I recently traveled to Alaska, a first for me and my family. The sometimes-overlooked 49th state, or the last frontier, proved to be as remarkable as my late uncle always said it was. Spectacularly beautiful with towering mountain ridges that disappear into the clouds. Glassy water, towering glaciers, lush rolling landscapes that appear to be untouched by humans, and endless wildlife surrounding you at every turn. With a land mass larger than Texas, California and Montana combined, Alaska is a vast and magical state, one that it would take months if not years to explore completely. I was in awe of the visual beauty I saw at every turn. I have included a few photos in this post of place we traveled, places that took my breath away in a way I had not expected.
The Alaskan locals are warm, inviting and relaxed in a way you don’t always see. The respect for nature seems to be their norm and with that comes a seemingly simpler way of living, one I found very appealing. For our trip, we focused mainly on the beautiful South-central Kenai Peninsula. We did not take a cruise like many do, and instead explored by road. We made a loop starting in Anchorage and visiting Girdwood, Seward, Whittier and Homer before heading back. We were not disappointed. With the endless hours of sunlight, there was plenty of time for canyoneering in dry river beds to sea kayaking with bald eagle encounters to shadowing a mama bear and her cubs in their natural habitats on the Aleutian Islands. And then there was the food. As I am already a big seafood fan, Alaska did not disappoint. The Sockeye Salmon, King Salmon and Halibut were outstanding. From a small roadside diner to the massive fishing hub of Homer, the fresh catches were incredible. Their “fresh fish” typically was caught only hours before service, often just outside their back door. Even my older son, who does not typically like fish, found himself enjoying a delicious, flaky fried fish sandwich in Whittier. My younger son was in heaven, from fish n’ chips to sushi, he simply could not get enough, nor could I.
Although the state fish of Alaska is King Salmon, one of our favorite items from the trip was smoked Sockeye salmon spread. Sockeye salmon is sometimes called red or “blueback salmon,” due to its color. Sockeye salmon are actually blue tinged with silver coloring while living in the ocean. Once these salmon return to spawning grounds, their bodies become red and their heads turn greenish. The name sockeye comes from a poor attempt to translate the word “suk-kegh” from British Columbia’s native Coast Salish language. “Suk-kegh” simply means “red fish”. Sockeye are among the smaller of the seven Pacific salmon species, but their succulent, bright-orange meat is rich and frequently used for smoking.
From the first time we tried smoked salmon spread in Anchorage, we were sold. Granted, as former New Yorkers, we already love sliced smoked salmon of the type that we layer on bagels. But this spread–with much more fish than a flavored cream cheese that you might see at a bagel shop–was a whole new ballgame. A local favorite, this rich, creamy sockeye salmon spread was served on warm, lightly toasted bread and offered the perfect introduction into Alaskan cuisine. We ordered smoked sockeye salmon spread several more times on our trip, each one a little different. This recipe is my attempt to recreate the spread we all enjoyed in a remarkable place we all fell in love with.
Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon Spread
- 4 ounces smoked sockeye salmon, skin removed and flaked
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon prepared coarse cut white horseradish
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- dash of Worcestershire sauce
- Step 1 Place the flaked sockeye salmon in the bowl of a kitchen mixer, such as a Cusinart, fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to rough chop the salmon.
- Step 2 Add the sour cream, cream cheese, horseradish, lemon juice, Old Bay and Worcestershire sauce and blend until smooth about 1 minute.
- Step 3 Chill salmon spread for 30 minutes prior to serving. Serve with a fresh baguette.