening worked out unexpectedly well, in less than 30 minutes. I had some leftover braised rutabaga cubes, leftover cabbage that had been tossed in a skillet until browned, several baby yellow potatoes, a couple of cucumbers rescued for 15 cents from the seconds bin at the supermarket, and a wee bit of salmon that I bought just because I craved it for dinner.
The potatoes were boiled skin-on, mashed with the rutabaga and a little cream to bind them, and combined with the cabbage, which I had re-sautéed briefly and freshened with white wine vinegar. The cucumbers were partially peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded, cut into triangles, salted and set aside. After about ten minutes, they were dried with a towel and sautéed in oil on medium high heat until browned but still crisp and doused with white wine vinegar. I cooked the salmon filet on the stove (the oven also works fine). The three components were assembled on a plate and sprinkled with fresh dill sprigs that, together with the “pickle,” meaning the vinegar-laced cucumber, cleansed the palate. A great balance. Yum.
(You might think this looks like a lot of food on one plate, but the scale’s deceptive in the photograph. Pictured are 3 oz salmon, ½ cup mash and half a cucumber. )