David Santos's Salmon With Beets

·Food Editor

Chef David Santos. Photo credit: Courtesy Indie Chefs Week

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Who: David Santos, chef and owner of Louro in New York City. After working at Thomas Keller’s Per Se and David Bouley’s eponymous restaurant, Santos ran a supper club for a year while he figured out his next restaurant move. He opened Louro in the West Village two years ago.

Tool he can’t live without: The petty knife (sometimes called a utility knife). “There are certain things you have to have a long knife for—salmon, for example, requires a really long knife,” said Santos. “But otherwise, I do just about everything with a petty knife, which is somewhere between a paring knife and a vegetable knife in size. I even butcher meat and fish with it. I’m 5’4” and have small hands, so to handle a big, clunky knife is uncomfortable! I can have more agility this way.”

Ingredient he’s obsessed with: Seafood of all shapes and sizes. Not only did his Portuguese heritage give Santos an appreciation for “everything from the ocean,” but he also thinks cooking it requires “a certain amount of finesse that meat doesn’t. Meat tends to be a bit more bullish; seafood requires a gentle hand. Your window of perfection is much smaller, and I like that challenge.”

His recipe: Wild King Salmon with Beets and Leeks. “It’s an old-school combination, but I wanted to present it in a fun way, riffing with texture and color,” said Santos. “Beets have an earthy flavor that pairs well with salmon because they’re both assertive—you need something assertive to stand up to something [else] assertive.” For the leeks, he used top halves, the green parts many people consider garbage. “They’re super oniony, so that cuts through the richness and earthiness and fattiness.” Then he tops it all off with some fried leek, for crunch.


Photo credit: Katie Ett

Wild King Salmon with Beets and Leeks
by David Santos
Serves 4

For the roasted beets:
1 bunch baby golden beets, washed and tops removed
1 bunch baby chioggia beets, washed and tops removed
3 cloves garlic, peeled
5 sprigs thyme
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Toss the beets, garlic, thyme and olive oil in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the beets tightly in foil and roast for 45-60 minutes, or until fork-tender. Let them cool slightly and, with a towel, rub off the skins. Let cool to room temperature. Cut in half or quarters, depending on size, and reserve.

For the melted leeks:
4 large leeks, tops reserved for the puree
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and remove the bottom stem. Then julienne the whites and place them in a bowl of water, washing well to ensure no dirt remains between the layers. Place the leeks in a medium saucepot with 3 Tbsp water, butter, and salt. Cook over medium heat until leeks are tender and everything is well-incorporated. Keep warm.

For the green leek purée:
1 cup leek tops, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Place everything in a blender with 2 Tbsp. water and purée until smooth. Bottle and chill immediately in an ice bath for five minutesto preserve the green color, then reserve at room temperature.

For the beet purée:
1 large red beet, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt

Place the grated beet in a medium pot and add just enough water to cover. Add butter, sugar, and salt and cook over medium heat until almost all the water is gone and the vegetable is tender (you may need to add more water during cooking). Purée and keep warm over very low heat.

For the salmon:
4 fillets salmon, skin on
Black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, over high heat, warm a large nonstick skillet. Add the oil, then add the fish, skin side down. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook on the skin side for 3 minutes. Flip the fish over and cook for another 2 minutes for rare, or longer if you prefer it more well done. Remove the fish from the pan and let rest. Warm the roasted beets in the same pan.

To plate: Make some lines on the plate with the beet and leek purées; you can get creative. Place the melted leeks in the middle of the plate as a base for your fish. Place fish on the leeks, and then baby beets all around. Serve immediately.