I’m having a leisurely afternoon, sipping tea and watching the wind blow snow outside my kitchen window. I’m working on my Thanksgiving menu. I’m lucky to have two adult daughters and their families that live in Alaska, as well as my sister Katherine and her family. My sister Jami and her husband are both in Afghanistan and my parents are watching their boys in Virginia. So, it’s not our entire family together around the table on Thursday but it is most of us.
Holidays in Alaska can be complicated. Many people living here are from somewhere else, and extended families can be thousands of miles away. We bring traditions from our past lives and create new traditions that make sense in our new lives. When I first moved to Alaska, I attended a Thanksgiving dinner with twenty people, friends and extended friends, gathered around a makeshift table in the living room of my future husband. It was pretty wonderful.
This year, it will just be our small family group. We’ll chat and eat, play games with the kids, maybe we’ll play a dance video game and everyone will laugh at my feeble attempts to keep up with my nephew Henry.
I want to create a menu that will appeal to all of us — my husband’s Midwest meat-and-potatoes palate, the kids who prefer pizza over oysters, and the rest of us who are more adventurous.
I settled on something a little different this year. I am going to make turkey potpie rather than the whole bird-in-the-oven option. I’ve gotten the idea from the dish coulibiac, or Russian potpie, which I’ve made for many years. Coulibiac is a layered pie filled with rice, egg onion, and salmon. I’ll make a bottom layer of mushrooms, roasted herbed turkey, and a chunky cranberry sauce. I’ll serve stuffing and gravy on the side. I’ll let you know how it goes over.
Everyone seems to agree on Brussels sprouts in our house, so we’ll have a big bowl of shredded and baked Brussels with bits of bacon, shallots, and splashed with a little hot vinegar.
This year, I’m going to make kale crisps, which I am particularly fond of. I just take washed and dried kale leaves, rub them in oil, salt and pepper and I bake them at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. I spritz the kale leaves with a little lemon juice and garlic and serve them hot.
There’ll be plenty of vegetables and sauces, cranberries, potatoes, and a little buffet of desserts that will get hammered hard by the kids and Carl.
And, as in every year since I have lived in Alaska, we’ll have salmon and crab at the table. These have become touchstones for me in celebratory moments. I have somehow come to believe my little crab cakes are symbols of good luck and I serve them whenever I want to express that sentiment.
- ½ pound scallops
- 1 pound Alaska lump crabmeat
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely minced parsley
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 pints blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- ½ small red onion, peeled and diced
- 1 cup dried blueberries
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 small knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1-2 strips orange peel, minced
- 1½ cups packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- Puree the scallops. Pat the crabmeat dry. Coarsely dice the crabmeat if necessary. Put the crab and scallops into a mixing bowl. Add in the shallot, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley. Mix well. Season the crab with salt and pepper.
- The scallops should add enough textural glue to hold the crab cakes together, but they will be delicate. Form the mixture into 2-inch cakes -- they should be on the small side. Place them onto a plastic-wrapped, small sheet pan and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before cooking.
- These cakes can either be sautéed or baked. To sauté, heat a small amount of canola oil or clarified butter in a nonstick pan. To bake, remove the plastic wrap from the sheet pan and place it in a preheated 350-degree oven. Bake for 3-5 minutes or until the cakes are just crisp on the edges and warmed through.
- Combine all the ingredients, except the cider vinegar, in a large saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Add in the vinegar.
- Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the mixture is thickened, about 30 additional minutes.