Bring the Last Frontier to your table with a little creativity and imagination.
[by Lynne Snifka and Serine Halverson]
Rhonda Hubbard decided to throw tradition out with the compost. It was 1987 and she was about to cook Thanksgiving dinner for her fiancé and his parents. “Stuffed turkey is kind of boring to me, sort of ho-hum,” Hubbard said. “So I thought ‘Why not stuff a king salmon?’”
She remembers her future father-inlaw, visiting her Seward home from Petersburg, grumbling about the lack of turkey. But Hubbard stuck to her fins. She removed the backbone of a white king salmon and smeared the inside with a mayonnaise, sour cream and dillbutter mixture. Then she stuffed the fish with herbed and wild rice, mushrooms and diced green and red peppers. She tossed in some Alaska crab to make it really special.
After 45 minutes at 375 degrees, grumbling ceased. Rich king salmon paired with savory rice and mushrooms dashed any longings for poultry. The red and green peppers gave the dish some seasonal color. Hubbard’s future fatherin-law returned for a second helping, and a holiday tradition was born.
Putting a little Alaska into holiday meals can turn tired traditions into piquant adventures. Why not chuck the duck from your tur-duck-en for one of Alaska’s game birds and roast tur-ptarmig-en or tur-grous-en; trade a traditional roast of beef for a roast of caribou or moose; serve halibut instead of ham? Those skeptical about tossing the turkey altogether might consider adding aldersmoked reindeer sausage to the stuffing, or serving an Alaska low-bush cranberry relish.
“Sides are perfect for switching things up,” said Eric DuBey, chef and co-owner of Thirty Six Bistro in Anchorage. “Even if you have your main course, you can try something new.”
DuBey grew up in Alaska and, as a teenager, worked at the Golden International Chinese restaurant in Soldotna. The owner, he said, “was really talented and taught me how to butcher meats and then how to make the soups, the egg rolls and other things.” Cooking felt comfortable, and DuBey attended culinary school in Washington before returning to create dishes at restaurants in Alaska. He tries to put a little bit of the Last Frontier into most of his dishes, be it stuffing made with day-old sourdough bread, or salmon with an Alaska blueberry demi-glace.
“I’ve lived up here most of my life,” he said. “I’m proud to be an Alaskan. That’s part of the creative nature of being a chef, trying to use things that are readily available.”
Why not chuck the duck from your tur-duck-en for one of Alaska’s game birds and roast tur-ptarmig-en or tur-grous-en? Trade a traditional roast of beef for a roast of caribou or moose. Serve halibut instead of ham.