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Class: Summer Seafood from Salty’s

24-Jun-2005

 

On Tuesday night I took another class at Sur la Table in Kirkland.  This was a demonstration class, so we all watched and tasted while chef cooked and explained.  I was interested in this class because it seems I sometimes get stuck in a seafood rut – sort of doing the same preparations over and over again.  This is partially due to the fact that I don’t like to hide the taste of my fish with lots of sauces and flavorings.  I prefer to let the taste shine through and just try to enhance it, but I am very guilty of staying in my little comfort zone and wanted to branch out. 

This class was taught by Dan Thiessen, Corporate Executive Chef at Salty’s.  In addition to the specific recipes, he gave us numerous tips that will help in other areas of my cooking.  In fact, I’d say those tips were even more valuable than the recipes this night.  That’s why I love these classes – for the little "extras" you’ll never get in a cookbook. 

The menu for the evening was:

  • Bronzed Halibut with Grilled Pineapple Salsa
  • Chilled Dungeness Crab Gazpacho
  • Cream of Living Pea Vine Soup
  • Seared Sockeye Salmon Onion Marmalade 

Bronzing an item is done by using blackening spice but instead of searing both sides in a cast iron pan, only one side is briefly seared in a stainless steel pan and then finished in a hot oven.  The result is a flavorful but not overpowering, slightly spicy taste and a more tender texture. 

We learned some important information about testing the halibut for "doneness" – one way is to look for the albumen (the white stuff) to start leaching out.  When you see it, the fish is done.

Chef Dan showed us how to bronze the halibut and then went to work on the Grilled Pineapple Salsa (the recipe he provided for this class is slightly different than the one on the site). 

I liked this combination but you should be very careful to only use a small amount of salsa with the halibut, otherwise the onion and jalapeño can be a bit overwhelming and hide the taste of the halibut altogether. 

 

Next up was the Chilled Gazpacho. This recipe calls for crab juice, which they get when they squeeze the liquid from the crab meat that they use in their crab cakes.  At the restaurant, they freeze the juice they get from each batch of crab cakes and when they have enough to make the gazpacho they add it as an evening special. 

This was a really lovely, refreshing, perfect-for-a-warm-summer-evening soup.  And, it would be great for entertaining since it is made ahead and needs to marinate overnight to really develop the flavor.  Chef Dan recommended a rosé to accompany and said they currently have six by the glass on the menu.  I may need to stop in just to check those out! 

 

 

Next was the Cream of Living Pea Vine Soup.  Again, this is not always on their menu but when pea vines are available you may be lucky enough to find it!  I’ve had the good fortune to have it twice – once at a great benefit called Cooking with Class, and at this class.  This soup is an amazing bright green (in the photo at the top I had mixed the chive cream into the soup) and tastes like fresh peas but there is an underlying taste that is deeper and sort of unrefined.  Chef Dan described it as earthy but that doesn’t quite hit it for me.  I would say it’s the taste of texture, which I’m sure doesn’t really make sense.  The soup has a little texture but more than that the taste has a body of its own.  I wish I could find the right word to describe it, but no matter what the right word is, the soup is amazing!  This recipe is not yet on the Salty’s website but I think it may be there in a couple weeks.  I’ll check back and update the post if it appears. 

Also, this soup is very versatile.  The base is actually made from potatoes and so you can actually add just about any green leafy vegetable in the final step.  Chef Dan suggested a few items such as water cress, arugula and sorrel.  Experiment!

The final dish for our class was Seared Sockeye Salmon Onion Marmalade.  Sockeye is plentiful at the moment and so it was the fish of choice but you can see where any type of salmon and plenty of other varieties of fish would work well, too. 

Again, the fish itself is very simply prepared but the Onion Marmalade adds an interesting element to the final plate.  Chef Dan warned us to reduce the marmalade over a lower heat.  You don’t want the liquid to evaporate until the onions have cooked through and become tender. 

The marmalade, like the Pineapple Salsa, is strongly flavored and so you really want to make sure you use it almost as a garnish as too much of it will definitely overwhelm your fish.  I could also see using this marmalade on crostini with a bit of goat cheese – yum! :-)

Some other notes you may find interesting.  Salty’s is updating their website and the new site is scheduled to release in early July.  At that time they will have 50 recipes and a "request" link that can be used to request a recipe for something you had at the restaurant.  That’s cool! 

Chef Dan is now on the radio on a regular basis.  Tune in to KVI, AM 570, the first Saturday of each month from 1:00pm – 2:00pm to hear him talk about what’s going on in the food world and to answer questions that are called in. 

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