Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Cooking with Soul: salmon and Northwest wines – Dahlia Workshop, Seattle

Posted on: Wednesday 29 June 2011

When I read about the salmon cooking class at Dahlia Workshop, I bought a ticket immediately. Not only is it a step towards overcoming my reluctance to cook fish at home, I was also interested in the wine pairing component of Cooking with Soul.

The Westlake and Harrison building has special meaning to me – we dined out for the first in Seattle at Serious Pie, our initiation to the Tom Douglas restaurants. I love the dark, moody space and the communal tables overlooking the Dahlia Workshop kitchen and staring at the wood fire oven.

Dahlia Workshop shares the ground level with Soul Wines which is not officially affiliated with Tom Douglas. Floor to ceiling windows brighten the room and cases of wine with tasting notes are stacked on the floor.

As usually I was there early and the owner kindly poured samples at the tasting bar for me and a couple. We marvelled at a crisp and refreshing French white by Domaine des Cassagnoles.

Michael Teer selected the wines for the salmon dishes for the evening. In his introduction, he noted that matching wine to food is a challenge in Seattle as the Pacific Northwest is influenced by many cuisines. He emphasised that wine matching is not science, there are only guidelines and not definitive answers.

Pamela Hinckley, Tom Douglas Restaurants (TDR) CEO, welcomed the class and Eric Tanaka, TDR Executive Chef, explained that the focus of the two hours would be on ingredients and techniques, and not detailed recipes.

A beheaded salmon was on the chopping board and two salmon skins were on another. Chef Tanaka asked if we had seen the Tom Douglas Iron Chef episode as he will be cooking one the dishes that beat Iron Chef Morimoto.

Chef Tanaka demonstrated how to skin a salmon by adjusting the angle of the knife and applying pressure to scrape off the excess flesh and fat. A long and narrow knife is preferred.

I haven’t been in a commercial kitchen before and was curious about the equipment and layout. There were shelves full of trays and containers but the benches remained clear. There was an area in the middle for washing and drying. It was clean and tidy, just how I like it!

Next Chef Tanaka cut the salmon in half along the bone. He recommended using a sharp knife for this and a smooth gliding action, no sawing! He removed the tail, collars and various other offcuts to be used for other dishes.

The collars were marinated in soy, mirin, orange juice, star anise, ginger and garlic. Brines are a very personal taste to balance sweet and salty, and the flavour of soy develops as it age. Chef Tanaka mentioned that chefs who smoke tend to make saltier brines.

Sliced thinly, the salmon belly was cured for about forty minutes. The curing process removes moisture and changes the texture and flavour of the salmon. Chef Tanaka used a one to one ratio of brown sugar and salt, and a sprinkling of Aleppo pepper. The cured salmon is ready when it ‘sweats’ and the flesh is firm, carefully rinse off the seasoning before plating.

The carcass and other pieces were poached, chilled and flaked for the salmon cakes. Lemon zest, mayonnaise, salt and pepper were added, then coated in panko crumbs and seared.

We paused for the first course of salmon cakes. Resting on a smear of puréed avocado and topped with a light tomato salsa, the salmon cake was moist and tangy while retaining a distinct salmon flavour. Michael spoke about the versatility of Grüner Veltliner, a light and fruity wine from Syncline Winery that paired well with the salmon cake.

I was standing next to this Rollmatic machine and was daydreaming about cranking out the pastry for an industrial size triple coconut cream pie!

The loin fillets were coated with the Tom Douglas salmon rub, grilled and served with shitake mushrooms sautéed in thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper. In the restaurants, these would be prepared a day ahead and cold smoked at 100°F with a tray of ice in the oven to moderate the temperature. Chef Tanaka said that cold smoking is a gentler cooking method than curing.

Chef Tanaka eased the delicate salmon skins onto the trays and liberally scattered furikake, a Japanese dry seasoning mix available in many combinations. He covered the tray with parchment and placed another tray over it to completely the flatten the salmon skins. These are grilled at 225°F for 45 minutes.

Presented on transparent plates, the cured salmon was garnished with a scoop of salmon roe and a shard of salmon skin. It was a beautiful colour and the curing highlighted the richness of the salmon.

Spatula for you, spatula for me! A multitude of spatulas of varying sizes dangled from a wire rack and the window ledge was lined with spices including Murray River flake salt and the delightfully named apple pie spice.

A few of the group were tasked with assisting. A woman on my left finely chopped dried apricots and another on my right cut green onions.

These salmon fillets were poached quickly in a dashi broth and steeped in green tea. This was simple and delicious – each bite fragrant with the earthiness of green tea, a contrast to the saltiness of the red shiso seasoning on the plain rice.

The last course was the marinated and grilled salmon collars with Ottolenghi‘s red rice and quinoa salad. I love the oily slipperiness of salmon collars and these were grilled at 500°F for ten minutes.

Bold and nutty, the red rice and quinoa salad was a crowd favourite. Although vegetarian, it was tasty and filling. Pamela was whisking vigorously and adjusting the vinaigrette as needed. It was exceptional with a glass of Pinot noir from Cameron Winery in Oregon.

It was a fun evening learning Chef Tanaka’s approaches to cooking each part of the salmon. He was an easygoing guy and patiently answered all our questions while cooking five salmon dishes for twenty-five people!

Here’s the blurb from the website. Unfortunately the next two in the series, chicken and wines of France and vegetarian and Italian wines, are sold out.

Join us for cooking classes that offer techniques on how to make delicious, healthy everyday food and how to choose modestly priced wines to go with the menu!

The beautiful Dahlia Workshop kitchen, where Tom Douglas’ bread and pastry production happens is hosting a night time series where we’ll be cooking up a storm! The class will blend demonstrations from our chefs and hands on participation. Each class will include a butchering technique, fresh takes on vegetables and innovative grain dishes. Our neighbors at Soul Wine will pick the perfect wine accompaniments.

In a relaxed and convivial environment, we will cook together and eat what we make!  Participants take home recipe cards and an opportunity to buy the wines at a promotional price.

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2 Responses to "Cooking with Soul: salmon and Northwest wines – Dahlia Workshop, Seattle"

[…] Douglas Restaurant Executive Chef Eric Tanaka assisted in the kitchen. The dishes were plated on the Ting Momo […]

[…] in learning about farming. Last week Dev Patel returned from Prosser Farm for an evening at Dahlia Workshop to showcase seasonal […]

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