Sourdough is the magic ingredient for Alaska cooking

I cannot write about Alaskan cooking and eating without mentioning sourdough, a magical ingredient that contributes leavening power, taste, nutrition and Alaskan tradition in liquid form. It has an entertaining and interesting past and special place in culinary history.

Being the passionate cook that I am, anyone who gifts me anything to do with cooking gets a gold star and cookbooks are the most treasured item in my kitchen. Many years ago, when the Other Fisherman and I were much younger, new to Alaska and living on Adak Island, a neighbor gave me as a Christmas gift my first Alaskan cookbook, “Lowbush Moose and Other Recipes,” written by Gordon Nelson, a retired Alaska state trooper. It has a special place on my bookshelf as every recipe in it is 100 percent authentic Alaskan, with recipes that include edibles such as crab, halibut, shrimp, moose, sourdough and produce grown in Alaska, just to mention a few of the ingredients. Trooper and cook Nelson mainly fed his large family with the bounty of what he harvested off the land. He was often stationed in remote outposts and many miles from a grocery store and his recipes are written with stories that are very entertaining and funny.

I am grateful to my friend for gifting it to me, as I had no idea what to do with seafood and game meat and how to deal with a less than well-stocked pantry that was now a part of my new life. I was born and raised on Midwest fare. Lake perch and Walleye pike that I ate back home are the size of the bait used to catch the monsters that swim in our northern waters. I had no idea what do with an entire king crab the first time I was in possession of one out there. The Other Fisherman’s first halibut caught off Adak weighed 165 pounds! Beef and caribou each require very different cooking methods. Thank goodness, I had Trooper Nelson’s cookbook to guide me and introduce to some of the best eating ever. He was an excellent cook and his recipes are easy, tasty and don’t require ingredients that are hard to come by.

From this treasured volume I learned how to make and use sourdough starter. To this day I am still intrigued by the mysterious concoction called sourdough and enjoy using it. One of our family’s favorite recipes is for sourdough hotcakes and waffles. We prefer a very mature, tangy sourdough.

Alaskan Sourdough Waffles

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

2 cups thin sourdough starter (mature starter that is ready to be used in cooking)

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 egg – beaten

½ teaspoon salt

Added last and just before making your waffles add-

1 teaspoon baking soda mixed with 2 tablespoons water in shot glass.

Directions

In a glass bowl add the sourdough starter, sugar, oil, egg and salt. Mix well.

Pre-heat your waffle iron.

Dilute the baking soda with warm water in a shot glass and stir well to dissolve baking soda.

Gently fold the soda and water into the batter.

Let it bubble away while you warm the syrup, melt the butter and get another cup of coffee.

When your waffle iron is ready, scoop the appropriate amount of batter onto the waffle iron and cook as directed. Let the waffles get good and brown so they are golden light brown and crunchy on the outside, light and heavenly on the inside.

My first-time coming face to pinchers with a scary looking and very large king crab intimidated the heck out of me. I’d never seen one, much less knew what to do with it. Mark was working and so it was just me against KC. It needed to be cooked. First off, where in heck could I find a pot big enough to hold this beast of the sea? Then I had to figure out how to get past that wicked shell to the meat of this interesting creature.

I came across a recipe in my file dated 1982 called Crab Spread Dip, with a notation that says “extra good.” I don’t recall how we enjoyed that very first taste of king crab, but what I can say is that crab dip and crab cakes are some of my favorite things to eat now!

Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip

This is a gussied- up version of that 1982 crab dip recipe and would make an excellent choice for a New Year’s Eve appetizer. Serve with small rounds of warmed sourdough baguette or crackers.

Ingredients

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

½ cup sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove – minced fine

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce

18 ounces marinated artichoke hearts, drained, coarsely chopped

1 cup mozzarella cheese -grated

½ cup parmesan cheese – grated

2 green onions chopped

2 teaspoons fresh jalapeno chili – seeded or jarred jalapeno chili

2 cups fresh crab meat

Pinch of salt

Directions

Using electric mixer, beat first 8 ingredients in large bowl to blend.

Fold in artichokes, cheeses, green onions and jalapenos, crab and salt.

Pre-heat oven 400 degrees.

Transfer to glass baking dish 11x7x2.

Bake dip until bubbling and brown on top, about 20 minutes.

I cooked my way through the Lowbush Moose cookbook and thoroughly enjoyed Gordon Nelson’s humor and wit. Without knowing him personally, he has taught me to be the Alaskan chef I am today and has inspired me to continually appreciate feeding my family and friends with the wonderful bounty of Alaska’s rivers, ocean and land. His recipes are flavored with generous dollops of hilarious stories, just the kind of foodie friend I would have loved to have to dinner.

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