Alaska, The Last American Frontier

Today we celebrate Alaska, the 49th state to join the union. When it comes to inhabitants, Alaska is the 48th most populous, just ahead of Vermont and Wyoming. Yet if you were to put California, Texas and Montana together, Alaska would still have a greater land mass.

Alaska is only one of ten states with a population made up of more men than women. Perhaps it’s the ruggedness of Alaska’s wilderness that draws more men. There are more than 3 million lakes in Alaska. The Yukon River is the longest river in the state, and the 3rd longest river in North America. Juneau is the largest capital city and the second largest city in America by area, yet it cannot be reached by road. Airplanes are the most preferred and common mode of transport in the state because roads and railways are few and far between.

While Sarah Palin was the butt of many a joke about seeing Russia from her house, she wasn’t all that far off. Mainland Russia and mainland Alaska are only about 55 miles apart. In the Bering Strait, the two are much closer. The Diomede Islands are separated by about three miles. The Big Diomede Island belongs to Russia, and the Little Diomede to the U.S. Since the two are on opposite sides of the date line, the Big island is actually 21 hours ahead of the small island. This earned them the nicknames of Tomorrow Island and Yesterday Island. The Soviet government relocated the indigenous population of Big Diomede Island to mainland Russia, and the island is now inhabited only by military units. Little Diomede has an indigenous population of 115 people according to the 2010 Census. The village site is on the west side of the island, with a school, post office and store.

Most visitors to Alaska travel by cruise ship. From the decks of these vessels, you can soak in the wilderness while maintaining a certain level of elegance. It was with this in mind that I drew my inspiration.

The appetizer is a bit of a stretch. While an appetizer of crab cakes, Alaska’s King Crab isn’t featured. That said, the main entrée featuring Salmon, a salad featuring summer berries are perfect examples of Alaska’s fine cuisine. And our dessert fitting of the most prestigious floating resorts that are today’s cruise lines. Enjoy.

The Flavors of an Alaskan Cruise in Four Courses
Appetizer –

Baked Crab Cakes with Myer Lemon Aioli

Main Course –
Smoked Balsamic Herb Glazed Salmon
Steamed New Potatoes with Lemon Zest and Herbs
Smoked Balsamic Marinated Grilled Asparagu

Salad Course –
Arugula Blackberry Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette

Dessert –
Vanilla Crème Brûlée with Tarragon Cream and Fresh Blackberries

Baked Crab Cakes with Meyer Lemon Aioli
Lemon Aioli
1 cup Mayonnaise
Fresh Lemon Juice to taste
Kosher Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste

Mix mayonnaise with lemon juice to achieve a nice consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

Crab Cakes
1/4 Cup Celery
1/4 Cup Scallion
2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley,
1 Tablespoon Fresh Basil
3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1/4 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
Zest of 1 small Lemon
Dash of Old Bay Season or to taste
1/8 Cup Red Pepper Flakes or to taste
1/4 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1/2 lb Jumbo Lump Crab Meat, cooked

Heat oven to 475 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside until ready to use.

Finely chop the celery and onion, set aside until ready to use. Chop parsley and basil. Set aside until ready to use. (Small cups works well).

In a mixing bowl, blend mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, and Old Bay seasoning. Mix well.

Fold the celery, onion,  parsley, basil, red pepper flakes and panko bread crumbs. Stir to combine.

Break up lump crab meat and gently fold into the mixture to combine everything. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Chill well in the freezer for no more than 10 minutes or the refrigerator for no more than 20 minutes. (Longer may damage crab meat). The chill time is necessary to allow the bread crumbs to set and hold everything together.

Using a 3-inch ring mold, form cakes onto the prepared baking sheet, pressing down on the mixture to create a firmly packed crab cake.

Place baking sheet into the heated oven and bake undisturbed for 8 to 10 minutes. (Check after 8 minutes. Cakes should be warmed through, with the bottom nicely browned).

Remove from oven and allow cakes to remain on the baking sheet for a minute or so.

Place a small dollop or smear of Aioli on each serving plate or serving platter. (Note: if serving on a platter, smear or dollop for each cake served).

Using a Fish Spatula, gently life the crab cake from the baking pan, then quickly flip over so that the bottom of the cake is now the top. This will allow a more dramatic presentation as the deeper golden side is now up. If necessary, flip the cake in your hand. Place each cake on top of the dollop of Aioli.

Just before serving, garnish with more Aioli, chopped parsley and a dusting of Old Bay Seasoning.

If desired, serve with lemon wedges.

Smokey Balsamic Herb Glazed Salmon
Balsamic Glaze
1/2 cup Hickory Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup White Wine
2 tablespoon Sage Honey
1 tablespoon Stone Ground Dijon Mustard
1 Rosemary Sprig (about 7-inches)
2 Garlic Cloves
1/4 teaspoon Tarragon

In a medium saucepan combine balsamic vinegar, white wine, honey, and Dijon mustard.

Finely chop fresh Rosemary and add to the pan. Peel and press the garlic directly into the mixture. Sprinkle tarragon over the mixture, stir to blend.

Heat balsamic herb mixture over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer over medium-low heat until sauce has thickened and reduced to about 1/3 cup, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and pour through a fine strainer into a heat proof dish. Set aside.

Salmon Fillets
4 (6 oz) Salmon Fillets, skinless or skin on
Himalayan Pink Salt, freshly ground to taste
Black Pepper, freshly ground to taste
Meyers Lemon Olive Oil, as needed
Parsley, minced for garnish

Allow salmon to rest at room temperature while the glaze is simmering.

Season both sides of salmon with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Give it a good swirl to distribute the oil.

Add salmon fillets and cook, without moving until salmon has nicely browned on bottom, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip salmon over and continue to cook 2 or 3 minutes longer until salmon has cooked through.

While the salmon is cooking, finely mince the parsley for a garnish. Set aside until ready to use.

Plate salmon fillets, drizzle with glaze and garnish with minced parsley.

Steamed New Potatoes with Lemon Zest and Herbs
2 lbs small New Potatoes or Red Potatoes
2 tablespoons Curly Parsley
2 tablespoons Fresh Dill
1 Lemon, zest only
Olive Oil as needed
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste

Cut potatoes in half and place in a steaming basket over a pot of gently boiling water. Cover and steam until tender when pierced with a skewer, 20 to 25 minutes, depending on size.

In a small bowl, combine minced parsley, dill, and lemon zest.

Spread steamed potatoes out on a rimmed baking pan. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle herb-zest mixture over the potatoes and stir to coat well.

Transfer to a warm serving bowl and enjoy piping hot.

Balsamic Marinated Grilled Asparagus
3 Shallots
2 Garlic Cloves
2 sprigs fresh Oregano 
2 bunches Asparagus
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Hickory Balsamic Vinegar
Kosher Salt
Fresh Black Pepper

Peel and thinly slice the shallots, set aside. Peel and lightly smash garlic, set aside. Pluck Oregano leaves from the sprigs, mince and set aside. Snap woody ends from the asparagus, discard and set asparagus spears aside.

Stir together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, shallots, garlic and oregano in a medium bowl. Pour the marinade into a 1-gallon resealable plastic storage bag, add the asparagus and seal the bag closed. Place the bag in a bowl or on a plate (just in case it leaks) and marinate in the refrigerator overnight, flipping a couple of times.

Heat an outdoor grill to medium heat. While the grill heats up, remove the asparagus from the marinade, allowing any excess marinade to drip off. Season liberally on all sides with salt and pepper.

Place the asparagus on the hot grill and cook, flipping as needed, until crisp-tender and charred in spots, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a platter, garnish with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Arugula Blackberry Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette
The Salad
4 cups Baby Arugula Leaves
2 cups fresh Blackberries
Crumbled Feta Cheese or Gorgonzola to taste

Rinse and spin dry the arugula. Place in a large salad bowl. Rinse and pat dry the berries. Sprinkle berries over the arugula. Set aside to make vinaigrette.

Blackberry Vinaigrette
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar
Kosher Salt to taste
White Pepper to taste

Vigorously whisk together the olive oil and vinegar until fully emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle vinaigrette over the arugula salad. Toss to coat. Sprinkle cheese as desired over the salad and serve.

Vanilla Crème Brûlée with Tarragon Cream and Fresh Blackberries
Crème Brûlée
6 large Egg Yolks
1 Vanilla Bean or 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1 pinch Kosher Salt
3 cups Heavy Cream

Separate the eggs, reserve whites for another use. Place egg yolks in a medium bowl. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the pulp. Whisk the pulp into the yolks, breaking the yolks gently. Whisk in the powdered sugar with a pinch of salt. Whisk until uniform.

Add a drizzle of cream, whisk until the yolk mixture begins to lightened, then add the remaining cream, continuing to whisk until well blended.

Strain the Crème Brûlée custard mixture into a spouted container such as a pitcher. (If using vanilla extract, add to the strained custard).

Divide the custard between the ramekins, filling as close to the edge as possible. Place the pan into the oven. Carefully add the boiling water to the pan to create a water bath (bain-marie). Take care not to allow any of the water to splash into the ramekins.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Bake the Crème Brûlée for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the depth of the ramekins. (Shallow dishes with custard less than 1-inch deep can bake in 30 minutes, taller dishes with a custard of 2-inches deep can take 50 to 60 minutes). When done, the custard will jiggle from side to side when nudged, but should not be liquid in the center. The custard will firm up considerably in the refrigerator, so pull from the oven once the jiggly-not-liquid consistency in reached.

Carefully remove ramekins from the water bath. Let rest on the counter for 5 minutes to cool, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve.

Tarragon Cream
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1-1/2 tablespoons Honey
1 tablespoons fresh Tarragon
1-1/2 teaspoons Orange Zest

In a chilled bowl, using an electric mixer, whip until cream is thick. Beat in honey, tarragon and orange zest until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Finishing Touches
1/2 cup Ultra Fine Sugar
1-1/2 cups fresh Blackberries
Fresh Tarragon Sprigs
Fresh Orange Zest Strips

When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator. Gently dab the tops of the custard with a paper towel to remove any moisture on condensation. Evenly sprinkle the tops with a thin layer of granulated sugar. Shake the ramekins back and forth to distribute the sugar evenly. Tap out any excess sugar. The layer should just cover the top of the custard while almost allowing the custard to be seen.

Use a kitchen torch to burn the sugar, moving evenly across the surface until the sugar is caramelized. It should be a golden crisp cap over the custard. Let cool for 3 minutes.

Place blackberries evenly on top and dollop with Tarragon Cream. Garnish each with tarragon sprig and orange zest as desired.

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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