This morning, the airstrip on our lake was so soft we couldn’t take off with any kind of load in the airplane. It’s one of the definitive signs that spring is on the way, even if there is more than 100 inches of snow still on the ground.
I have a kind of personalized sense of my Alaska year. Springtime is indicated on my calendar with the return of certain birds at the feeder, willow buds fattening up in preparation for bloom, and the snow beginning to soften. Another sure sign of seasonal change is my intense desire to wash all the windows in my house.
Every year, we decide where we want to be during break-up. This year, we’ll travel to Homer to work on a dock project at Tutka Bay Lodge and we’ll work on the new (to us) café that Mandy and I have bought along the Homer Spit.
The café only has room for a few tables, but that’s the perfect size for a “starter” project. We will serve breakfast and lunch only. We’ve spent the past month pondering names for our little café and we came up with “La Baleine”, French for “The Whale.”
We’re working on menus. We know we want to make hearty breakfasts, pack-up, take-away food for fishermen heading out in the early morning, and we want to offer enticing meals for people exploring the Spit. Fish tacos will probably make the cut, as will our smoked salmon chowder. For breakfast, we haven’t thought through all the possibilities, but we know we want to make a good homemade corned beef hash.
We start our corned beef preparations by brining beef brisket. We toast a collection of spices, grind them up, and add them to water, salt and a little sugar. The brisket cures in the salt and spice mixture for about a week in the refrigerator.
We cook our corned beef in a pressure cooker to speed up the process. We use a little beef stock and water in the pressure cooker to add extra flavor. A small trick is to make sure the corned beef is completely cooled before slicing it up.
We only use Alaska potatoes in our kitchen. Why not? They are in abundance year-round and we love all the northern varieties grown here. We are particularly fond of the small red potatoes accompanied by red onions found in many of our recipes. We use two types of potatoes for our hash. We prefer the small reds alongside yellow potatoes grown in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. Seasonally, we add in sweet potato, beets, turnips and other root vegetables.
Roast the potatoes and other root vegetables whole. Then, cool them completely, quarter them, and fry them in a hot pan with a little bit of olive oil. Add in garlic and onions, and finally the cooked and shredded corned beef.
Two fried eggs, a stack of Mandy’s homemade sourdough bread, wild berry jam, and red pepper ketchup complete the dish.
We’re looking forward to the season changing, heading out to our other lodges, and the new adventure of our own little café.
- ¼ pound Alaska red potatoes
- ½ pound Alaska yellow-fleshed potatoes
- ½ pound mixture of root vegetables (sweet potato, turnip or other)
- 1 pound cooked corned beef
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup pearl onions, boiled and peeled
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pinch of smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Wrap the potatoes and root vegetables individually in aluminum foil. (We wash them well and leave the skin on). Bake the potatoes and root vegetables in the oven for about 50 minutes, or until they are tender. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Cut up the potatoes and root vegetables into ¼-inch chunks.
- Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add in the potatoes and root vegetables. Fry for a few minutes without disturbing them. Use a thin-bladed spatula to turn the potatoes over. Add in the onions and garlic. Season the hash with salt pepper, and paprika. Cook for a few additional minutes. Remove the hash from the heat and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately.