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I'm happiest when the food I make becomes a backdrop to a lively conversation. When I'm not cooking, I'm traveling or dreaming about travel. Come sit with me, and enjoy! Read more here.

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« jumbo scallops with red pepper puree: a delicious break from the norm | Main | torta di mele: dessert so good you'll want it for breakfast »

homage to alaska: trout with orange two ways

The month of May in southeast Alaska isn't exactly warm. As we flew over snow capped mountains north of Ketchikan, our sea plane pilot, Jeff Carlin, warned us that Reflection Lake, where we were scheduled to stay for the week, 'might' be frozen. 

"Frozen?" I yelled over the roar of the engine into the intercom. "Yeah, but I know of another cabin where you can stay at Lake McDonald," he hollered back. Sure enough, when we peered down through plane windows at Reflection Lake, it looked like a giant ice-skating rink. There was no way were were going to land the plane on that.

"Looks like you're going to Lake McDonald," said Jeff, a boyish, dare-devil type who cranked up the rock music as we were flying. He knew the cabin there was available because he was supposed to transport the guy that booked it but the guy cancelled. We diverted, and about ten minutes later, landed on still, completely thawed, green-blue water.

After hearing stories about Alaska from my dad and brother, who had been to the state several times, I longed for the experience of catching and cooking my own trout, spotting otters and bald eagles, and hiking the densely forested trails.

The fishing trip was supposed to happen a year ago but we cancelled after a small cut on Dad's hand became infected, sending him to the hospital days before our trip. After a week of antibiotics, he was fine, and we decided to reschedule for this year.

Jeff docked the plane and helped us unload our food, booze, fishing gear, cookware, and luggage. He then took off for his next flight.

As the roar of his sea plane engine faded, the sounds of the forest emerged. I could hear the melodious whistle of birds, fish jumping up through and splashing back into the water, and our boots, clunky and hollow sounding on the wooden dock.

We packed our gear into the cabin, which featured four wooden bunks, a table, a wood-burning stove, and a small cooking area with shelves and a countertop.

Weeks before arriving, Dad asked me to plan and cook the meals for our trip. The stakes were high. Dad is a great cook. His prime rib is always cooked to juicy perfection and his meat-style manicotti is a legend in the family. Also, he has acted as chef on past Alaska trips so knew the challenges well. I was honored that he asked but a bit skeptical too, unsure if he was trying to off-load a major headache or give me a chance to show off my cooking skills. He never said but his instructions were clear: There would be no Safeway to run to if I forgot milk or butter. Other than the fish we caught in the lake, what I packed on the plane was what we were going to eat for the week. Period. I accepted the challenge.

Dad said he would bring the basics -- pots and pans, cooking utensils, and pepper and salt. But as I began to unpack his cooking gear, I noticed only a tiny, plastic table shaker half full of salt.

"You DID bring more salt than this, right?" I said. Dad, recognizing his error, stayed upbeat: "This is what's so exciting about Alaska; there's always an unexpected challenge!"

The rationing had begun. I used bacon, sausage, or chorizo to salt the egg and pasta dishes. Other dishes we salted meekly with the little shaker at the table.

There was other rationing during the week too. My brother, who works out a lot, quickly went from eating five scrambled eggs per morning to two when we realized our box of five dozen had quickly dwindled to just a few. And Dad failed to estimate the number of whiskeys he would require. The day before we left, he saved his last glass of Crown Royal for when he need it the most -- after a rugged hike that left his back aching and sore.

Despite the rationing, we ate well. I managed to consume twice the amount of food I usually do during a week. And the best part was feasting on the trout that I caught.

The second day at the lake, I caught three of the four fish we needed for dinner (beginner's luck!). I made two dishes -- a white wine dish and a red wine dish -- both featuring orange. The dishes surprised and delighted my cook-fisherman dad who had always dressed his fish with lemon.

The first dish -- trout pouched in orange, thyme, and chardonnay -- is the basis for the second dish, which simply adds a tomato-olive salsa on top. It goes nicely with pinot noir and was Dad's favorite.

Trout Poached in Orange, Thyme, and Chardonnay

2 whole trout
4 tablespoons butter, cut up into pieces
1 large shallot or two small, diced
several sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup chardonnay
4 orance slices

Arrange the fish on a bed of foil. Add the shallot, thyme, and butter inside and out. Push up the foil so liquid can not escape and pour 1/2 cup of wine over the fish. Top with orange slices. Cover tightly with additional foil so it does not leak and cook it over the campfire or on a grill for about 10 minutes. Unwrap the foil, preserving all the juice at the bottom and serve, pouring the extra juice onto of each plate.

Trout with Grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and Orange juice

1 recipe of orange, thyme, and chardonnay trout

For sauce:
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 large shallot
fresh thyme leaves from four sprigs
1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice to drizzle over the top

Prepare trout exactly the same way as the recipe above. While cooking, prepare the sauce.

Sauce. Heat olive oil. Add the shallots and simmer for a minute. Add the grape tomatoes and cook for two minutes. Add the fresh thyme and balsamic. Turn off the heat.

Juice the orange and fillet the cooked trout. Plate the fillets, pour the salsa over trout, and drizzle the fresh squeezed oranged juice on top.

Lake McDonald, about 40 miles north of Ketchikan:

Reader Comments (5)

Ah, this is such a delicious journey Angela. Yu are one lucky girl!

That trouts must tasted wonderful!

June 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterelra

Thanks, Elra! The trout was great indeed. Best of all was catching it! :)

July 19, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

Hi Angela,
thanks for your tips about the cannele. I have exactly the same metal moulds as yours. I have this for such a long time. I bought because it looks so cute, and thought that I'll be able to make cannele one day. I don't know why, but I always shy away and discourage to buy anything silicon. Your cannele look really wonderful!

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterelra

oh! your photos are soooo beautiful!!!! and your trouts recipes are deffo worth trying! :D

August 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPrincess Misia

Elra: You inspire me to make cannele again!

Princess Misia: Thank you. That's quite a compliment coming from you. The photos on your site are awesome!

August 15, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

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