Homer Alaska - Cooking

Story last updated at 9:00 PM on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine's Day means something sweet

From life companion to treats, choices remain same

By Teri Robl

Snow — or is it rain? — is in the air, love is in the air and that can only mean one certain chocolate focused time of the year is here; Valentine's Day.


On this special day 35 years ago, the Other Fisherman popped the question. Prior to his proposal, I was one lucky lady and received an incredibly large red satin, heart-shaped box with several pounds of decadent Hughes chocolates, two dozen red roses and a cute teddy bear. I would have said "yes" if he presented me with a cheap bottle of white zin and a Hershey bar, I adored him so much.

When I said "yes," I knew in my heart I would follow this man to the ends of the earth. What I didn't know was that we would end up in the great and wild lands of Alaska together. I still would have married him though and believe moving to Alaska was one of the best decisions we've ever made. That and buying a wood stove and salmon rod.

I also had no idea my favorite shoes to wear between May and July would be my hip waders (salmon season), my favorite meat would be moose and I could win cooking contests preparing some of the best seafood to ever cross your lips. This coming from someone who did not enjoy fishing with the family and stuck her nose up at game meat.

Back then, halibut came in frozen 1-pound blocks that our mothers cooked until it was dry enough to play Frisbee with and had such a strong fish taste, I refused to eat it. Now, I cook fresh halibut I've landed myself only hours out of the water that is so delicious and moist and is such a delicacy down in the states that it sells for more than $20 a pound. Moose is my preferred choice of red meat with its sweet, mild and lean taste.

What hasn't changed though is our love of the chocolates made back in our hometown. There are two mom-and-pop chocolate shops still selling the same incredible homemade chocolates that have been there since forever.

Hughes Home-Maid Chocolate Shop is still making its delicious chocolates out of the white washed basement in the family home on Doty Street. Favorites are the milk chocolate covered buttery toffee and a silky, creamy double chocolate meltaway. Easter favorites are the peanut butter eggs and chocolate covered cherries. Oaks Candy Store has a shop in a brick building which has been there since 1890 and hasn't changed. If you visit, you will feel like you've traveled back in time. This place is a confectionary wonderland, filled with jars of every candy ever made. It's fun to visit at Halloween and Christmas, as there are even more specialties. They also have a big glass display case filled with hundreds of different home-made chocolate candies. They make an incredible "Peanut Melt-a-Way," which is similar to a 3 Musketeers bar. The center is a smooth, fluffy light chocolate, dipped in chocolate and rolled in crushed peanuts.

Valentine's Day inspires me to prepare a gourmet dinner for the man whom I allow to share the fishing boat. I like to end the meal with a decadent dessert, usually something wonderfully chocolate, as he has an incredible sweet tooth in addition to having great taste in women.

This recipe for Angel Food is a favorite childhood candy of his. It's easy to make and for those of us who grew up in the last century, it will take you back in time and leave a smile on your lips. For those of you who have never had it, it's a sweet, crunchy fun confection coated in chocolate. It's easy and fast to make.

Angel Food Candy

1 cup white sugar

1 cup dark corn syrup or try light corn syrup, both are good.

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 pound good quality chocolate (milk, semi-sweet or dark ; your preference. I like milk chocolate.) Name brand chocolate chips work fine.

Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish on the bottom and all the way up the sides.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, corn syrup and vinegar. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Don't try to rush it or it will burn, keep your heat at medium. Then continue to cook on medium heat, without stirring, to 300 degrees F very slowly, or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms hard, brittle threads. The moment it reaches this stage immediately remove from heat (or it will taste burnt) and stir in baking soda. It will foam up. Pour into prepared pan; do not spread. Mixture will not fill pan. Allow to cool completely.

If you want the candy even lighter, put the candy into the oven at 200 to 250 degrees right after you pour it into the pan for 10 minutes and then decrease the temperature to 170 degrees for another 10 minutes. The candy will puff up and fill the entire pan. It is a good idea to use a metal pan or flexible pan. This makes it easier to get the candy out when it cools.

In the microwave or over a double boiler, melt coating chocolate, stirring frequently until smooth. Break cooled candy into pieces about 1 ½ inches and dip into melted chocolate. Set on waxed paper to cool. When dry, store tightly covered.

Until next time, indulge your Valentine with something delicious from the kitchen.

And to the O.F., I will always share my last piece of Hughes toffee with you!