This chef gives an elegant twist to a favorite that’s never out of season

By Pam George
From the April 2018 issue

RecipeApr-2018When Tom Deptula creates a new restaurant menu, at least one protein consistently makes it onto the page — and his choice might surprise you.

“You don’t always have to have a chicken on the menu, but you do have to have a salmon dish,” says Deptula, who has been the executive chef at The Clubhouse at Baywood in Millsboro for two years.

Partly that’s because salmon is so popular. The fish is loaded with healthy fats, it’s readily available and it has a velvety texture without a strong fishy flavor. For chefs, it’s also versatile: You can roast it, grill it, bake it, sear it and smoke it. It’s light enough for spring, particularly when paired with cheerful colors.

Deptula has featured pan-seared salmon with spaetzle at the restaurant, which overlooks the Baywood Greens Golf Course. It’s an elegant dish that reflects his time working at Victoria’s Restaurant and with Lion Gardner at the Blue Moon, both in Rehoboth Beach. Deptula is also an avid fisherman and hunter.

The chef, who grew up in Newark, Del., was 13 when he started sweeping floors at a deli. Next he tackled sandwiches. When he was young, he worked at McGlynns Pub & Restaurant, Ruby Tuesday and Bennigan’s, which gave him the skills to work under pressure. “You learn how to hustle,” Deptula says. “At Ruby Tuesday in the Christiana Mall, we were swimming in tickets.”
 
After studying philosophy and cognitive science at the University of Delaware, he considered pursuing an academic career. Instead, he got a job with a travel agency that took him across the country and to Acapulco, where he fell in love with Mexican cuisine.
 
Back in Delaware, Deptula moved to the beach in 2006 and decided to return to the hospitality industry. He hasn’t indulged his love of Latin cuisine at The Clubhouse at Baywood, but he does offer plenty of coastal favorites, including pan-seared scallops, fish-and-chips, steaks, and, of course, salmon.
 
Spaetzle is a cross between a dumpling and a small egg noodle. If you don’t want to fuss with it, consider using couscous or gnocchi, which can be bought ready-made. If you do opt for spaetzle, it can be made in advance.
 
PAN-ROASTED SALMON WITH DILL SPAETZLE
(serves 4)
 
 
For the spaetzle:
1   cup of all-purpose flour
1   teaspoon of salt
½  teaspoon of black pepper
2   whole eggs
¼  cup of milk
1   tablespoon of fresh dill, chopped
 
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. Whisk in eggs and milk until they’re thoroughly incorporated. Fold in dill. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Set up an ice bath (a combination of water and ice used to quickly stop the cooking process). Using a rubber spatula, push the dough through the large holes of a freestanding cheese grater into the boiling water. Once the pasta floats to the surface, scoop it out with a strainer basket and transfer it to the ice bath. Once chilled, remove the pasta and transfer to a cloth to dry.
 
For the fish:
2   tablespoons of vegetable oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
4   6-ounce salmon fillets, skin removed
1   bulb of fennel, tops removed and sliced
2   cloves of garlic, minced
1½   cups of reserved spaetzle
2   tablespoons of butter 
1   cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1   teaspoon of minced parsley
½   cup of white wine
½   cup of pickled beets (you can find them at most supermarket salad bars)
¼   cup of celery heart leaves or chopped parsley
 
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large ovenproof saucepan, heat one tablespoon of the oil on medium-high heat until it shimmers. Salt and pepper the fish to taste. Gently place the salmon into the hot oil. Sear the fillets until they’re golden brown on one side, about three to four minutes. Flip the salmon and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast for five more minutes or longer, if desired. (Deptula likes to cook salmon to an internal temperature of 130 degrees.)
 
Meanwhile, in a second large saucepan, heat the second tablespoon of oil. Add the fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens and is slightly brown. Add the garlic, and cook for one to two minutes. Add the spaetzle and butter. Let the mix sit in the pan until the butter begins to brown. Add tomatoes, parsley and stir. Add wine and deglaze (scrape up and dissolve brown bits). Remove from the heat. 
 
To serve: 
Place the salmon atop the spaetzle mixture and pickled beets. Garnish with the celery heart leaves or parsley. 

 

 

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