A Smoking Success03/22/2023 08:00AM ● By Suzi Mitchell
From Steamboat Magazine Mountain Edition 2023.
Nick Winden has a penchant for pickling. So much so, the head chef at Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails in downtown Steamboat is fondly known as “Nicholas Picklelas.” Truthfully, it was a term coined in childhood that serendipitously prophesied his career in the kitchen.
“Watermelon radish is the gnarliest, for sure,” he says. “You have to block your nose in the process of making it, but the taste is great.” The stronger the pickle, the more it calls for an acquired taste. “People don’t just love sauerkraut or kimchi.”
His sous chef and fellow pickle fanatic, Ryan Hoath, agrees. He’s currently working on an experiment he describes as a play on sauerkraut: horseradish cabbage. “I’m a fan of all foods,” Ryan says.
The duo and their team rely on the perfect ratio of fresh fruit or vegetables, with pickling methods and tastes ranging from sweet and salty to spicy. “It’s all down to texture,” Nick says. “You want to achieve that snap when you bite into a pickle and that relies on using the freshest produce to begin the process.”
Some pickles are best eaten immediately, like sesame pickled cucumber served with dumplings. Chutneys or raw beets are a slower affair, and the latter won’t make it to the plate for at least five months.
Everything takes time at Laundry, where cured foods are given as much attention as their pickled accoutrements. An outdoor wood-fired smoker is put to work on a weekly basis, come rain, shine, wind or snow. The elements play their part in the ability to maintain heat and control smoke flow. Snowy days can be great for a cold smoke but hold less appeal to the operator. “The person with the biggest coat usually gets the job,” Ryan jokes.
He believes the wood at Laundry is key to his success. It hails from an apple orchard in Grand Junction, where the wood has cured for over a century. “The smoke is so light, there is nothing like it,” Nick says.
Everything from tofu and brisket to trout and aged cheddar does time in the smoker. “We see smoking as a ritual; you can’t just set it and forget it.” Even the preparation is down to a fine art, with an orange, chili and ginger rub for fish or a chili rub followed by a soak in brine for the pork Tasso.
“People ask me for recipes, and I am always happy to share them, but the secret is not the recipe – it’s the time and energy you need to put in to do it right,” Nick says.
To learn more about Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails, visit: https://www.rexsfamily.com/the-laundry-restaurant