Maren Caruso
Ron Siegel's King salmon with artichoke/mascarpone puree, glazed carrots & natural reduction.
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Salmon Stakes

Jim Poris - April 2005

What wholesome hodgepodge has been dropped on the prep counter for three stouthearted chefs to use in composing a singular dish?

OK, so this time there's more than the usual amount of grumbling from the participating chefs about Food Arts' choice of ingredients for the first of this year's two episodes of Mystery Basket. Well, we say, in paraphrasing a government uppity-up, you go into the kitchen with the food you have, not the food you wish you had. Good soldiers and kitchen commanders that they are, that's just what the three chefs did, steeling themselves to confront this grab bag and then charging ahead to make order out of chaos. A salute is in order for Ron Siegel (The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco), Jean Joho (Everest and Brasserie Jo, Chicago; Brasserie Jo, Boston; Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Las Vegas), and Cindy Wolf (Charleston, Petit Louis Bistro, and Pazo, Baltimore).

They had to use at least 17 of the ingredients off the list below. Want to make something of it the way these guys did? Then get cooking! You just might come up with something that will fight its way onto your menu.

We won't cover up the facts. This is what we gave the chefs before they gave it to us right back: an omega-3 rich whole salmon, A-1 sauce, salt and pepper, soy sauce, white wine, garlic, scallions, eggs, olive oil, star anise, artichokes, oranges, cornmeal, anchovies, carrots with tops on, peas in the pod, cremini mushrooms, mascarpone, butter, almonds, and Scotch.

We gave them the following herbs: fresh bay leaves, mint, marjoram, cilantro, epazote, rosemary, thyme, lavender, parsley, tarragon, and Thai basil.

Cindy Wolf
Charleston, Petit Louis Bistro, Pazo
Baltimore
"It was unusual for me to prepare a dish using at least 17 ingredients. I believe very strongly in four or five beautiful fresh ingredients that create harmony on the plate. But I love to solve problems, and I usually tackle them in an unsubtle, forthright manner. When I was presented with this challenge, that's the way I approached it. In the end, creating a dish with 17 ingredients became a valuable learning experience. Despite having ingredients I didn't think I would need, I was still able to come up with a dish that reflects my style of cooking. I don't think there's anything unnecessary in the composition of the dish, a statement I never thought I would make at the beginning of the process."

Pan-roasted cornmeal/almond encrusted salmon with quenelles of carrot & English pea mousses & artichoke/green onion beurre blanc. "Reduce white wine, a splash of orange juice, finely chopped garlic, thyme leaves, one bay leaf, and five peppercorns to two tablespoons; reduce heat to low; whisk in butter; strain; add a brunoise of sautéed artichoke hearts; keep warm in a bain-marie. For the mousses, cook the carrots in boiling salted water with one star anise pod until soft and the shelled peas in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and shock each vegetable; discard the star anise. Puree each vegetable separately in a blender with mascarpone; season with salt and pepper. Season salmon fillets with salt; coat with cornmeal. Heat olive oil in a skillet; add salmon; sear on one side; finish in a 425-degree oven; remove from the oven; top each salmon fillet with crushed Marcona almonds. To serve, stir thinly sliced scallions into the beurre blanc; glaze each plate with the beurre blanc; place salmon in the middle of each plate; flank with a quenelle of each mousse. My husband and partner, Tony Foreman, thinks a Pinot Noir–based Champagne like La Salle ‘Special Club' 1996 would go with this dish, although for those who would rather have a white or a red he favors Peter Michel Sauvignon Blanc ‘L'Après Midi' Sonoma County 2001 or Dehlinger Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2001."

Ron Siegel
The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton
San Francisco
"As they say, sometimes you've got to work with what you have. So, with that said, to compile the recipe, I started with the foundation--the butter, the salt, and the herbs--and then built the dish from there. This recipe is not at all representative of what I cook at The Dining Room. When creating dishes, I don't like to limit myself to certain ingredients. Instead, I try to use only what's in season, what's fresh, and what I feel like making at that given moment."

King salmon with artichoke/mascarpone puree, glazed carrots & natural reduction. "Peel the artichokes. Sweat the scallions and garlic in olive oil in a nonreactive pot until tender; add anchovies and white wine; reduce by half. Add artichokes and thyme; cover with water; cook until tender; remove the artichokes; reduce the braising liquid; reserve. Puree the artichokes in a blender; pass the puree through a tamis; fold in mascarpone and butter; reserve. Peel the carrots; cook in butter; season with salt and pepper. Blanch the peas in their pods. Sauté cremini mushrooms with garlic, olive oil, and parsley. Season six-ounce salmon fillets with salt and pepper; lightly dust with cornmeal. Sauté both sides in a little olive oil until medium-rare. Heat reduced artichoke braising liquid; emulsify with butter; add one star anise pod for 20 seconds; strain; reserve. To serve, spoon sauce into the bottom of a bowl; place heated artichoke puree in the center of the bowl; top with salmon; top with a spoonful of peas in the pod, carrots, and mushrooms. Our sommelier, Stephane Lacroix, says he'd happily drink Tablas Creek Vineyard Roussanne Paso Robles with this dish."

Jean Joho
Everest, Brasserie Jo
Chicago
"The most challenging part of this assignment was having too many ingredients to work with. Personally, I don't like seared or grilled salmon; I prefer it moist and flaky. Poaching it in olive oil keeps the salmon from drying out. The cornmeal adds crunchiness to the texture, and the vegetables and herbs impart freshness."

Vegetable minestrone & olive oil poached salmon with cornmeal tuile. "For the tuile, mix egg whites, mascarpone, cornmeal, and a touch of A-1 sauce in a bowl. Spread circles of cornmeal dough on a baking sheet; bake at 350 degrees for about seven minutes; let cool until crisp. Make an herb pistou by using a pestle to grind thyme, parsley, garlic, olive oil, butter, toasted almonds, and salt and pepper in a mortar to a medium consistency. Sweat minced garlic, diced artichoke hearts, cremini mushrooms, and carrots in olive oil; deglaze with white wine and a dash of Scotch; add one star anise pod; cook for 15 minutes; add shelled green peas; cook for another three minutes. Remove from heat and incorporate the pistou. Heat olive oil to 145 degrees in a large pot; add a thyme sprig and a garlic clove; allow them to infuse for 10 minutes. Add seven-ounce skinless salmon fillets; poach at 145 degrees for five to eight minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets; remove with a large spider; place on paper towels to drain; season with salt and pepper. To serve, garnish bowls with cooked artichoke leaves; add minestrone, salmon, and a thyme sprig; sprinkle with finely chopped hard-boiled eggs, scallions, and orange zest; garnish with a cornmeal tuile. Since I'm Alsatian, I'd drink one of the region's Grand Cru Pinot Gris with this dish."