Phil's International Flair

Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!

Well, my trip to Alaska in July was a fruitful one as well as one of the most enjoyable trips to date. The adventure was shared with my cousin Bill, his wife Rollene and my daughter Jennifer. Rollene, who hadn't fished a day in her life, had beginners luck and caught the largest salmon. In fact it was so big that we had to release it per regulation, to spawn and propagate future generations of giant Kenai king salmon. I managed to catch the largest salmon of my life however, a Kenai king salmon that weighed about 46 lbs.

The weather was unusually warm this year in Alaska, and I managed to get a sunburn on top of my sunburn. The temperature ranged between 80 and 90 degrees almost every day. We didn't expect Alaska to be so hot! The highlight of our trip was a marine tour of the Kenai Fjords where we were able to see orca playing in their native environment. In fact, these killer whales were so interested in our tour boat, that they came over to see what we were all about and even swam right under our boat. I managed to get a pretty good picture of one as it surfaced right where I happened to be standing. I must say, this was a once in a lifetime event.

Unfortunately, due to the warm weather, the sockeye salmon didn't enter the river as early as expected. As fate would have it, the sockeye finally came into the river in full swing the night before our departure. So, at 11 pm we started fishing for sockeye from the bank and by 2 am, 4 of us had limits of 3 each to bring home, over 20 lbs. of fresh salmon fillets. And, this brings me to the subject of this month's recipe made from sockeye salmon, gravlox.

Before that however, I would just like to say that I look forward to my September trip to Alaska for silver salmon and steelhead fishing with Mark Glassmaker. I would also like to thank Mark for helping me catch the largest salmon of my life, and I hope to get a bigger one next year.

This month I have included a bonus recipe from Gwin's Lodge in Alaska for Smoked Salmon Chowder! Gwin's Lodge is well known to the locals for having some of the best food on the Kenai Peninsula. The atmosphere is very quaint and definitely has that "Alaskan feeling." Gwin's offers some great desserts including home made pies with local berries in season. If you ever happen to be in Cooper Landing, be sure to stop at Gwin's to sample the food.

Now, on to the recipes! Be well, and good eating!


Sockeye salmon, commonly called "reds" in Alaska, are the least oily of the various salmon species. This, because of the fact that they feed on plankton and krill in the ocean. Unlike other salmon, sockeye are not agressive and do not feed on other fish. However, sockeye have the highest level of health providing omega-3 fatty acids.

Gravlox is not cooked or smoked. Rather, it is a salt cured fish. The original recipe and term gravlox probably stems from Scandanavia. I prefer sockeye salmon for this recipe, but you can also use other types of salmon. Sockeye fillets are somewhat thinner than king salmon fillets, and therefore require less "soak time" than a thicker fillet.

Gravlox can be used in the same way as traditional cold smoked lox. However, as stated, gravlox requires no smoking or cooking.

  • 2 salmon fillets, about 2 to 3 lbs. each
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (coarse salt)
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • sprigs of fresh dill, about 1 oz.
  • 3 Tbsp. vodka, rice vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely ground pepper

Place one fillet skin side down in a baking dish lined with plastic wrap. Rub half the salt and brown sugar over the top, add half the ground pepper, and top with whole sprigs of dill. Sprinkle the vodka, vinegar or lemon juice on top. Rub the remaining salt, sugar and pepper on the flesh side of the second fillet and use this fillet to cover the first fillet with the skin side up. Wrap the plastic firmly around the sandwiched fillets. Cover the wrapped fillets with a board or smaller pan, and weigh down with a brick or other heavy object. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours, turning the wrapped fillets at least once half way through the process.

After 24 hours have elapsed, remove and unwrap the fillets. Discard the dill and brush the salt and sugar off both fillets using a brush. Alternately, you can rinse the salt and sugar off with cold running water, but I advise against this as the water may impart bacteria to the fish that may cause it to spoil faster. Pat dry and slice very thinly at an angle using a sharp fillet knife, leaving the skin in tact. Serve and use as you would any other type of lox with crackers, bagels, cream cheese and other condiments.

Gravlox that is properly wrapped or vacuum sealed may be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or more.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes, plus curing time

Bonus Recipe:

Smoked Alaskan Salmon Chowder

I must give credit to Gwin's Lodge in Cooper Landing for providing this recipe. This is one of their popular home made soups. I've modified the directions slightly for ease of reading and to simplify the process.
  • 1-1/2 lbs. smoked salmon (sockeye preferred), flaked
  • 10 strips raw bacon
  • 2 large onions, minced
  • 4 stalks celery, minced
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 5 green onions, finely diced
  • 6 cups fish broth (water mixed with fish base)
  • 8 red potatoes, chopped
  • 3/4 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 lemon juice
  • 1/3 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. dry dill
  • 5 cups milk
  • 1-1/2 cups corn kernels
  • 3/4 cup white wine

Chop bacon and sauté in a large pot with onions, celery, carrots, green onions and parsley for about 4 to 5 minutes over medium heat. Slowly add in 1/2 cup water and cover for 1 minute. Add spices and fish broth and simmer until carrots are tender. Add the chopped red potatoes and simmer until they too are tender.

In a separate sauce pan, mix the butter and flour over medium heat and stir to make a roux, or paste. Before adding this mixture to the pot, add a few large spoonfuls of the hot broth to the roux for thinning and to bring it to the proper temperature. Add this thinned roux to the pot with vegetables and broth. Stir thoroughly and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add milk, stir and bring to a simmer, allowing it to thicken slightly. Add white wine, lemon juice, corn and flaked Smoked Alaskan sockeye salmon. Continue simmering, stirring frequently, until the desired thickness is obtained. A little water may be added if the chowder becomes too thick.

There you have it! Try it and you will like it.

  • Yields: 8 large servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes