Monday, June 29, 2015

Hon's Rhubarb Coffee Cake

My grandmother (Hon) and mother started making this coffee cake with rhubarb after they moved to Alaska from California. Rhubarb was nothing they had really ever used in cooking or baking before, but the abundance of this bountiful plant quickly worked its way into their new Alaskan kitchen. This is a moist, flavorful coffee cake with a walnut streusel topping. You can also add a drizzle of powdered sugar icing on top if you like. Frickin' delicious, I have to say. ~Patti
2 generous cups rhubarb, cleaned and medium dice
1-1/2 cups butter, softened
2 room temperature eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup sour cream

¾ cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease (with butter) and flour pan – tap out any excess flour.

Whisk together flour, salt, soda. Set aside.

Cream butter and brown sugar. I used the kitchen aid paddle attachment. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Add sour cream, mix well.

Add flour mixture and mix about 2 minutes, then add rhubarb. Mix just until incorporated. This is a smooth, somewhat fluffy batter, resembling frosting. Quite dense.

Pour into prepared 9 x 13 or 9” springform. I've used both, just depends on your mood. Sprinkle entire top with streusel, patting down ever so gently.

To make the streusel, combine butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, walnuts and flour - you can use a paddle attachment on your kitchen aid, or simply use your hands and break the butter up and combine until it looks like...streusel :)

Bake about 50-55 minutes. Center should be firm, toothpick comes out clean and it is a deep, delicious golden brown.

If using 9 x 13, let cool completely, then cut and transfer to serving plate or a container you can cover properly. The cake can keep at room temperature for several days (it is quite possibly even better the next day... although I can't tell you how it tastes after the next day. I've never had one last that long :)

If using springform, let cool 10 minutes, then remove side (run a knife around edge first just to make sure it is loosened). Let it continue to cool and remove from springform base when you can handle the cake. Let it cool completely on a rack, cover when completely cooled I like the plastic domed cake covers. 

Did you know...

Rhubarb is big – really big – in Alaska. Rhubarb is a cold-weather plant, and it will grow back every year for a decade or so, when treated properly. While rhubarb is grown over much of the northern U.S. from Maine to Oregon, it has a special place in the hearts of Alaskans. That’s because the few long days of summer sun there help rhubarb grow to five feet or more. In the early 20th century, Henry Clark of Skagway, Alaska, was known as the Rhubarb King. His crop provided vitamins, fiber, and flavor to Klondike gold rush hopefuls who had few other options for fresh produce.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Alaska Halibut with Caper and Basil Sauce

Halibut, Alaska's other white meat, takes center stage in this quick and easy weeknight dinner. Halibut lends itself to so many good things - it's healthy, non-fishy and so mild that it can be used in tons of recipes that even a fish hater will love. I went with a classic Mediterranean flavor by using capers, olives, tomatoes and basil. I paired with easy-to-roast "smashed potatoes" and rainbow carrots. By boiling the potatoes ahead of time I had this amazing dinner finished in just over half an hour! ~Patti 
4 halibut fillets (6 ounces each)
AP flour for dredging
4 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon capers (drained)
1 large shallot, diced small
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped small
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes 
1/3 cup clam juice (bottled or canned)
1/4 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Serves: 4

First, chop all your veggies and herbs for the sauce. Set aside half of your basil to add at the end.

Next, clean and pat dry your halibut pieces. Dredge through the flour. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in pan, add halibut and fry until done (fish is done when the internal temp is 145 degrees).  This takes about 4-5 minutes per side depending on thickness. They should be a nice golden color outside and opaque in the center. There is carryover cooking, so be careful not to overcook them!

When halibut is done, remove to a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm. Then, heat remaining tablespoon of oil in same skillet. Add shallots and sauté about a minute. Add tomatoes, olives, red pepper flakes, capers and half the basil. Stir in wine and clam juice. Bring to a gentle boil and let it go for about 5 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat off and mix in the remaining basil.

Spoon sauce over halibut when ready to serve and enjoy!
Kind of like halibut bruscetta!

Smashed Potatoes: 

6 potatoes, small and preferably round
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

After boiling potatoes until fork tender, place them on foil lined sheet pan. Gently mash each one with a potato masher, turn 90 degrees, and gently mash again. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper (and any other herbs you want). Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown. 

If you're roasting the carrots, simply place carrots on a foil lined sheet pan, drizzle the olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes (turn once during roasting time).

 Prince William Sound is prime halibut area, it's a favorite of ours. Resurrection Bay is also a hot spot for these ocean delicacies.  We usually launch out of Whittier and head toward Montague Island - of course, all exact locations are secret :) 

Off the bow headed toward Prince William Sound out of Whittier - halibut territory!

Pulling the jig from the catch. A jig is a lead weight with a rubber skirt (this is instead of using bait). The gaffe is used to lift the fish on board. If it was a huge fish, a harpoon would be in order.

Patti with a small, but tasty, halibut! It is not unusual to catch these babies upward of 200-250 pounds on a rod and reel!

fine della strada...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hike Mt. Riley in Haines, Alaska

At 1,760 feet, Mt. Riley is the highest point on the Chilkat Peninsula, giving you panoramic views of Haines, the mountain range, braided Chilkat River and Lynn Canal as well as Rainbow and Davidson Glaciers. Audrey and I hiked this mountain in June of 2015. We went in the early part of the day, so we didn't actually run into any other hikers until we were headed back down the trail. Plus it was cooler. It starts out relatively easy with nice boardwalks along the boggy parts of the trail but once you start to ascend it gets steep! There is a 'trail tease' (false summit)...but once you get to the top the views are AMAZING! ~Audrey & Patti
What: Mt. Riley
 Difficulty Level: Moderate Plus
Where: Haines, Alaska
What to Wear: Comfortable walking/hiking clothes and shoes. No special attire required. Do wear layers.
What to Bring: Small day pack, water, and a camera. A snack would not go amiss, as it is a fairly long hike.
Cost: No
Best time to go: May through September, although weather permitting year round.  
Children: Yes
Duration: 2.8 miles, each way. Plan on 4 hours round trip.
Pet Friendly: Yes
Directions: There are three trailheads: Battery Point, Portage Cove and Mud Bay. We took the Mud Bay Road trailhead, which is the most direct route and ended up being perfect for us. To get there, turn south along 3rd Avenue, behind Ft. Seward, and follow Mud Bay Road for about 3 miles. Parking and trailhead are clearly marked, parking on the right(west) side of road, and the trailhead starts on the top of the bank on the opposite side of the road from parking.

We didn't see any bears or signs of bears but glad we took bear spray just in case. 

Nice boardwalks along the first part of the trail. Lots of old-growth, very lush and verdant green.

The leaves are huge in southeast Alaska!

The first part of the hike has a nice system of wooden planks and bridges so you avoid the really marshy muskegs.  As you continue to ascend, you pass from the bog area into a forest of huge spruce and hemlock trees. 

All along the trail, it's clearly marked.

There are some steep areas, but not dangerous, they just add interest to an already beautiful hike. 

We crossed several little streams along the way.

The trails are nicely maintained for the most part. As you near the summit they become a little more narrow. This mountain has a 'false summit' - it looks like you are just about there, but not quite! The trail banks around the mountain a bit and you keep climbing (about 30 more minutes), then you come to an area of tundra and stunned trees that resemble bonsai...a good indication that you're almost there for real.

Just about when you're ready to give up you see this sign :)

This is how it looks right before the summit - completely different from the beginning of the trail! Don't these look like bonsai trees? 

Signs of moose near the summit. We were amazed that moose actually made it this high up the mountain. 

A panoramic view from the top - Rainbow Glacier, the mountain range and inlet...stunning!

Audrey pointing out the Rainbow Glacier in the distance.

Rainbow Glacier and its spectacular waterfall. You can actually see the water and mist coming off the glacier from this vantage point.

Taking a minute to relax before heading back down.

Chic Alaska chics on top of Mt. Riley. 

Now for the easy part...heading downhill :)

Extra tips

Sunshine Springs is a fresh water spring next to the road (at about mile 3.5 Mud Bay Road) it comes right out of the mountain. Many of the locals get their drinking water from here. Apparently one of the old timers called the water here "Haines Champagne." So, stop by and fill your water bottles before your hike and you'll have a good chance of meeting a colorful local or two...

Parking is directly across the street from the trail head. As you drive down Mud Bay Road, you'll see the parking area on the right side of the road.

More Info: Mt. Riley trail map "Haines if for Hikers" is available  at this link: Haines is for Hikers

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Alaska Halibut Pot Pie

Everybody loves pot pie. It has got to be in the top five of all comfort foods. Its buttery, flaky 'lid' keeps all the creamy goodness piping hot until you finally dig in and take that first bite. It's heaven on a chilly day! While spring is right around the corner up here in Alaska, we are still on the tail end of winter, which means blustery days and near zero temps at night. So a halibut pot pie is the perfect meal to keep us motivated and dreaming of summer. In order to make room in my freezer for the upcoming fishing season I grabbed a pack of halibut and got busy. I used a pre-made puff pastry for the top crust, but of course, you can always make it from scratch if you are so inclined... :) ~Patti
Yield: 1 regular 9" pie
or 4 cute little 6 ounce pies 

2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 pounds halibut, cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin
1 small potato, peeled, diced small
1 large leek, white part only, sliced thin
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 frozen puff pastry sheet
1 egg (for egg wash)
Salt and pepper to taste

Serves: 4

First, combine milk, heavy cream, and halibut in a stock pot and bring to a simmer, cooking for about 7 minutes until the halibut flakes. When done, remove fish and strain milk into a bowl. Set aside.

Next, slice and dice your leeks, mushrooms, and potatoes. Par-boil your potatoes in a small saucepan (only takes about 5 minutes, just till they are fork-tender). When done, drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a skillet and sauté leeks and mushrooms about 7-8 minutes until leeks are soft and mushrooms are browned. Reduce heat and stir in flour thoroughly and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and add nutmeg, celery salt and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in milk/cream mixture and keep stirring so you have a consistent sauce. Add the potatoes, peas, and the halibut. Use your fingers to flake the halibut as as you add it in.

Cook about 5 more minutes on medium-low heat to thicken. Turn off heat and just let it rest in the skillet - you'll be filling those pie shells in just a minute...

Thaw puff pastry according to directions if store-bought. Set out your pie tins and pour in the halibut filling. Lay a piece of puff pastry over each pie and trim and seal edges. Paint a little egg wash on top of each one.

Slide those babies into a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. 
Let cool for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

These little guys stand alone, so you don't even need a side dish, just a hearty appetite and a handful of napkins!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Irish Moose Stew & Soda Bread

There are different variations for making Irish Stew but one of the common denominators is a nice helping of stout beer, usually Guinness! While spring is on the horizon in many parts of the world when St. Patrick's Day rolls around, it's still pretty chilly up here in Alaska. So a nice bowl of hot stew and a few pints is a great way to celebrate. Gorgeous lean moose meat is used in this recipe, as well as the usual Palmer, Alaska produce: carrots, potatoes and onions. Serve with a nice Irish soda bread: dense, moist and hearty! ~Patti O'Massey
1-1/2 pounds moose roast, cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups beef stock
2 cups water
1 cup dry red wine (like Cabernet or Burgundy)
1 cup Guinness Extra Stout beer
1 tablespoon Worceshire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
2-3 fresh (or dried) bay leaves
1 tablespoons butter
3-1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2-1/2 cups carrots, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Ingredients for Soda Bread:
2-1/2 cups AP Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup raisins and/or currants
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

"May your Troubles be less and your blessings be more, and nothing but happiness come through your door." - Irish Blessing

Heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in large pot over medium high heat. Season meat with salt. Brown meat in batches until gorgeous and brown - and don't crowd that pan. This is fast, only a few minutes per side. You don't want to cook it all the way, you just want to sear in all the juices and seal in the flavor. 

Tip: Pat meat dry before adding to pan. 

Once it's all browned, remove and set aside. Add carrots, onion and garlic to pot and saute for a few minutes to soften, scrapping up all the brown bits.  

Stir in wine, beer and beef stock. Add tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Add meat and all juices. Stir gently, then cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Remove lid, add potatoes and simmer uncovered about 45-60 minutes. Liquid will reduce and thicken slightly. 

If you want a thicker stew, make a 'roux' out of a few tablespoons of cornstarch and a cup of the hot liquid in the pot. Mix well and add a little at a time, stirring as you go. Add as much as you need to make it the desired consistency. 

While your stew is simmering (and filling the house with a wonderful aroma) make the soda bread. This is one of the easiest, quickest breads to make. Measure all dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cube the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingers (like making pie dough). Add raisins and buttermilk and mix until dough forms. Put dough on lightly floured surface and knead about 2 minutes until smooth. Shape into a circle, flatten slightly and score the top with a knife.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes until golden and done. Brush a little melted butter on top and serve with dinner. Yum!

If you plan to drink wine with dinner, by all means, use a cup of the good stuff, but if not, I love these inexpensive but nice quality little Bota Boxes for cooking...

This is an area west of Fairbanks that my husband likes to hunt...this past fall he lucked out. He got a 65 inch moose!

This is a secluded spot, so it's nice to have friends with planes :) Quite an experience to fly in and set up camp. Alaska offers such bounty, in so many ways.