Archive for the ‘Entree’ Category

The Fourth of July holiday weekend is going to be here in a flash and we recently were treated to the Summer Solstice, a day Alaskans treat with the same respect due a national holiday. This time of year Anchorage enjoys well over 19 hours of daylight — it never gets completely dark, and the prolonged twilight makes it possible to read a newspaper outdoors at 3 AM, mow the lawn, chop firewood, or do any number of other outdoor tasks. But forget about doing chores. Summer days that never end are perfect for cookouts.

This year I made a decision to craft summer burgers using my own recipes, with my own choice of meat. There will be no commercially processed “scrapburger” hamburger made from leftovers and grocery store floor sweepings of heaven-knows-what served at my home. I want to be in control of the meat.

While preparing for summer I perused recipes and ratios used by both chefs and home cooks. Chef Michael Symon went on a funny but dead-serious Facebook/Twitter tirade earlier this summer when he proclaimed that the words “turkey” and “burger” should never be used in the same sentence. A man after my own heart! Chef Symon scored additional brownie points (beefy points?) when he shared his personal tips for burgers. He said he prefers to use equal parts of brisket, sirloin, and short-rib, all coarsely ground twice and then lightly hand-packed into patties.

Fresh Ground Beefy Bacon Burger & Brew | Alaska Food & Wine

It sounded like a match made in heaven until I tried shopping for the ingredients. In my part of the world beef short-rib is at times difficult to find. When it is available it has, for some unknown reason, become frightfully expensive. Often I can find top New York steaks at a lower price than short-rib, with less waste and far more edible meat per pound. So if short-rib wasn’t an option for my meat mix, what could I add to sirloin and brisket to make my burgers juicier more flavorful? The answer hit me at breakfast one morning — bacon.

Bacon is a perennial favorite for topping burgers. Why not add it into the mix? Burgers made entirely of ground pork are listless, always in need of additional spice or toppings. But adding pork – in the form of smoked bacon – to my ground beef seemed to be the perfect answer. Bacon adds flavor. It also adds the fattiness that’s required to keep burgers juicy and keep them from hitting the Hockey Puck Pitfall.

Enjoy your burgers and the holiday!

Fresh-ground Beefy Bacon Burgers

1/2  pound beef sirloin
1/2  pound beef brisket



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During my Saturday sojourn to the farmers’ market I scored a beautiful piece of rosy Copper River sockeye salmon. If you’re not familiar with Alaska’s famed Copper River, fish from that area are considered by many to be the rock stars of the salmon world. Think of them as being rich, eccentric, and somewhat elusive, and – just like a rock star – bringing one home for dinner is guaranteed to provide you with a memorable evening.

When I was planning the rest of the weekend menu it seemed only fitting to pair my salmon with another elusive ingredient, “forbidden rice.” Forbidden rice is more commonly known as Chinese black rice (not to be confused with Thai black rice). Stories vary, but one legend claims the rice was believed to have unique powers and was grown to be eaten only by Chinese emperors — consumption of the grain by mere commoners was forbidden. Legends aside, this rice is indeed special and it’s utterly delicious.

Chinese black rice has a very short grain with a deep purple-black color, and when cooked it develops a rich, nutty flavor that matches well with its slightly chewy texture. Trust me, it’s worth the hunt — I checked several stores before locating the rice at New Sagaya Market in Anchorage. If you don’t have an Asian market in your local area, check with an online supplier and have a bag shipped to you. You won’t regret it.

Confession: I didn’t discover forbidden rice until a trip to Hawaii where I dined with friends at Roy’s Waikiki Restaurant. My dish of misoyaki butterfish arrived nestled deep in a bed of Chinese black rice … and it was love at first bite. Now please don’t get me wrong — the butterfish was sexy and absolutely divine, but it was the seductive quality of the black rice that added a dimension to the dish that would not have been present had any other variety been used.

Copper River Sockeye Salmon, Black Rice and Red Pepper Coulis | Alaska Food & Wine

Copper River Salmon with Forbidden Rice and Red Pepper Coulis
Serves 4

You can make this dish with another variety of wild Alaska salmon if necessary, but please don’t substitute farmed salmon. If you’re going to stoop to using farmed salmon, don’t bother with the Chinese black rice or the coulis — just whip up some Uncle Ben’s white rice and call it a day.


4  6 ounce pieces of Copper River sockeye salmon fillets, skin-on, scaled, and with pin-bones removed
1 Tbsp canola oil, divided
2 Tbsp butter, divided
1  large red bell pepper (more…)

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Like most Alaskans I enjoy cooking and eating salmon and other seafood, but I have a confession — I crave red meat. Beef, pork, and lamb often win when I’m faced with the choice between a protein that had hooves versus one that had fins. Yes, I know some readers may deem this stance to be politically incorrect, but I am a meatetarian. It is part of my genetic makeup.

It would be easy to limit my red meat coverage to recipes that focus on high-end gourmet cuts. Who doesn’t enjoy a juicy rib steak or flavorful pork chops? (Vegetarians, you might as well stop reading now. You are unlikely to find much of interest in this essay or the recipe that follows – other than how to make a roux – but I’ll write something specifically for you in a future column. I promise.)

Yes, New York steaks and rack of lamb are delicious and a cinch to prepare, but easy preparation isn’t as interesting as perfecting the techniques needed to properly cook inexpensive or less-tender cuts of meat. Truth? The inexpensive cuts are often far more flavorful than the pricey ones, as long as they are handled with care.

Enjoy slow-braised beef brisket on a crusty kaiser roll, topped with caramelized onions, sautéed red peppers, and greens -- create a wonderful lunch from leftovers.

Despite being inexpensive, brisket rarely made an appearance on our table when I was growing up in the Midwest, probably because low, slow cooking methods weren’t my mother’s forte. When it did appear, it was in the sad form of thin, dry slices of beef leather. I remained convinced that I didn’t like brisket until I was well into my 20s and living in Texas. That was when I discovered how flavorful and delicious brisket can become in the hands of a knowledgeable cook.

For me, brisket was the first in a series of culinary epiphanies. The recollection of luscious, tender brisket and beef ribs lovingly slow-smoked by Goode Company Barbeque on Kirby Drive in Houston can still make me swoon, and are some of my favorite memories from my years in Texas. Ribs! Brisket! With such rich, deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas flavor, no sauce was ever needed — the meat could stand alone. Ah, but I digress.

At the risk of riling up my Texas friends and starting yet another Texas versus Alaska feud, I’m going out on a limb with this next proclamation. Great brisket can be prepared without – yes, I said without – using a smoker or barbecue grill. Yes, I hear the howls of dissent. But before you discount other methods for cooking brisket, keep in mind that I live in a place where winter can last for 7 months and temperatures can easily reach 20 below zero. Indoor cooking is easier in Alaska. Cooking is also one of the ways I keep my sanity during the long, dark months of winter.

Beef brisket, in my opinion, is one of the more misunderstood cuts of beef. To the uninitiated it appears similar to steak, a deception that tricks far too many cooks


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Recently friends and I were comparing our salmon recipes and reached the consensus that there are far more salmon recipes than there are cooks in Alaska. We also agreed that many commercial salmon-bakes fail for one simple reason – the fish is overcooked, it dries out, and the flavor of the salmon is lost. This is one reason many visitors to Alaska think they don’t like salmon.

A good basting sauce is one trick that helps keep salmon moist. There are many variations for a Southeast Alaska salmon-bake, but this recipe from the Taku Lodge south of Juneau is considered a classic. Here it’s been tweaked to create a marinade for the fish that then doubles as the basting sauce. I recommend using a good quality white wine for the marinade and basting sauce, but I prefer to serve the salmon paired with a nice Oregon pinot noir.

Southeast Alaska Salmon Bake

8 – 6 ounce wild Alaska salmon fillets

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup dry white wine (more…)

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This is a very popular Southeast Alaska recipe for halibut. Local legend is that the original recipe was created back in the 1920s by a woman named Caddy Ganty, the wife of a fish packer living in the small fishing community of Pelican. Many restaurants in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest serve a variation of this dish, sometimes calling it Halibut Olympia.

Perhaps the most well known version is served at the Gustavus Inn near Glacier Bay National Park. The Inn won an “America’s Classics” award bestowed by the James Beard Foundation in 2010. I adapted this recipe from the one served by JoAnn and David Lesh, owners of the Gustavus Inn.

Halibut Caddy Ganty (AKA Halibut Olympia)


2 pounds fresh Alaskan halibut fillets, approx 1 inch thick, skinned and cut into 3 X 4 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups white wine * (more…)

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Snowy winter weather calls for comfort food, and at the top of my list are roasts and slow-braised dishes. If you live in Alaska, where we only half joke that it’s winter 7 months out of the year, then you can never have too many savory comfort recipes in your repertoire!

Jeff Johnson from the HomeGrown Market in Fairbanks mentioned that his special today was beef short ribs. His special prompted me to recall a dish I prepared last fall, a meltingly tender version of braised short ribs. It was yummy during those chilly autumn days — and it will be even better when staving off the biting cold of a wintry Anchorage evening.

In my kitchen right now, beef short ribs are braising in a savory broth with red wine, diced tomatoes, onion, and garlic. The house is filled with the wonderful aroma of this slow-cooking delight that is surely going to warm up this otherwise dreary winter day.

There’s fresh bread from the Fire Island Rustic Bakery standing by for duty. Beside it is a spicy Australian shiraz, the D’Arenberg Stump Jump, that I think will be a fine match for the rich beef. (See the Frozen Grape’s “Wine of the Week” blog post.) Salute!

Braised Short Ribs


4 1/2 to 5 pounds of meaty beef short ribs
2 1/2 Tbs canola oil
Coarse kosher salt
Black pepper
3/4 cup coarsely chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
2 cups dry red wine
1 cup beef stock
14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (sorry, but during winter good, fresh tomatoes are difficult to obtain)
2 Tbs fresh basil (or substitute 2 tsp dried)
2 bay leaves

Crusty French bread or baguette for serving

Red wine braised Beef Short Ribs


1) Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Pat the beef ribs dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide ribs into 2 or 3 batches. (more…)

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I created this recipe back in January, the traditional time when people make resolutions to eat healthier following a holiday season filled with rich food. My philosophy has always been different — I live to eat, so I want to have great food all of the time. Resolve to ingest a diet of unsweetened yogurt and boiled quinoa for a month? Not me! Bring on flavorful decadent cuisine, just eat it in moderation throughout the year.

Pork is one of my favorite comfort foods, rich and succulent, with a bit of naughty fat for delicious flavor. Next week I’m once again heading back up to Fairbanks where Jeff, the owner of the HomeGrown Market, has the best Alaska grown pork in the entire state. I have dreams about his luscious pork chops … and this recipe – along with my new “Brined Pork Loin” recipe — is at the top of my current “must-cook” list.

Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

2 (1-inch-thick) bone-in pork loin chops (fresh, Alaska-grown pork, if possible)
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed (more…)

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