15 January 2011

FOODalogue Takes us North to Alaska for Grilled Alaska Salmon Tacos with Corn Relish

Grilled Alaska Salmon Tacos with Corn Relish

Joan of FOODalogue has starting the year off with another informational armchair travel adventure with her Culinary Tour 2011 - The Final Tour. I have really enjoyed travelling with Joan virtually for the past 2 years and have been lucky enough to meet up with her two years in a row in "real time" in San Francisco at Foodbuzz. Blogging brings the whole world closer together.

 Joan will be travelling virtually wherever her imagination takes us for the next little while through food, sights, and cultural exploration.  How about meeting her in any one of her itinerary stops and present your interpretation of the cuisine from that destination? Who wouldn't enjoy taking a journey around the world even if it is from the comfort of your favourite armchair?? No passport necessary, no cancelled flights or long airport layovers. You can also do a little daydreaming through your tastebuds. We have already met up in Panama where we feasted on traditional dishes  and visited the markets...so next stop on her tour is:


Alaska may be well known for towering Mt. McKinley, stunning views of Glacier Bay, cruise ships and amazing wildlife viewing opportunities, but it is also a destination with unique culinary traditions. I am appreciative of the fact that Joan has taken us along on this virtual tour.

When I think of Alaskan food, I can almost taste the succulent flavour of King Crab or Copper River Salmon. But there’s a lot more to Alaskan cuisine than its fresh seafood. How about a bowl of Caribou stew or Moose Diane? No matter how adventurous your palate, the best way to experience Alaska’s unique lifestyle is through its cuisine.

Even so, Alaska's cold water seafood is still the centerpiece of Alaskan cuisine. It's what first comes to mind and I would be the first at the table. Alaskan salmon is one of the most important foods there and is often served as smoked salmon, cured salmon, salmon jerky, and even sweetened Indian candied salmon like we find here in British Columbia. The Alaskan salmon and halibut fishing industry brings tourists from all over the world, but it's probably the Alaskan King Crab that most people think of first. Unlike the smaller dungeness or blue crabs found south of the parallel, a single Alaskan King Crab can easily feed your entire hungry family.

In Alaska historical Native foods consisted mainly of seal, whale, wild bird and walrus meat which were  all readily available. Cold weather survival required consuming generous amounts of fat and oil. One indigenous specialty that is still available is akutag, a cold treat traditionally made with whipped fat and wild berries. In the past I have tried things like seal flipper soup, and cod cheeks but prefer to stick with more mainstream Alaskan menu items like salmon, halibut, crab, scallops, oysters and shrimp. Then again sea cucumber, octopus and squid are local delicacies. If you enjoy wild game, try caribou, moose, elk, bear or reindeer meat.

So what do todays Alaskans eat? Everything we do!!! In this age of easy availability and transportation urban Alaskans enjoy the same selection of goods that you and I have available to us at our own local grocery stores. But they also have access to the fresh specialties mentioned above that are uniquely Alaska!

Homer, Alaska is a center for Halibut fishing, and it's local restaurants and bed and breakfasts have teamed up to offer six-day culinary tours. The tour includes daily cooking classes with local chefs, meals at gourmet restaurants, winery and brewery tours, art classes with local artists, wine tasting and accommodation. In winter, a dog-sled excursion is also part of the package. Special rates for winter visitors and couples are available, and other area activities include cross-country skiing, photography tours and snowmobiling. Culinary tours to Alaska can be booked for any time of the year, although in summer tours tend to be offered more frequently. You can learn a deeper appreciation for the local culture if you're willing to eat outside of your comfort zone. It's one of the great reasons to travel and can free you from prejudices you didn't even know you had!

When I attended Foodbuzz 2010 in San Francisco one of the primary sponsors was Alaskan Seafood. So it seemed only fitting that for this challenge I would recreate one of the demontration dishes that I shared with Joan in "real time", besides I have been wanting to recreate this dish at home for ions! Chef Mary Sue Millikan whipped up some delicious-looking fish tacos...both a salmon taco with roasted poblano and corn salsa, and a halibut taco with a cucumber-citrus salsa. Later that day we headed over to the Metron and I stood in what seemed an endless line as I snaked my way up to the Alaskan Seafood booth where the fish tacos from the morning’s breakout session were being served. Actually, there was an entire taco bar set up, where you could build your own tacos....even better! So worth the wait!! I am happy to share Chef Mary Sue Millikan's recipe with you.

Before we do....

Don't forget to send in your dish for the Best Thing I Ever Ate (recently) challenge here at More Than Burnt Toast. Send your submission to bestdisheverate@gmail.com by midnight February 15th. Read all about it here.

You might also be interested in participating in the 1st Ever Wild Alaska Fish Taco Contest  sponsored by Alaskan Seafood.  The deadline is January 31st. You can check out the details here.

**Grilled Alaska Salmon Tacos with Corn Relish**

1 1/2 pounds wild Alaska salmon fillet
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 (4- to 6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
6 lettuce leaves, torn in half
Corn Relish (see recipe below)
2 avocados, halved, seeded, peeled, and thinly sliced, for serving
Crema or sour cream, for serving

Preheat a medium-hot grill, broiler oven, or pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Drizzle the fish with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook until barely done, for 2 to 5 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Remove the fish from the grill or pan, let cool slightly, and then pull apart into large flakes. Place warm tortillas on a work surface and line each with a piece of lettuce. Top with chunks of fish, a generous spoonful of Corn Relish with plenty of vinaigrette, a couple slices of avocado, and a dollop of crema or sour cream.

* To warm, dip corn tortillas in water, shaking off excess. Toast, in batches, in a nonstick pan over moderate heat, about 1 minute per side. Wrap in towel to keep warm.

**Corn Relish**

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 5 ears)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded*, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Heat 1/2 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the corn with the salt and pepper, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool. Add diced peppers to the sautéed corn along with the scallions, red wine vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Mix well and let sit 20 to 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Serve at room temperature.

* Fresh chiles can be roasted over a barbeque, gas stovetop flame, or on a tray under the broiler. Keep turning so the skin is evenly charred, without burning and drying out the flesh. Transfer charred chiles to a plastic bag, tie the top closed, and let steam about 10 to 15 minutes. The best way to peel is just to pull off the charred skin by hand and then dip the chiles briefly in water to remove any blackened bits. Do not peel the chiles under running water since that will wash away flavorful juices. Once peeled, cut away stems, seeds.

Makes about 5 cups

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  1. That looks wonderful! Wow, that spider crab is immense.



  2. I may have found my Super Bowl menu! This sounds delicious and would please a former Capricorn who is now, apparently, an Aquarius!


  3. Fun to see Milliken's taco again. I bet it tasted a whole hell of a lot better in the comfort of your own kitchen. It was a great idea for this stop the tour and it looks delicious. And, speaking of delicious, boy would I love to get my hands on that Alaskan King Crab! That would be a serious contender for my 'best meal'.

  4. I truly don't think I could live in Alaska because of all the cold, but then I think of all that delicious salmon...

    These tacos sound wonderful! So much amazing flavor.

  5. These look seriously good and I'm afraid I could eat a bunch of them.

    I'm still working on the best I've ever eaten.

  6. What a great looking Taco. I remember San Francisco. I wish I had that Crab...

  7. I always feel like Alaskan food would probably be similar to food in BC

  8. We will be in Alaska in June. I am looking forward to trying many things. These tacos sound great.

  9. I have tried many many kinds of salmon - but have never seen wild Alaskan salmon. I wonder if there is another name for the same kind of salmon? Great idea - lovely recipe - sounds delicious. But, there is NOTHING like the Alaskan King Crab, is there? Really. Nothing.

  10. Wow, that crab is scary! I love fish tacos and have to admit that I've never thought to use salmon, but what a great idea!

  11. I, of course, loved the tacos but I'm still stunned by the size of that crab. Have a wonderful day, Val. Blessings...Mary

  12. I've never seen a crab like that before! I love the story behind the recipe. Great to meet you in Alaska - see you in Turkey?

  13. I love grilled salmon: it's simple and the flavor is just perfect.

  14. Now that's a big crab! A great healthy dish.

  15. Alaska is definitely my favorite holiday dream. I would love to go!! After seeing that crab and your delicious food, the dream has color!!!

  16. Ever since I had my first fish taco, I've never stopped loving them. I've never tried salmon before, so this is now on my list to try! Gotta get more fish in my nutrition as well; this is a great way to do so. PS: If you'd like me to send you the 'kick-butt' Craig Claiborne pork tenderloin roast recipe, I'd be happy to give it to you. Roz

  17. What a beautiful, colorful and healthy dish, Val. I love Mary Sue Millikan and enjoyed her old TV show so much with Susan Feniger.
    We are fortunate to have access to lovely seafood here, too...but you can't beat Alaskan seafood.

  18. Loved learning more about Alaska, and the salmon tacos sound amazingly delicious, especially paired together with the corn relish, excellent!

  19. I visited both Homer and Saldotna back in the mid eighties. I caught a 40 pound salmon on the Kenai river. Alaska is breathtaking. I will never forget the time I spent there. The trip through along the, then unpaved, Al-Can highway was rough but beautiful. We spotted moose, bears and great bald eagles. We marveled over the Northern Lights as we traveled by ferry into Alaska. We stopped in Juneau and walked the quiet streets at tow in the morning. The stars in the sky are truly indescribable.

    Your salmon tacos look fantastic! I absolutely love fish tacos but have never tried them with salmon. This is a must try for me! ;)

  20. i have every intention of visiting alaska one day, no joke. i think it's a state worth exploring! although fish tacos aren't my thing, the corn relish looks delicious!

  21. Alaska sounds fascinating, especially with some of its very wonderful food. I'm looking forward to a visit one day ;O)

    Val...those tacos can comfort me any day of the week!

    Ciao for now,

  22. It's so nice to learn about these remote places through my friends blogs. I love what you did for Joan's event. Tacos are so international now, hehe.

  23. That was very interesting, I have never seen salmon tacos before. Love the corn relish...yumyum :)

  24. I love fish tacos so much, Val, but I've never tried them with salmon or that scrumptious corn relish. What a perfect pairing of deliciousness. :-)

  25. We shared the same idea about the tacos! Before this virtual trip I had never heard about fish tacos and know I see also yours (seem delicious!) and your link to the best wild alaska taco fish recipe! Will you participate? It's funny...

  26. I adore fish tacos and never would have thought of using salmon. I can't wait to try this Val!


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