Friday, December 5, 2014

Kirsten and Mandy Dixon Live at the Anchorage Museum

Tutka Bay and the Tutka Bay Lodge

How to spend a pleasant hour: listen to Kirsten and Mandy Dixon demonstrate how to make Alaska Pasta Carbonara at the Anchorage Museum. I went this evening to watch them cook for a small group of people, who took time out on a Thursday evening for food tips from two of Alaska's world-renowned chefs. The room on the fourth floor of the museum was scented with shallots sauteeing in butter, and the subtleness of fresh pasta boiling briefly. For nibbling ,while watching the demo, the Dixons provided little bites of bread with their smoked salmon with cardamom dip from Riversong Lodge Cookbook.

Smoked salmon-cardamom dip appetizers greeted guests at the Anchorage Museum cooking lesson.

 At the end, guests at the free event sampled small plates of fresh fettucine topped with a creamy miso sauce, salmon bacon, and shaved bites of hard cheese.

Alaskan Salmon Carbonara with fresh herbed fettucine.

I don't have a recipe for this specific dish for you, but here are recipes for the home-made pasta layered with fresh herbs, and the salmon bacon,. A creamy miso sauce is in Kirsten and Mandy's newest cookbook, The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook, at page 160.

The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook: Coastal Cuisine from the Wilds of Alaska
The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook

Kirsten discusses influences on Alaska cuisine.

The foods that Alaskans harvest -- the salmon, halibut and other seafoods, the vegetables that thrive in Alaska's summers, the sea plants, and the wild foods that can be foraged all affect what we cook. Styles and flavors have come from Alaska Natives, Russia, Eastern Asia, Scandinavia, and the Gold Rushers and early miners. The sample dish that the Dixons prepared -- salmon bacon, miso sauce, fresh pasta with herbs -- combined many of those influences into distinctly Alaskan tastes and textures.

Mandy breaks eggs for the pasta dough.

Kirsten and Mandy shared dozens of cooking tips with us:

  • Use unsalted butter, because it's always fresher.
Ingredients and tools -- rolling pin, miso paste, shallots, unsalted butter.
  • Make sure that you're getting extra virgin olive oil from a reliable source. They mentioned that Costco glass bottles of olive oil with the Kirkland label fit that description.
Kirkland extra-virgin olive oil. Mandy rolling out the pasta layered with fresh herbs.
  • Make the pasta recipe with gluten-free flour, if desired. They recommended a mix developed by a friend called "Cup-4-Cup," available in stores around Anchorage.
  • For the demo cooking, they used lightweight, butane-fueled burners that are available at Asian stores in town. Mandy noted that they're very handy for warming a soup to serve when you're outside grilling other foods, and for a variety of purposes.
Butane-fueled lightweight portable burners, with pasta water on one, and miso sauce on the other.

  •  Use heavy stainless steel pans, and wooden cutting boards rather than plastic. They are easier to clean, and work well for both cutting and rolling.

The miso sauce. 

  • Kirsten suggested that the sauce should be drizzled over the pasta rather than mixed into it because the fresh pasta will soak up too much and become soggy.

The salmon bacon -- slices of smoked salmon lox, brushed with a rhubarb glaze, and baked for a few minutes until crisp.

The fresh pasta with herb layer.

  • Mandy rolled out one layer of pasta, spread fresh parsley, sage and other herbs on it, set another layer of pasta on top, and rolled it all through the hand-cranked pasta machine, before slicing it for fettucine.

The final dish -- herbed fresh fettucine, drizzled with creamy miso sauce, garnished with salmon bacon, fresh herbs, and shaved hard cheese.

Mandy runs La Baleine Cafe on the Homer Spit in the summer, and the Dixon family owns two wilderness lodges, described at Within the Wild.  They offer cooking classes, days and weekends, at the Tutka Bay Lodge.

Tutka Bay Cooking School, inside an old boat next to the lodge.

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