Welcome to week 49 of Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday. This week we welcome the state of Alaska, who joined the union on January 3, 1959. Seriously, am I really up to Alaska? I am so excited to be rounding the final bend of this journey and I am especially happy for those of you that have come along for the ride. We are almost done! I guess I need to start thinking about where we will go next. Stay tuned for that in just a couple of weeks.
I was really interested in learning about Alaska, as I had no idea how we ended up with this vast piece of land. And knowing what I know about previous territories and statehood, I am very intrigued that this huge hunk of real estate became only one state. So this is what I found out.
The land area of Alaska was part of Russia. In the mid 1860s, Russia was having financial difficulties and was afraid that they would lose the land in a conflict, specifically to Britain, whose Royal Navy could easily capture it because of its remote location. The czar Alexander II decided to sell the land and began negotiations with the US Secretary of State William Sewell. The treaty was signed on March 30, 1867 at 4:00 in the morning for the sale price of $7.2 million US dollars (the equivalent of about $1.7- 2 billion today).
Most of the lower 48 thought it was a stupid deal as the land, in their opinion, held no value and was coined “Sewards Folly” and deemed a total waste. This all changed in the 1890s, when gold was discovered and created a mass stampede of settlers and prospectors, looking to make it rich. The area went through several administration changes and took years to fully organize. I can find no records that ever indicated that the land should be divided up. It was always just one territory. And in 1959 it was finally admitted to the US as a full state.
An interesting fact about the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the US was that it changed time zones. At the time, it was at 14 hours ahead of GMT, but changed to 10 hours behind. This resulted in the land actually have two Fridays in succession, the one place on earth to ever do so.
When you go looking for foods of Alaska, the recipes fall into two very distinct categories. Let’s say they are the ones that I would eat and the ones I wouldn’t. Partly because of availability and partly because they just sound weird, I was not going to make moose meatballs or a dessert that they call Alaska ice cream, which is made of fat and snow and berries. The other half is two things…salmon and crab.
Crab in Alaska is really pure. They don’t make it into crab cakes or casseroles. It is cooked, cracked, maybe dipped in butter and eaten. Not much of a recipe there.
So salmon it was. I wanted to make something (obviously) new, so I settled on an interesting dish called Salmon Wellington. In theory, it is the same as the famous Beef Wellington; a nice piece of meat with some additions, wrapped and baked in a puffed pastry. The recipe I found used a really nice, creamy sautéed spinach, which was delicious and added a lot to the whole dish.
The result was pretty good. I have to say that it seemed to be missing something. Salmon is pretty fatty, and with the pastry and creamed spinach, it was very rich and needed some brightness. I am thinking the simple fix is a good squirt of lemon to give it that needed acidity. Wish I had grabbed a lemon at the market.
As a side note, my son does not like salmon at all, so I decided to make his version using a boneless chicken breast. He said it was really good and ate the whole thing. Since he can be a bit picky, I consider that a big solid A. His only suggestion was that you could probably double the spinach filling. Now that is saying something!
So the salmon version gets an A- because it was a little unbalanced and the chicken version gets an A. Pretty enough for a company dinner, and actually much easier to make than how fancy it looks. I hope you will give it a try.
Have a great week everyone and thanks for stopping by. See you next week in the big Hawaii 5-0!
Recipe for Salmon Wellington:
4 (6 oz) salmon fillets
salt and lemon pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, divided
1 shallot, chopped
¼ cup white wine
3 oz cream cheese
1- 6 oz bag fresh baby spinach
2 tbsp plain bread crumbs
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 (1 lb.) package puff pastry
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Season the salmon generously with salt and lemon pepper.
In a large sauté pan, heat butter, chopped shallots, and garlic over medium heat. Sauté until the shallots become translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
Bring the heat to medium-high and add the white wine. Let the liquid cook out for about 5 minutes, and then add the cream cheese and cook for about 1 minute to melt it a little.
Add the spinach and sauté until it starts to soften. Add the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and blend well. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.
Unfold the puff pastry onto a light floured surface and roll out the 2 sheets (to about 10×14), then cut each of them in half on the long side. So you end up with 4 pieces, each about 7×10 inches.
Place each seasoned salmon fillet in the middle of each puff pastry sheet. Leave about 2 inches around the edges.
Divide the spinach mixture into 4 equal parts and evenly spread it on top of the 4 fillets. Then brush the edges of the puff pastry with egg wash.
Begin folding the puff pastry over starting with the longer edge. When folding over the short edges, brush more of the egg wash before folding. It will end up like a closed packet.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the salmon wellington seam side down.
Make crosshatch slits on top of the Wellington with a knife. Then brush with more egg wash.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.