72 Hours in Homer, AK: Bucket List on Steroids! Part One

RV Alaska June 2017A trip to Homer, Alaska, at the height of the fishing season and only two days before the summer solstice can only mean one thing. A bucket list on steroids. My husband, son and I flew up to Alaska last week and it was a quick and tightly focused trip to see some clients, do research, fish, and explore the region.

When we were planning the trip beforehand, we decided to rent an RV from  Great Alaskan Holidays in Anchorage. Chris has done this before but this was the first time I was embarking on the RV rental gig. We ran some numbers beforehand and realized that renting an RV and driving it the four hours to Homer out on the Kenai Peninsula was far more economical than flying down there, staying in hotels, renting a car, and eating out. The RV also gave us complete freedom to organize our trip according to our schedule and needs. And, combined with the daily 21 hours of daylight at this time of year, we were able to maximize our time in a very remote location.

After flying from Seattle to Anchorage we were greeted at the airport by the rental company shuttle which took us to the facility where we checked in, watched a safety video, and loaded our Minnie Winnie with gear, clothing and food. Our Minnie Winnie was spacious, gorgeous and appointed with Cuisinart cookware, bed linens and fluffy towels. We rented a toaster and the coffee pot.

Our first night was spent in Seward, Alaska simply because we didn’t want to drive so long after leaving from Seattle that morning. We stayed at a municipal campground in town, watched the cruise ships navigate into the dock, marveled at the massive halibut and rock fish haul on display and then left early the next morning for Homer,  the Halibut Capital of the World. Located on the Kachemak Bay and in the shadow of Kachemak Bay State Park, this place is a nature lover’s paradise.

The spacious and clean Heritage RV Park, located right on the Bay, became our home for three nights. Sitting right on The Spit and adjacent to the local (and stocked) fishing lagoon, this RV park is also within walking distance to town and the marina. This proximity to the attractions worked great because we didn’t have to unhook the RV and trek the lengthy rig in to town to see the sights. Our site was right on the beach and had some of the best Alaskan scenery I have ever experienced. We didn’t have to eat out because our fully equipped kitchen was stocked and ready.

During the three days, we covered a lot of territory even though the Spit is relatively small in size. Fishing for halibut. Making tacos at a local cooking school. Losing a BIG fish in the lagoon. Discovering a new water trail around the Bay, Watching fishermen fillet their fish. Kicking back and enjoying the Midnight Sun. Watching the sun set and indulging in Klondike Bars and berries at midnight on Father’s Day.

For more on my 72 Hours in Homer, watch for Part 2: The Cooking School at Tutka Bay Lodge. 

 

 

 

 

Process This: The Ultimate Salmon Burger Method

My husband and sons love to fish here in the Pacific Northwest. As a result, I always have a freezer full of flash frozen wild salmon. Pink. Coho. King. Hot smoked. Cold smoked. Over the years I’ve learned to use these nutrient-rich treasures in many ways.

In 2009, while judging the Alaska Symphony of Seafood, I perked up and took notice when fellow judge, Jordan Mackey, casually shared one of his tricks of the trade—how to make a good salmon burger.

“With this method, the burger stays really moist and you don’t have bread flakes or egg. They cook just great!”–Mackey

The Executive Chef of Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel at the time, Mackey explained, “I am not a fan of binders.  With this method, the burger stays really moist and you don’t have bread flakes or egg. They cook just great!” While many salmon burgers can indeed be laden with fillers, it was obvious that Mackey’s savvy method for using up trim and fat laden bellies was worth trying at home.

Mackey explained that after they trim the scraps from the fillets of salmon, they cut the salmon into small to medium dice. They then sprinkle the diced salmon lightly with kosher salt and a smaller amount of sugar. He then lets the mixture stand, chilled, for about 15 minutes. During this time the fish begins to weep and get slimy. It’s this natural protein laden slime that acts as the natural binder for the burger.  No panko! No eggs! No nasty additives!

Mackey then takes 30% of the mixture and quickly mixes it in the food processor to make a light chunky paste which he then stirs back into the diced salmon. Voila. There’s your basic salmon patty mixture! The restaurant presses this into 9 ounce patties and cooks them to medium rare in an omelet pan or Teflon skillet. (Mackey was careful to explain that his salmon patties and/or scraps are always previously frozen so any parasitic risk from eating medium rare burgers is minimized due to the freezing.)

Over the years, I’ve made these burgers many times, tweaking the ingredients according to whim and taste. Sometimes I take the classic route and just add lemon and dill to the mixture. When I am craving Asian, I add diced ginger, garlic, fresh cilantro plus a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil.  If I want a smoky Southwestern slant, I add some cumin and chipotle pepper.  While cooking the burgers I waffle between using a classic cast iron skillet and my beloved Le Creuset ridged grill pan. The grill pan creates great ridges and adds a touch of telltale smokiness to the burger.

Regardless of the flavors added or the type of pan used, the Ultimate Salmon Burger technique always results in a juicy and flavorful burger!

Note: I realize many readers probably don’t have whole fillets of salmon that need to have tips and bellies trimmed. Nonetheless, this method works great with previously frozen fillets or fillets purchased fresh at the store. The bottom line is that salmon burgers are a great way to add interest and flavor to a very nutritious seafood.