Chef Nick Lorenzen, corporate chef at Southern Wine & Spirits in Las Vegas, serves up a dish that demonstrates the creativity he must use every day in operating a kitchen with no set menu. This inventive chef uses two of summer’s most popular stone fruits, a hot pepper, a few fresh herbs and an ancient root as a natural sweetener to complement the already distinctive taste of a wild salmon in a way that is, well, simply perfection on a fork! Chef Lorenzen’s Wild Caught Salmon with Curried Parsnip Purée, Nectarine Salsa and Peach Chips creates a blend of flavors with a few simple fresh ingredients that would definitely be the star attraction at any dinner party. Best of all, it takes little time to prepare; the hardest part is probably catching the salmon! We suggest opting for a local fish market instead of a fishing pole, but buy only wild, as farm raised substitutes have a totally different taste and an environmentally questionable pedigree.
Seriously, this recipe is very easy to put together. The nectarine salsa can be blended in minutes and the parsnip purée takes even less time. Cooking a salmon perfectly is a short 8 to 9 minutes. In fact, I can attest to this recipe’s ease and flexibility, as I recently served this dish with confidence at a small dinner party that included the 2008 James Beard Foundation Award winner for Best Chef in the Northwest. At the last minute I had to switch the fish to halibut and the recipe worked just as well. Since the white fish version loses that dazzling color of the salmon, fleck the purée and plate with finely diced red bell pepper, garnish with a seasonal green, like garlic scapes or very thin asparagus and a few baby portabellas for flavor and texture balance. The recipe survived my amateur adjustments just fine, if a table of empty plates when the meal was over was any judge. Thank you Chef Nick!
So what is a talented chef, who spent several years in the culinary-savvy culture of San Francisco, doing in the kitchen of a liquor distributor? In fact, why does a liquor distributor need a kitchen at all? Actually, Southern Wine & Spirits has offices in twenty-nine states; however, the Las Vegas operation is the only one that maintains a kitchen with a full-time chef as well as three Master Sommeliers who work with local restaurants on their wine offerings.
"This town is unique in the concentration of fine dining venues, many operated by some of the most well-known celebrity chefs in the country. Our clientele, both vendors and customers, have some of the most knowledgeable culinary palates in the business. For me, that presents a new challenge almost daily. Sometimes I collaborate with the sommeliers to demonstrate how a particular wine performs in service, paired with a variety of dishes, for a client who is considering it for a restaurant or hotel wine list. We operate two dining rooms that serve as meeting places where our vendors and customers can come together to sample and discuss the beverages in a pleasant atmosphere. We can also accommodate large groups when one of our winery vendors debuts a new vintage, for instance, or provide more intimate service for a special VIP client if that is more appropriate. In either case, we approach food and beverage as a one syllable word here at Southern Wine & Spirits." In fact, Wine Specialist Julian Maine’s wine suggestions for Chef Nick’s featured dish are included in the recipe, since the two often collaborate on menu planning.
"I base a lot of my food on the flavors that I can pull out of whatever fresh fruits are available, working closely with James Waseloff, the manager of Melissa’s Food Service Division. I think the flavors of fruit play well off wine and are a much healthier option than using heavy dairy-based ingredients, which tend to overpower the palate." The chef’s nectarine salsa certainly demonstrates this approach, where orange and nectarine meet on the plate with jalapeño, cilantro and shallots. The winner of this encounter is all of us, because we now have the recipe!
This same emphasis on fruit as a flavoring base has led Chef Nick to develop his own line of Citronettes under the brand name Su Yuzu. Citronettes are blends of fruit essences and oil that can be used as dressings for salads, marinades for meats and seafood, or as a flavor accent for vegetables. The name is actually a blend of Latin and Japanese – ‘Su’ meaning “your” and “Yuzu" being a very tangy citrus fruit from Japan. At the moment, Nick’s creations include Passion Fruit-Grain Mustard, Rhubarb-Blood Orange, Guava-Ginger and Cilantro-Lime Citronettes. He has also developed a vinaigrette, which he calls Sweet Chin Kiang that is based on the classic Italian balsamic with an Asian twist using Chinese black vinegar. His own burgeoning company, Lorenz Foods, supplies these products to the Whole Foods Market in Las Vegas, but has high hopes of expanding distribution as the products’ reputation and Nick’s resources grow. "It's a small collection of quality products that I am very proud to say is being well received at retail. I love what I do, but must admit to having visions of being the Chef Nick as seen on the famous Su Yuzu label someday! Hey, ya never know…the next phone call could be a local fan of my blends, who just won big at the tables, calling to inquire about fulfilling a dream of always wanting to be in the Citronette business!"
While the chef said it with a chuckle, we have no doubt that the phone will ring for Chef Nick soon, judging by the fantastic dish that he contributed for this feature and his thoughtful approach to all things culinary that he exhibited in acting as my tech support while cooking his dish for a tough crowd! It is obvious that Chef Nick Lorenzen and his kitchen are one of the great pairings found at Southern Wine & Spirits.