Chefs are artists who wield knives of all sizes to transform flesh and vegetable into plated sculpture. I had the pleasure of spending a day with Chef Rodney Herwerth of the Inverness Hotel in Englewood, Colorado, to document, on video, how he turned some fairly unattractive vegetables into a colorful and mesmerizing bouquet of flowers.
Chef Rodney embellished the dish even more by using blanched ramp leaves as part of his floral backdrop. Fiddlehead ferns are a new ingredient to me, so I loved seeing him use them in this dish. (Be sure to soak and wash them thoroughly to remove all grit.)
Salmon was grilled then finished in the oven on cedar planks and topped with tarragon butter. Colorado black quinoa rounded out the dish. But if all that wasn’t enough, he added splashes of red and green with red pepper coulis and basil oil.
We’ve dubbed this “Colorado Portrait of Summer.” Eat some art, everyone! Below is my interpretation of his recipe. Challenge yourselves, watch the video, and make culinary art at home.
Colorado Portrait of Summer: Cedar Roasted Salmon, Black Quinoa, Tarragon Butter, Squash Bouquet
Recipe from Chef Rodney Herwerth of The Inverness Hotel, Baca Restaurant, Englewood Colorado (rewritten by The Patrician Palette for public consumption)
Special tools: range-top grill, cedar planks, cannelle knife
4 each / 6 oz portions of Scottish or King salmon (cleaned of skin, pin bones and blood line)
Freshly ground black pepper
Flakey sea salt for finishing
4 oz butter (room temp)
¼ cup white wine
1 tablespoon minced shallot
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 oz fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Kosher Salt to taste
1 cup water
½ cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
Kosher Salt to taste
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon piquillo pepper, brunoise
1 teaspoon butter
The Vegetable Bouquet
1 large zucchini
1 large yellow squash
2 large carrots, peeled
12 fiddlehead ferns, trim the ends, wash thoroughly
8 ramp, cut into 2” lengths
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Maui Coarse Red Sea Salt
1 heirloom tomato, concassé (about one cup)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon of minced shallot
splash of white wine
Lemon Balm Micro Greens
Red Pepper Coulis
8 ramp leaves, blanched
Prepare the tarragon butter:
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, blend all of the ingredients into a smooth paste. Use a plastic spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and ensure all ingredients are evenly blended. Transfer to a container, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the vegetable bouquet:
o Zucchini Leaves: With a small curved knife, cut eight 2” long ovals out of each of the zucchini and the squash. Cut away the seeds from the undersides of the ovals. Use a pointed cannelle knife to carve a veining pattern into the skin to mimic a leaf. (The remaining squash can be grilled and chopped into a relish so nothing goes to waste).
o Carrot Florets: Score the carrots from top to bottom with 5-6 parallel swipes of the cannelle knife. Trim the base of the carrot into a point. Hold the carrot in the palm of your hand. With your cutting hand, ¾” up from the base of the carrot, make a slice at a 45º angle down towards the core. Rotate the carrot and make 4-5 similar cuts until you can twist the base and the floret pops off. Repeat up the carrot until you have at least 8 florets.
o Blanch and shock all of the vegetables.
o Sauté the vegetables in the butter and olive oil just before serving. Season with the Maui Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Prepare the quinoa:
Place the quinoa and salted water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. Adjust seasoning if necessary. In a sauté pan, sweat shallots, garlic, and piquillo. Add the cooked quinoa and finish with butter. Adjust seasoning if needed.
Prepare the concassé:
Core the tomato and cut an X at the base. Blanch in boiling water for one minute then refresh in iced water. Peel off the skin. Cut into quarters and cut away the seeds and membrane and discard. Dice the flesh. Sauté the tomato concassé in olive oil, garlic, shallot, and salt, pepper and a splash of wine.
Prepare the salmon:
Preheat oven to 350º. Season the salmon with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and oil on both sides. Preheat range top grill until smoking hot. Lay the oiled salmon on the grill for one (1) minute to set grill marks. Lift the salmon and rotate 45º clockwise and grill for another minute to set second grill marks. Flip the salmon and repeat. Transfer the salmon to soaked cedar planks and place in the 350º oven for eight (8) minutes. For the last two minutes, top the salmon with a tablespoon of the tarragon butter. Salmon should be medium rare. Cooking times may vary depending on the thickness of your salmon.
o Lay two ramp leaves in an X in the center of the plate
o Place a 3” ring mold in the center of the X and fill with the quinoa
o Arrange the vegetables and tomatoes around the quinoa to mimic a flower (two zucchini leaves, two yellow squash leaves, two carrot florets, three fiddlehead ferns
o Remove the mold
o Place the salmon on top of the quinoa
o Top the salmon with a delicately-small mound of the lemon balm micro greens
o Drizzle the plate with the basil oil and red pepper coulis