THE GREAT ALASKAN KOOK BOOK This will be an exercise in unraveling why some foods taste great while others are just tasted and then set aside. I closely watched my Mother in the kitchens of many houses and came away with an understanding there is always that special touch, often impulsive, which makes something good into something great. Steven A. Knutson Introduction I am not a chef, but, I can cook. My foray into cooking started way back in 1966 when I was hired as Third Cook on the Northern Pacific Vista Dome or Mainstreeter. Third Cook was the flunky who stepped- n-fetched-it for the First and Second Cooks in the Dining Car. They were twenty plus hour days running from Minneapolis/St. Paul to “up river” locations as far as Tacoma, Washington or the dreaded “down river” runs which required an over night stay in hotels near downtown Chicago with bars welded to the windows and dressers with one drawer and two or three others painted on. Didn‟t suit a country boy like me, but, it was a job and the pay was a bit over a hundred bucks a day. Not bad other than that “day” started at about 2AM and ended when I had the Galley, pots and pans, dishes and storage lockers spotless. I usually rolled into bed about 11:30PM. So now you know all about my professional cooking experience or the fact I really don‟t have any. That is not what this book is about. It covers the venerable SWAG and the “what If” I have discovered which make standard fare something you would stand in line for. TOOLS OF THE TRADE I use a variety of kitchen appliances, which are all very inexpensive and have slugged it out for years very reliably in this kitchen in Kenai, Alaska as well as Delta Junction, Ketchikan and Anchorage, and I‟m tough on equipment. Some you may consider purchasing are: A Krupps Slicer. Produces very uniform thickness slices of anything you run through it. I use it for everything from turning left over baked Ham into sandwich thin slices. I use it to slice uniform slabs of green tomato I bread and fry for my Bride. It is used to slice still frozen lean Moose Roasts into thin strips I marinate in my special concoction to produce the finest Jerky you have ever tasted. Be prepared, I use a generous amount of Crushed Red Peppers. That brings up the Smoker. I have a commercial Big Chief Smoker, but a person handy with hand tools can make one using a hot plate and small pan to hold the chips. Just remember to insulate it from a wood deck. I use four patio home made cast concrete blocks to raise mine and never had a problem. Krupps has many uses. It will uniformly slice a loaf of my home made breads, White, Cracked Wheat and Hamburger Buns. I haven‟t bought a loaf of bread in over three years. I have swedgd aluminum baking pans (cheesy throw away after use) into Hot Dog bun bakers and my chest freezer is loaded with sliced hot dog buns. I let them freeze to a degree and then vacuum pack them with my Food Saver. I use an Espresso Coffee Grinder for many spices and salts. I have quit using Table Salt as I find it will overpower a food if you guess wrong and it is bad for your Blood Pressure. I use a variety of salts from the spice rack in the store. They are all coarse grained Sea Salt. I use a plier and pull the grinding head then dump the jar in the Coffee Grinder I use the grinder to grind Pepper Corns when I need a fresh blast of pepper in a recipe. Many recipes call for a Bay Leaf or two and after cooking they are removed. I use the grinder to turn a Bay Leaf to dust then make a Coffee Filter into a impromptu Tea Bag with one staple to close and secure the retrieval cotton string. It works well making Great Northern Bean Soup as I‟ve found about a quarter of the beans should be pureed. Instead I load the dry beans in the Coffee Grinder and turn them to dust and add to the cooking pot. I love that little Espresso Grinder for turning coarse ground commercial spices into flavor releasing powder. I‟ll even admit I use it to grind dried Veggies from the local feed store. I‟ll buy five or ten pounds of ANIMAL FEED dried corn, wheat, millet, peas and an occasional bag of Hemp Seeds. The Hemp Seed has been boiled to remove the THC, but, the flavor it adds to some foods cannot be replicated. I grind the corn, after washed and dries, to make corn meal used for all sorts of things including Corn Bread, the wheat and millet to add to the white flour I use to make home made bread and the peas to make soups, seasonings and flavor enhancers. The small Food Processor I have, I have no idea how old it is, but, it keeps on plugging right along. I know I have sharpened the chopping blades on more than a few occasions. If it ever turns to Dumpster Fodder, I‟ll find another at a Garage Sale for a buck or two. Slicer/Chopper/Schredders. I THINK I have four. One, I know, came with the small Food Processor, but, I have never attempted to use it. Looks as though it would do anything I needed done, but, I prefer a more hands on approach with one of the other three manual crank rigs I have. The one I use now will shred about half a medium potato before a reload is necessary. I generally use it for making the finest Hash Browns money can‟t buy. The very simple recipe is in the book and cannot be screwed up. I use the Slicer Blade to start the process of chunking up Yellow Sweet Onions for those Hash Browns or other dishes I prepare. I use the fine Shred disc to shred the most misunderstood vegetable of all time, the Carrot. The Carrot has a flavor enhancer that is only partially released if peeled and sliced into “roast” sized chunks. I finally discovered the secret of the Carrot in a little Yukon River village named Anvik. Long story so I‟ll shorten it up. I was tasked with preparing Supper for a flock of hungry folks set to descend on our Cabin from far upriver. The only side vegetable dish I had was a bunch of Carrots I had traded for with a Native Woman she had grown in her tiny Garden Patch. I was wondering how to prepare them when I decided to just use the peeler and peel slabs of Carrot into the pot. I drained the pot and sliced the Carrot strips into about three inch lengths. Covered with water and as an after thought added about a tablespoon of sugar. When all was cooked and served, I received many comments about the Carrots, they all liked them and there were no leftovers. Sugar is not necessary in a finely shredded Carrot as they tend to release their own sweet flavor when cooking. So, let‟s get started. SOUPS A great tasting soup sets the pallet up for the main course. Some soups I suppose could be the main course all by themselves. That is for you to decide. I will list several I tend to enjoy and trust you will enjoy them as well. Lentil Soup. Variations of this soup are nearly endless, but, the variation I really enjoy requires: One 16 ounce bag of dried Lentils. One half pound of thick sliced Bacon. Two finely shredded medium Carrots. One large Yellow Sweet Onion chopped fine in a food processor.. One Tablespoon of finely ground Pepper Corns. Four Tablespoons of finely ground Sea Salt. Three Tablespoons Garlic Paste. (product carried in Spermarkets). One Tablespoon dried Thyme leaves run through the Coffee Grinder. Three medium center sticks of Celery (the light colored ones). Two peeled, diced medium potatoes. 4 cups of water 3 cups of prepared Chicken Broth. Two Tablespoons Olive Oil. In a large saucepan bring the water and broth to a boil. Add Sea Salt, Pepper, Thyme and Garlic Paste. Turn mixture to low heat setting and simmer, covered. Sort the Lentils removing rocks, jewelry, GI Joe boots, Match Box cars and any other non Lentil objects that may have been dropped in the bag before sealing. I rarely find anything, but, I feel better for having looked. I still have my original eight teeth and hope to keep them. After sorting, wash them in a small strainer under cold water then dump them in the simmering pot. Add the chopped Onion and shredded Carrots. The Celery sticks are diced like the two medium peeled potatoes, into quarter to half inch chunks and added to the pot. The Bacon is fried to nearly crisp then run through the food processor to chop it a bit coarse. Add the Bacon to the pot and if you have any liquid commercial “smoke” flavoring, a Tablespoon would be good to add now. Cover and simmer. Cooking time is determined by the Lentils. When they are soft and coming apart, the soup can be served. If the mixture becomes thicker than you‟d like, add one cup of both broth and water. My Bride gets some tomorrow. One word of caution, in spite of the salt added (Sea Salt) during cooking, you may wish to lightly sprinkle a bit of Table Salt per serving. It makes a wonderful soup as an entree or main dish, your choice. Beef, Barley and Bean Soup. Ingredients. One half pound of lean stew meat. Half cup of bagged soup Barley. Two cups of dried, bagged Navy Beans. Two stalks of center bunch Celery (the light colored ones). Two peeled and finely shredded Carrots. One Tablespoon Garlic Paste (commercial product found in stores) One Tablespoon Steak Rub. One medium peeled and diced potato, quarter to half inch cubes. Two Tablespoons McCormick Beef Stew seasoning. Four Tablespoons dusted Sea Salt. One Tablespoon dusted Black Pepper. One cup of fresh Green or Wax Beans. Fresh, not canned. Two diced Leeks, just the light colored pieces. Six cups of water to start. Bring the water to a rolling boil then add Steak Rub, Sea Salt, Pepper, Garlic Paste and the Soup Barley. Cover, lower heat to simmer and press on. Carefully slice the Stew Meat into small chunks then chop them coarse in the Food Processor. Add them to the simmering pot. Grind to dust ¼ cup of the Navy Beans in the Coffee Grinder and add them to the simmering pot along with the whole Navy Beans not ground. Dice the light colored Leek portioned to nearly a minced state then add to simmering pot. Chop the fresh beans into quarter inch lengths and add them to the simmering pot. Center bunch Celery stalks in the same manner, including the leaves and upper stems and add to the simmering pot. I use caution when dicing the potato, either peeled or scrubbed and un peeled. I generally use the Krupps Slicer to get uniform potato pieces and then add them to the simmering pot. Final touch is adding the McCormick‟s Stew Seasoning. Stir and cook for about an hour and a half on very low heat, covered. Soup is done when whole Navy Beans are soft. Another word of caution, if the soup thickens beyond your expectations, add one cup of water at a time then continue to cook and check again later. This Vegetable Beef Soup will cater to many tastes so other spices should be considered by the Kook who prepares the basic. If you think a spice may work, mix it with a small portion of the simmering soup in a small dish and judge for your self. Split Pea Soup to the Nines This is a soup I would easily consider for standing on its own as a main course. It is taste bud bursting outstanding. My soup ingredients are: One 16 ounce bag of split peas. Eight cups hot water. Ten Strips of thick Sliced lean Bacon cut to one inch strips.. Two Tablespoons Garlic Paste (commercial product found in stores). One medium to large Yellow Sweet Onion, choice is yours. Two center stalks Celery and tops with leaves. Four Tablespoons dusted Sea Salt. One Tablespoon dusted Pepper. The “dusted” salt and pepper ingredients are those I grind in the little Espresso Coffee Grinder into dust sized particles easily absorbed and cooked with. They are powder, not grains. Peas are sorted and washed in a strainer to assure rocks and non Pea gook is removed. Peas are then dumped into the hot water in the pan. Water and Peas are brought to a rolling boil, reduced to a simmer and covered along with the Sea Salt, Pepper and Garlic Paste. The thick sliced Bacon is used instead of Ham or Ham Hocks because I will use an 8th cup of the renderings in the Pea Soup. I fry the Bacon to nearly crisp and put the broken up pieces in the Food Processor and chop them fine and add them to the simmering pot. The Yellow Sweet Onion is peeled and chunked up to fit in the Food Processor. I chop it coarse and add to the simmering pot. As a Sweet Yellow Onion cooks, it vanishes into the soup except for adding a bit of thickness similar to Corn Starch. Last ingredient will be the center stalks of Celery. I slice them into all pieces as well as the leaves. Quarter inch is about the largest and I put them in the simmering pot. Cooking time is about an hour and a half. Stir occasionally to keep the ingredients from sticking to the pot. You will know when the soup is done when the Split Peas have nearly disintegrated. This Split Pea soup is outrageous! I have never had better. Little Neck Steamer Clam Chowder, New England Style Ingredients: 20 to 25 prepared Steamers. To properly prepare the Steamer Clams, timing at boil and spices are very important. I get them five or ten pounds at a time, sort out the small ones for tenderness when cooked and start with them. If there are fewer than three pounds of small Clams I first rinse them in cool water to wash off the inevitable sand then pour hot water into the cooking pot to a level when the Clams are added, it will cover them. Bring the water to a rolling boil and add Sea Salt and Garlic Paste. About three Tablespoons of each. Carefully add the Clams to the boil to avoid breaking shells. Cover and cook for seven minutes when the water starts boiling again. At seven minutes remove the pot from the heat and pull out the Chowder Clams to cool a bit in a bowl. Once cool enough to grab, shell the meat and place it in the Food Processor. Chop a bit coarse and set aside. Three peeled and finely shredded Carrots. Two peeled and diced potatoes about quarter inch pieces. One small Yellow Sweet Onion diced about the same as the potato. Three cups of milk Four Tablespoons of Corn Starch mixed in with a bit of cold water. Place the veggies in a medium sauce pan and cover, just barely, with water and turn heat to low to bring the pot to a slow boil. Boil veggies for about ten minutes. Add the chopped Steamers. Bring pot back to boil, add milk slowly and turn up the heat. When pot starts to boil, a good indicator when the soup can be thickened with the Corn Starch is when tasting a potato chunk and if soft, add the thoroughly dissolved Corn Starch a bit at a time while stirring the soup. When you are satisfied with the soup‟s thickness stop adding the Corn Starch. Set the pot aside to cool and try a small bowel for taste and possible addition of salt, but, be careful with the salt. Prepared Muscles can be used to make this soup as well. They are commonly sold in Super Markets in the frozen sea food section. I have tried them and they are very good and come in boxes about the right size/quantity for making the chowder. Cream of Potato Soup Ingredients: Two medium potatoes peeled and diced to small quarter to half inch cubes. One slab of Ham or Ham Sandwich Meat cut to fit in the Food Processor. Chop fine. One cup water. One small Yellow Sweet Onion chopped to small pieces. Four Tablespoons of Corn Starch dissolved in a bit of cold water. Three cups of milk. Fry the Ham and Onion until Onion starts to turn clear and Ham is slightly brown from the cooking. In a medium sauce pan add the potatoes and water and bring to a low boil. Cover and cook for about five minutes. When Potato chunks start to get soft add the fried Ham and Onion and milk. Bring back to a low boil and cover. The soup is ready to thicken with the dissolved Corn Starch when the potato chunks are soft. Carefully stir in the Corn Starch and when the still boiling soup is thick to your satisfaction, stop pouring the Corn Starch and remove soup from the heat. This is a good soup on cool or cold days and I like a sandwich along with it. Cream of Mushroom Soup Ingredients: About 15 Button Mushrooms, depending on size. Blanch them for about four minutes in a rolling boil. Drain and set aside to cool a bit. Two cubes of lean Stew Meat about three inch cubes. Slice the meat in small cubes and set aside. One cup of water. Two and a half cups milk. Four Tablespoons of Corn Starch dissolved in about an 8th cup of cold water. Two Tablespoons of Mrs. Dash Table Blend salt substitute. Two Tablespoons unsalted butter. In a medium sauce pan add the water and meat. Bring to a low boil and check the meat when stirring to see that it is browning up a bit. When it browns to your satisfaction add the Mrs. Dash and butter. Add half the milk and bring to a boil and then add the Mushrooms. I cut them in fourths after cutting off the short stems. The stems and quarters are added to the soup. When the mushroom pieces are soft and obviously cooked the remainder of the milk is added and again brought to boil then turn the heat down to a simmering boil. Now is the time to carefully stir in the dissolved Corn Starch to your satisfaction of soup thickness. Once there stop with the Corn Starch and remove the soup from the heat. I like this one as a side dish for Pinwheels, Wax Beans and a thick slice of my home made Cracked Wheat bread with salted real butter. I don‟t buy much Margarine as I really like the taste imparted to foods with careful selection of the correct butter. Canned Salmon Soup Ingredients: Depending on the number you intend to serve, you must take your best SWAG. For two servings you will need: One can of Pink Salmon. One medium Yellow Sweet Onion, chopped coarse. One small can of Stewed Tomatoes. One Tablespoon of Garlic Paste. Two Tablespoons Virgin Olive Oil. One or two New Potatoes diced small. Two cups milk. Two Tablespoons of dusted Sea Salt. One Tablespoon of dusted Pepper Corns. Canned Pink Salmon are the cheapest of the lot in Alaska. Seiners and Gill Netters are paid very low price per pound on any given year. The marketability of the Pink is difficult, so the majority are canned. Profit margins are dictated by the labor involved in the canning process. All that to this. A can of Pinks will generally contain bone structure from the fish, therefore I suggest the can be dumped in a bowl to closely inspect for those bones. The small “Y” bones are cooked soft in the canning process and not a bother. In spite of the bone removal at cooking time, the soup is still very delicious, so don‟t let that put you off. Cut the Stewed Tomatoes in small chunks and drain the can of juices into the Sauce Pan. Put the chopped Onion in the sauce pan and turn to low heat until you get a very low boil. Stir and watch the onion and as it gets about right it will start to turn clear. At that point add the Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Pepper and Garlic Paste and continue on low heat stirring frequently. Add half the milk and turn the heat up slightly until a low boil is reached. Add the Salmon and chunked up Stewed Tomatoes and diced New Potatoes. The last cup of milk is added for the last 10 minutes of boil at a slightly turned up heat. Makes a very good soup with no overpowering tastes. Pinto Bean Soup This one is flexible enough to turn it into a Main Dish depending on your choice of meat to cook it with. We will start with the soup and finish with the main dish differences. Soup ingredients: One pound bag of dried Pinto Beans. One large Yellow Sweet Onion. Half pound of thick sliced lean Bacon. Three Tablespoons Garlic Paste. Two Tablespoons Onion Salt. Two Tablespoons dusted Pepper Corns. Sort the Pintos to remove rocks as there seem to always be a small rock or two in a bag. Place them in a medium Sauce Pan and cover with water. Slice the Bacon to one inch strips and fry „till nearly crisp. Drain the renderings into the soaking beans. Then place the Bacon in a Food Processor and chop coarse and add to the pot. Chop the Yellow Sweet Onion in the Processor to coarse and add to the pot. Add the Onion Salt, dusted Pepper Corns and Garlic Paste. Turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil then turn the heat down to maintain a low boil. Stir often as this is the step used to boil off the water. When the water level gets low, add about two cups of additional water and continue to boil. This process infuses the ingredients with the flavor of all components and assures the hard bean is cooked soft. At the second boil down (about an hour each) add more water, bring to a rolling boil for five minutes, remove from heat and serve. To make this a good hearty main dish all you must do is substitute the Bacon for Ham and use Virgin Olive Oil instead of the Bacon renderings. I use four slabs of Ham cut and chopped in the Food Processor to small pieces. On the second boil off of water I add no more and remove from heat. I have baked a dozen Corn Bread Muffins and split and butter some on a plate. I top the muffins with chopped onion and ladle the beans over the top. Beans and Cornbread, wonderful taste combination. I have blabbed on about soups and how I do it. Soup variations are countless and often made by necessity such as “I ain‟t got no onions, let‟s try a couple of these Leeks.” Point is, use your imagination, it generally will serve you well. Side Dishes You really exercise your imagination with these bad boys. I consider a protein as a main dish and anything you add to the protein a garnish side dish. There are some things that are “no brainers” and should be left completely alone as they cook. One is the Hash Brown. I shred at least one potato and dice a small Yellow Sweet Onion for these. Pam the pan and add half a stick of unsalted sweet butter and melt on low heat. Shredded potato and chopped onion are added. You can either cut your Salt intake and use Mrs. Dash or go for broke and use Sea Salt. I shy away from pepper as it can be added if the need exists when all is done. I then scramble three eggs. I douse them pretty good with Mrs. Dash. I use the spatula to stir them up good. The heat is very low. The eggs cook slow and the Hash Browns are placed on a plate with the spatula. The eggs are scrambled a bit raw as that imparts a special taste, trust me. I use the spatula to put the eggs next to the Hash Browns. There is no finer Breakfast. Corn on the Cob. Something about Corn on the Cob is it can be found in Supermarkets trimmed, partially husked and sealed in plastic wrap. That tells me the Corn is not as good as whole husked early yellow or white Corn on the Cob. Plastic wrapped corn is one step away from being frozen and sold during the dead of winter, good, but, not great. Early yellow or white corn is the pick of the litter. I select the skinny long ears as they are not approaching maturity and consequently sweeter in taste. To add to the sweetness I use a quarter cup of sugar perEar of corn and it really brings the flavor out. When served I melt a third cup of unsalted real butter and pour it on the corn. I use no salt to flavor it and enjoy as a buttered side dish. Aspargus It is a difficult plant to start in Alaska as from root set the first year it takes three years for the Asparagus to develop into a harvestable plant. First year produces a thin fern like growth that should be cut before thr first good freeze. Second year is much the same except with thicker stems. It has an insatiable taste for water. Cut the second year growth and cover the butts with several inches of straw. During the spring thaw soak the straw and protect from freezing. This third year should produce Asaparagus of edible dimensions. Alternate methods are large, heated Green Houses for this Lattitude. Asparagus is common wild stock in areas using irrigation ditches like Montana, North Dakota, Idaho and Washington. I‟d wait „til a three or four inch stalk crop would appear and harvest bagfuls for my mother. Anything longer than that and you harvested the woody structure of the lower stalk I was told when trimmed it was good for a soup stalk, but, never tried it. Blanched Mushrooms I buy these bad boys about five pounds at a whack from the Button Mushroom bulk rack. I carefully select the small ones, cutting the short stems and quartering the tops. Stems and tops are set aside. I bring water to cover and add three Tablespoons of White Vinegar to a rolling Boil then add the chopped up Mushrooms. Once back to a rolling boil I Blanch them for four minutes and remove from heat and strain. I choose the zestiest Italian Salad Dressing I can find and dump the Mushrooms into a suitable sized Plastic Juice container or Tupperware container. I then add the Italian Salad Dressing and place it all in the refer for an overnight soak. They are wonderful. A word about the Morel Mushroom.