Magazine article Sunset

Prize Salmon

Magazine article Sunset

Prize Salmon

Article excerpt

Sunset's Salmon Cook-off produced six winners who understand the flavors of the West. Get ready to eat well. T'S 2 O'CLOCK ON A SATURDAY AFTERNOON IN the Sunset test kitchen. Normally it would be empty, but today three men take it over. A battery of pans covers the cooktops, spices flank the workspaces, and knives fly as the men prepare their entries for the Sunset Salmon Cook-off. It'll be at least two hours before judges taste their dishes, but these specialties require precision preparation. Tom Cain slices purple-, red-, and yellow-skinned potatoes on the mandoline he brought from home. Roger McDorman plucks tiny thyme leaves from woody branches. Richard Kronick meticulously slices salmon to fashion "rays" for his Salmon Rising Sun.

The three female contestants chat leisurely outside-it's much too early to start. Says Leslie Tiano to Anna Jurgeleit, "Because we have children, we cook fast." Stephanie Zemler, who introduces herself (and has entered the contest) as Stephanie Z., says easy and good best describes her food.

By 3:15 all six cooks crowd the kitchen. "I was almost embarrassed to tell my friends I was a finalist. It was the first recipe I ever wrote," admits Cain. Tiano and McDorman also confess that these are their first recipes on paper. Conversations swirl around food. "A melon baller works great to seed chilies-just scoop down the center." "Food, music, and sports. What else is there in life?" asks Ms. Z., as she passes out the schedule for her favorite soccer team. Glasses fill with more wine for the last creative surge as enticing smells infuse the kitchen. Smoke drifts from the back porch as salmon sears on the grill. Four o'clock arrives. Judging starts.

It's not an easy job. The contest started with almost 150 entries from 11 Western states and British Columbia. Entries featured salmon raw, smoked, broiled, baked, grilled, poached, and steamedeven cooked over an open fire in the traditional Makah way. And there was salmon sausage, salmon custard, salmon burgers, salmon-stuffed chile rellenos, salmon won tons, and salmon lasagna.

These were winnowed by Sunset's food staff to 29 finalists (the staff aimed for 25, but there were ties). For five days, the testers cooked, tasted, and rated salmon nonstop, sampling all 29 recipes. …

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