Buddy up in the kitchen, and salmon and orzo are yours in an hour

Tandem cooking
John Clark

Caprial and John Pence share the struggle of most working couples: finding time to be together. The irony in their case is that they work together, running Caprial’s Bistro and a cooking school called Caprial and John’s Kitchen, both in Portland. But management duties and meetings keep their days all about business; they have to carve out personal time. Having met in the kitchen―as students at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York―they reconnect best there at home, cooking together.

In a two-chef team, though, it’s important to honestly share duties, so neither is entirely responsible for the pièce de résistance of any meal and neither gets stuck chopping all the onions. They divvy up dishes in an egalitarian way to get dinner on the table quickly and to have a lot of fun in the process. The crucial elements: Each chef has to have his or her own space and knife, and both chefs have to communicate about the progress of their dishes, to get the timing right. The Pences share their strategies for cooking together, plus prep plans for many menus, in their book Caprial and John’s Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2003; $35) and in their new television series of the same name.

This Northwest spring menu, adapted from their book, is easy enough for one person to pull together. But with two cooks, dinner’s on the table in just an hour. Radicchio wraps around goat cheese, pancetta around the radicchio, and the rolls get a turn on the grill. A fillet of wild salmon with herbs and wine roasts in the oven, along with a pan of fresh asparagus. A creamy green-olive sauce finishes the salmon with a rich touch. For dessert, splash local strawberries with citrus-flavored liqueur and top with crème fraîche. Info: Caprial’s Bistro ($$$; closed Sun-Mon; 7015 S.E. Milwaukie Ave., Portland; www.caprialandjohnskitchen.com or 503/236-6457) Two-Cook Plan Caprial and John Pence split steps in each dish. You could also divide the recipes and complete each solo. COOK 1:
  • Make and grill pancetta-radicchio wraps.
  • Cook the orzo (step 1).
  • Prep asparagus (step 1).
  • Finish the olive sauce for salmon (start at step 2).
  • Roast asparagus (step 2).
  • Plate asparagus (step 3).
  COOK 2:
  • Start olive sauce for salmon (step 1).
  • Season salmon and bake it (steps 3 and 4).
  • Finish the orzo (step 2).
  • Plate, sauce, and garnish salmon and orzo.
  • Open and pour wine.
  • Prepare strawberries for dessert. 
  WINE PAIRING Oven-Baked Salmon with Picholine Olive Sauce: A white with forward fruit and good acid in the finish, such as an Oregon Pinot Gris―we liked WillaKenzie and Adelsheim, both 2003―or a minerally French white Burgundy.
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