Keith Otter has had a very pure motivation for his culinary success. “I love to eat,” he says. “I love to drink good wine. I knew this even as a teenager.”
Pondering the instinct and passion behind his work, he explains, “Just because someone has a culinary degree doesn’t mean he is a chef. Cooking, and savoring the result, is such a physical experience. I’ve immersed myself in it for most of my life.”
A California boy, Otter worked at one of Newport Beach’s finest restaurants, The Rex of Newport, before following his heart to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco for classical training and experience under the guidance of such masters as Juliano Serrano of Masa’s, and Joachim Splichal at Patina. Rex Chandler, of The Rex and locally famous Chandler’s, convinced Keith to move to the Wood River Valley in 1994 and join his staff as chef. Keith later chose to pursue his love of the classic-yet-creative use of fresh regional foods in his own restaurant, Otter’s. Once again working with Rex, Keith is currently Executive Chef at Chandler’s and at his newest cooking venture, Baci, which offers fresh Mediterranean cuisine and a relaxed trattoria atmosphere in Ketchum’s Trail Creek Village.
The challenge to create a recipe for this issue was no sweat for Keith, recently returned from New York City where he and Baci’s Chef di Cuisine, Kenny Rudolph, joined Coeur d’Alene chef Brian Hutchins in creating The Taste of Idaho dinner benefit at the James Beard Foundation. Keith has been to the prestigious James Beard Foundation event three times since 1998, and has been lauded by Bon Appetit magazine. Still favoring regional products, Keith created this recipe using Idaho potato vodka. (Two shining examples, Teton Glacier and Blue Ice, are distilled in nearby Rigby, Idaho. Silver Creek Distillers, Inc., garnered the award for fourth-best vodka in the world in 2001 from the Beverage Tasting Institute.)
Pastrami King Salmon with Red Onion Marmalade, Sour Cream, and French Baguette
1 salmon fillet, with skin on, pin
2 cups kosher salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
In separate bowl, combine together:
2 oz. toasted mustard seed
2 oz. toasted fennel seed
2 oz. toasted coriander seed
1 oz. cracked black pepper
1 T. chopped crystallized ginger
1 T. allspice
1/2 T. orange zest
Hold at the ready:
2 cups Idaho potato vodka,Teton Glacier or Blue Ice labels recommended
Lay salmon fillet skin-side down, drizzle vodka over fillet, and cover with dried herb mixture.
Cover entire fillet with salt and sugar mixture.
Press lightly for 48 hours. Brush off salt and herb mixture before smoking.
Soak mesquite wood chips in water for 30 minutes.
Lightly smoke the cured salmon fillet for 10-15 minutes. Do not let smoking temperature exceed 80 degrees.
Let cool before slicing.
Red Onion Marmalade:
1 red onion, sliced thinly and sautéed until tender
Bring to a boil:
1 cup white Balsamic vinegar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup pickling spice
2 cloves garlic
Combine onions and liquid, and refrigerate for 12 hours. Drain and add 1 T. capers
Toast baguette and spread with sour
cream or crème fraiche. Place salmon fillet and pickled red onions on top. Serve.