Sunday, December 30, 2012

State-by-State Redux I of X: Alaska Revisited - Not-So-Deadliest Catch

The next (and final) ten State-by-State posts are rehashes of previous regions - and in the first two cases, states - that I want to go back and investigate just a little bit more.  This first post brings me back to Alaska, which I looked at ridiculously briefly way back in December of 2010 when I was trying to restrict myself to one, nay two, recipes per state.  We've seen how that worked out (hello, five recipes for Maryland).  Now I go back to explore some of Alaska's non-salmon-related seafood.

Snacking State-by-State Redux I of X: Alaska

Official Name: State of Alaska
State Nickname: The Last Frontier
Admission to the US: January 3, 1959 (#49)
Capital: Juneau (3rd largest city)
Other Important Cities: Anchorage (largest), Fairbanks (2nd largest), Sitka (4th largest)
Region: West (Northwest, Pacific); Pacific (US Census)
RAFT NationsSalmon
Bordered by: Arctic Ocean (north); Yukon Territory (Canada) (east), British Columbia (Canada) (southeast); Gulf of Alaska (south); Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea & Chukchi Peninsula (Siberia, Russia) (west)
Official State Foods: King Salmon (fish)
Some Famous & Typical Foods: salmon, halibut, herring, Alaska king crab, queen crab, snow crab, Dungeness crab; moose, caribou, pemmican, northern Alaskan berries - and not Baked Alaska

When I investigated Alaska that one time, I also taught myself how to prepare a cedar plank for oven-roasting, and then I went and oven-roasted some Pacific sockeye salmon on said plank.  But Alaska seafood is not all salmon - and oh, the varieties of salmon there are!  Anyone who has seen that Deadliest Catch show knows that Alaska is crab country.  But not the sweet and small blues we have on this side of the continent.  Alaska crabs are big, hearty, friggin' huge.  The King crab, of course, comes clawing into one's mind first, but gives you nightmares.  This is not only because they are, again, friggin' huge, but also because they are so damn expensive: $26 per lb at Wegman's, with a 5 lb frozen box costing a hundred dollars.  I've spent enough on this blog.  I'm not slapping down $100 for this post. At all.

Fortunately there are other crabs off the coast of Alaska.  There are the Dungeness, Queen and snow crab.  It is this last one, at a mere $10 a pound at Harris Teeter, that I ultimately went for, for the following recipe.  This one is another one from Kim Severson's The New Alaska Cookbook: Recipes from the Last Frontier's Best Chefs.   Here I use a recipe from Jack Amon of the Marx Bros. Cafe in Anchorage, a crab and pasta recipe.  This one does not specifically demand King crab, though Amon definitely prefers it:
This recipe allows you to stretch the crabmeat.  If you can't get King crabmeat, other crab can be substituted, but it won't hold its shape as well as King crab. [Severson 2001: 69]
I did substitute snow crab for the King crab, and - Murliner that ah am, hon - I picked the whole damn thing myself.  The recipe also calls for a particularly expensive caviar - sevruga, which I probably will never get the chance to taste - which I had to substitute with a relatively inexpensive one off the shelf at the local supermarket.

This recipe is on page 69 of Severson's cookbook.

The Recipe: Pasta with Snow Crab and Caviar

To make this assemble the following.  Note, by the way, that I somehow deleted the original photo of the ingredients, so I reassembled most of them.  I did not buy a new crab to put in the photo.  Ten bucks for a photo?  Ummm, no.

Gather the following - note this is a reconstructed photo, as I said above):

* angel hair pasta (any box will do, this one was about $1.50 to $2)
* yellow and red bell peppers (about a dollar)
* butter (at the time I had nothing on hand but this delicious Kerrygold butter - about $6 a pop but soooooo worth it.)
* caviar (the recipe calls for sevruga caviar, which is ridiculously expensive.  So I just bought some black Romanoff caviar off the shelf at Harris Teeter for only $9.  I only found out later that the same caviar cost only $8 at Giant. Wah waah.)
* parsley (I used fresh, but only had the dried stuff on hand for the photo)
* salt and pepper (had on hand)
* lemon.  Note that I did not have a lemon on hand for the new photo.  I did, however, have an onion.  Please don't use an onion.)

And of course, you must also have...

* one snow crab (this one cost $11 at Harris Teeter - $10 a pound)

Snow crabs are bigger than either blues or Dungenesses, and so are much easier to pick.

A snow crab that is slightly over a pound yields you about 6 1/4 oz of crab meat.

Chop your bell peppers finely, and zest your lemon.

Prep your pasta for boiling...

While doing that, melt your butter in a skillet.

Boil your angel hair pasta according to box directions, and drain and rinse.

Next, add the pasta, peppers, lemon zest and crab meat to the butter.

Mix in the parsley and cook until hot.

Spoon onto plates, and put a dollop of caviar in the middle of the mound of pasta.

I can't even begin to describe how decadent Jack Amon's recipe is.  I tried to save this to snack on all week and it only lasted a few short days.  The crab and the butter mix so wonderfully with the pasta, and the caviar gives a surprising pop that I am not quite familiar with, since again I don't eat much caviar outside of a sushi-related context.

- - - - -

Just as I spent precious little time examining Alaska the last time around, I also spent so little time exploring Hawaii.  Coming up next week: a veritable Hawaiian feast, fit for a bento box.


Severson, Kim, with Glenn Denkler. The New Alaska Cookbook: Recipes from the Last Frontier's Best Chefs2001 : Sasquatch Books, Seattle.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Alaska" page and the Food Timeline State Foods webpage link to "Alaska".