the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Top Chef


I chose Ms. Syl’s dish as my first post-surgery dinner for one simple reason — she used the phrase “easiest recipe ever.”  Lizardek, I love you as a blogger, but any recipe using creme fraiche is a real turn-off for a beginning chef.

Here is the recipe for Ms. Syl’s Sexy Mango Salmon:

Easiest recipe ever and it looks fancy. You need only four ingredients, and you don’t have to measure anything, and even a GUY can make it (ha ha):

1) Salmon fillet (buy it FRESH, Neil)
2) Jar of mango Chutney (usually called “major gray’s”)–you’ll find it in a jar at your local supermarket either in the condiments or international food aisles
3) Seasoned bread crumbs (you can buy this already made and seasoned)
4) Pam Olive Oil cooking Spray (or substitute real olive oil if you can manage it)


–preheat oven to 350

–Wash and pat dry salmon

–lay it skin side down in a pan sprayed with Pam (or greased with olive oil)

–take a few spoonfuls of chutney and smear it over the top of the salmon until all parts of it are covered

–Then sprinkle the bread crumbs in on top of the chutney layer (there should be just enough so that you can’t see the chutney anymore)

–spray breadcrumbs with pam olive oil spray (or, drizzle olive oil over bread crumbs)

–place in oven

–bake for 10-15 minutes, or until salmon flakes easily in the thickest part of the fish.

–if the bread crumbs haven’t gotten crunchy by the end, you can turn on the broiler and keep it there for a second so that the bread crumbs brown SLIGHTLY. watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.

Easy peasy.

I won’t lie and say everything went perfectly.  It took me a half hour to find chutney at Ralph’s Supermarket.  It wasn’t in the “Asian” department.  Who would guess that it was next to the salsa?   When I came back home, I couldn’t lay the salmon “skin side down” because I thought a “salmon fillet” means it is skinless, so that’s how I bought it.  I also asked Sophia so many questions that she ended up helping me out (although she said I could tell you I made it totally by myself, but like I said, I won’t lie).

I think it came out pretty well, although I’m not sure how “fancy” it looks.  The breadcrumbs could have been more “crunchier” and my snap peas were overcooked and watery. 

Hold on.  It’s the phone.    Clotilde Dusoulier’s (Chocolate and Zucchini) book publisher is on the line…

“A what?  You want me to write a cookbook?   Oh, I’m sorry.  I have to turn you down.   I’m already busy writing “Citizen of the Month.”  Although I make no money doing it, I couldn’t disappoint my loyal readers.  How much?  Really?  Sure, f**k them!”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   Everyone Loves a Baby


  1. lizardek


  2. lizardek

    I double dog dare you to make my recipe!

  3. teebopop

    Here’s another EASY recipe (I usually serve with steamed carrots or picked beets with a dollop of ranch dressing):

    Chicken and Mushrooms w/ Sour Cream Sauce

    3 to 3 1/2 pounds chicken pieces
    1/4 cup milk
    1/2 cup flour
    6 tablespoons butter
    salt and pepper
    8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
    2 cups sour cream

    Dip chicken pieces in milk then dredge in flour. Heat butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Brown chicken pieces on all sides; transfer to a 3-quart casserole.

    Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown mushrooms lightly in the same skillet; arrange over chicken and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper.

    Cover and bake at 350° F. 45 minutes.

    Add sour cream, seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bake 10 minutes longer then sprinkle with paprika.

    It’s really easy. I promise.

  4. better safe than sorry

    i LOVE!!!!!! anything to do with salmon, it’s always my first choice when available, i’ll be trying this recipe.
    if you don’t know where anything is in a supermarket, don’t waste valuable time looking for it, go right to the customer service desk, ask them what aisle it is in and to take you to it. it will leave you with my more time to make things crispy:)
    and way to go sophia, already up and supervising! make sure she gets credit on your cookbook.

  5. Neil

    Lizardek, well now that I know it is just fancy sour cream, I might change my mind. Snob.

  6. deannie

    That salmon recipe sounds WONDERFUL. Here is an easy meal that I eat pretty regularly:

    Buy a package of chicken breast tenderloins. I season them with salt, pepper, onion powder (lots), garlic powder (not so much) and paprika (makes the chicken look a nice color, not so much for flavor). Lay the chicken tenders in a pan with a teaspoon of olive oil & brown the spiced side down while you spice the other side. Turn meat over. Chicken is done when you prick the center with a fork and it feels nice and firm (not soft). I serve this chicken over salad. Here is how I like to prepare my salad:

    Bag salad (my favorite is a romaine/raddichio blend)
    Greenhouse cucumbers (they dont make me burp)
    Pine nuts
    Vine ripe tomatoes (grape tomatoes are even easier, just slice in half)
    Feta cheese
    Italian dressing

    Looks very pretty, filling and ONE DISH. No messy kitchen.

    You rock Neil. Can’t wait to read the book 🙂

  7. Not Fainthearted

    Just add recipes into the Citizen of the Month book and then you’ve covered another demographic. Easy as that salmon!

  8. Miss Syl

    Congratulations on your first attempt at branching out, cooking-wise. The recipe’ll get easier each time, until it does look a bit prettier than this try, don’t worry.

    Whether or not it came out looking exactly right, how did it end up tasting? Did Sophia like it? That’s all that matters.

    Hm, it looks from the photo, though, that you put the chutney OVER the breadcrumbs–it should have been under. Or did you just add extra for the photo?

    Oh, and for others reading who want to try it..: I told Neil to get the seasoned breadcrumbs to make his life easier. But if you’re feeling a little less intimidated about cooklng than he is, I recommend buying unseasoned breadcrumbs and seasoning them yourself with freshly chopped garlic (or garlic powder) and any other spices/herbs that please you (and that don’t clash with salmon or mango flavors).

    (Oh, and p.s. Neil: I *did* say the chutney might be in the condements aisle…so wasn’t that where the salsa was? I’ve often found it shelved by the mustard, ketchup, and mayo or barbeque sauces for some reason. It seems most Americans have no idea what to do with it.)

  9. Erin

    Neil! I’m so proud of you for cooking! I know it’s hard. I had to teach myself how to cook years ago, but I’m happy to say, I’m a bonafide foody now.

    That being said, I still like making “easy-peasy” meals. Especially on week days when I work. My two favorite week day dishes are pretty white bread, but VERY tasty.

    1) Beef Stroganoff
    * 1 Pound ground beef
    * 1 medium Onion — chopped
    * Worcestershire Sauce (I use quite a bit myself… but start out with a few shakes of the bottle into the meat, you can always add more later)
    * Salt & Pepper (to taste)
    * 4 ounces Can sliced mushrooms (or use fresh and saute them yourself in olive oil)
    * 10 3/4 ounces Can Cream of Mushroom soup
    * 1/2 cup milk (to thin the sauce, if you prefer it thick, you can omit this step)
    * 8 ounces Sour cream
    * Hot cooked egg noodles (I usually buy the big bag and cook half of it. Remember to drizzle a little oil in the water to keep the noodles from sticking together as they’re cooking)

    Cook ground beef and onion in a large skillet until meat is browned, stirring to crumble meat; drain.
    Stir in worcestershire and next 4 ingredients; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in soup. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sour cream, and heat thoroughly.
    Serve over noodles.

    It’s fairly easy, and I find it to be the ultimate in comfort food.

    2) Kelli’s Baked Halibut
    (This is my Mom’s recipe and it’s published on She was a fisherman’s wife for 20 years and always made this fish dish for our family and it’s DELICIOUS.)


    * 1 pound halibut fillets
    * 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    * 1/2 cup low-fat creamy salad dressing (e.g. Miracle Whipâ„¢)(or you can use real mayo…)
    * 1 1/2 cups crushed saltine crackers (I use the food processor, but you can also just put them in a bowl and crush them with the bottom of a large drinking glass)
    * garlic salt to taste
    * ground black pepper to taste
    * 1 pinch seasoning salt (although sometimes I use different herbs to mix with the cracker crumbs… I’ve used fresh thyme, I’ve used Mrs. Dash…whatever is on hand)


    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Rinse fish fillets with water, and pat dry with paper towels.
    2. In a shallow bowl, mix together the cracker crumbs, garlic salt, pepper and seasoning salt. Set aside. Coat the fish fillets with flour, shaking off the excess, and place in a baking dish. Coat the tops of the fillets with salad dressing, then press on a layer of seasoned cracker crumbs. Flip over, and repeat on the other side.
    3. Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until fish is white and flakes easily with a fork.

    As for side dishes, it can be hard to manage that while you’re trying to cook the main course, so I thoroughly recommend buying some of those salad mixes, or even those bags of fresh veggies that you pop in the microwave. At least until you and your penis get better at multitasking. 😉

    Good luck! Give Sophia a big hug from me!

  10. Two Roads

    Neil, not only did you do a great job of cooking the meal you did a fantastic job of “plating” it. Placing the meal on the plate in an appealing manner that makes the diner want to dig in and eat is just as important. Excellent!

  11. Bre

    Looks great! I’m impressed!

  12. Eileen Dover

    Dude, when will you start showing this meal on Today or the CBS morning show?

    I’ll wake up to watch it.

  13. Sizzle

    hey at least you tried, right? it just takes practice.

    now i want corn on the cob!

  14. JanePoe (aka Deborah)

    You cook like my hubby … but, I give you a big A for effort!! Hope that Sophia is healing well and that you’re hanging in there (caretakers are the silent heroes). Much peace & love, JP

  15. Neil

    Ms. Syl, yes I did put a dollop of chutney on top for aesthetic reasons. I’ve noticed how beautifully sushi is presented in Japanese restaurants! (and also Sophia told me to do it for the photograph)

    I need to learn how to photograph food to make it look even better than it is.

    Now, what should I make next? Sophia doesn’t eat pork or shellfish. She prefers fish and beef/lamb over chicken, and she loves vegetables. I have no idea why she puts her nose up at chicken. Who doesn’t love chicken?

    She also likes things spicy, saucy, and exotic — which is exactly how I describe her. But I’m not sure how well that goes with “simple.”

  16. Neil

    By the way, I’m very disappointed that I can’t attend LA Daddy’s big LA Blogger Party. If you live in the area, you should check it out.

    Sophia told me that I should go, but what kind of jerk would I look like to you, leaving my sick wife at home, especially after I scored so many points with the ladies from sleeping on the floor.

    Yeah, my back is a little tense from sleeping on the floor again last night. I just wanted to bring that up. Please send clean panties only.

    (Sophia reminded me that I only slept on the floor half the night before I caved in and went into bed)

  17. Dana

    Bravo, Neil! Salmon looks yummy. The peas, too. Next time, don’t start cooking the peas until everything else is ready–take ’em out when still green. Great job! Hope Sophia’s resting and comfortable.

  18. deannie

    I love how in spite of a tense back your imagination is alive and well (send clean panties only?!?) Heh

  19. heather anne

    We’re gonna need some samples, please. Thank you.

  20. Pearl

    Neil, I could’ve directed you to a really nice spot to buy that brand of chutney — my husband and I found it and bought it on our honeymoon while on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean!

    And should you ever decide to “compose” a [fictional] cookbook, I can help you edit it. I helped edit a very successful school fundraiser cookbook…while my husband was on the recipe tester committee. (that doesn’t mean that he just ate the recipes that were prepared; he helped prepare many recipes.) Hey, maybe I should send him your way — he cooks and bakes, too!

  21. Peety

    Congrats on the recipe and for attempting to give it a try..

    Thanks for your visit and comment!!

    Wishing you a wonderful, Sunday!

  22. parisienne exilée

    I like your blog, I like your way to write even if I don’t understand well.
    I will usu your texts in my blog later for some reasons I explain ther. If you don’t want to, please let my know.

  23. Mist 1

    That looks um…lovely.

    You know, pizza can look really fancy when ordered from the right place.

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