Ah, February. That time of year where Alaska starts gaining daylight, the days get warmer and brighter, love is in the air, and the house is full of the comforting smells wafting from my little, tiny kitchen. Simmering stews, roast chicken, corn casserole, homemade marinara…
Memories…so tender and sweet.
Flash forward to present day reality check. Relocate from Anchorage to Juneau. Work looooong hours (holidays? weekends? what do these words mean?) Attend 5,932,487 receptions.
Dinner these days either consists of (1) reception food, (2) hosted dinner food, or (3) half of a Newman’s Own pepperoni pizza, salad from a bag, and my beloved Trader Joe’s cookie butter. Oh, the difference a year makes. A legislative session is not for the faint of heart, or the active cook. Although twice I have managed to scramble eggs for myself!
I know, I know. Chena Girl FAIL.
Since there are only so many bacon-wrapped scallops and crudite a woman can consume, I’m endeavoring to “up my game” in the kitchen down here in Juneau (which happens to be yet another tiny little kitchen so I feel right at home!) Not only do I enjoy cooking, it’s cheaper than eating out, healthier, and a relaxing activity after a stressful day. Chopping vegetables and searing meat are zen experiences for me.
One thing Juneau does well is seafood. In my opinion, Alaska’s ocean bounty is second to none. As I was browsing the offerings at a fantastic local shop, Jerry’s Meats and Seafoods, I came across a package of smoked Alaska black cod. While wild Alaska salmon hogs most of the spotlight (and justifiably so), black cod is the unsung hero of Alaskan seafood. Rich, meaty, and incredibly tasty, it might actually be my favorite Alaskan fish.
One of my new pals here in Juneau made a delicious smoked black cod dip with cream cheese, chives, and brie. Crazy, right? Well, it was crazy delicious. Except when I was home this weekend, I didn’t have any brie and I was hell-bent on using my smoked cod. So I did what I do best: I improvised!
There's nothing very fancy about this dip. It's tasty and a bit unexpected (given that smoked salmon dip is the appetizer of choice at most Alaska parties). The horseradish and hot sauce give it a little kick, while the lemon brightens the flavor of the fish. And I love using fresh herbs whenever I can, especially when they are so plentiful in the grocery store no matter the season. I happened to have all of these ingredients on hand, and you might as well. If you don't, be courageous and feel free to improvise! A tablespoon or two of grated onion would make a great addition if you don't have chives, and chopped fresh parsley would work well, too.
Smoked Alaska Black Cod Dip
1 lb. smoked Alaska black cod (also known as sablefish), skin & pin bones removed, and flaked
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 t. creamy horseradish
2 T. lemon juice
2-4 drops hot sauce
2 T. chopped fresh chives
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients except for the salt. Depending on the saltiness of your smoked cod, you may not need much additional salt. Chop extra chives to serve on top as a pretty garnish. How easy is that? While it's delicious served right away, it's even better to make it a day ahead of time to let the flavors meld together. Serve on any plain cracker or saltines. No fuss and delicious!