kitchen cravings: chef mike spalla.
August 18, 2011
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RON RUSCIO
Executive Chef Mike Spalla, of Colorado’s Beaver Creek Lodge, part of The Kessler Collection, grew up with an appreciation for the best of the best when it comes to food. After graduating from the prestigious Academy of Culinary Arts, Chef Mike began his career at the world renowned Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. On his quest to form a well-rounded understanding of American modern cuisine, he discovered his own passion and began embracing the farm-to-table philosophy that he’s known for today. Consistently inspired by the Rocky Mountains and Colorado’s indigenous fare, Chef Mike was instantly intrigued by architect Jim Morter’s rustic-chic kitchen in Beaver Creek—so much so that he was enticed to create this mouth-watering native Salmon dish.
Salt-Baked Salmon with Feta, Cucumber and Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
1 ½ lbs salmon, preferably wild-caught, skin-on
1 cup Kosher salt
4 oz feta cheese in brine
1 cucumber, seedless
2 cups heirloom tomatoes, small variety
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
In large, dry, cast-iron pan, spread salt in a thin layer, covering entire bottom of pan. Put pan over medium-high heat until amost smoking. Add the salmon, putting the skin side directly on the salt. You will not need to season the fish at all. Do not shake the pan or move the fish to keep the salt from getting on the flesh. When the fish is cooked about ½ inch up, slide the pan carefully into a 350-degree oven for 4-5 minutes.
While the salmon is baking, peel and slice the cucumber, and cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Cut or crumble the feta into small pieces. Toss them all together with the aged balsamic and oil.
When the salmon is finished to your liking (Chef Mike recommends medium.), slide a fish or thin spatula in between the salmon’s flesh and skin. The skin will stick to the salt and become crispy, but the salmon will be very tender and slide right off. Serve with a salad, roasted peppers, or rice, and garnish with the cucumber feta relish.