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The Winterlake Lodge Cookbook: Culinary Adventures in the Alaskan Wilderness

The Winterlake Lodge Cookbook: Culinary Adventures in the Alaskan Wilderness

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The Winterlake Lodge Cookbook: Culinary Adventures in the Alaskan Wilderness

414 página
3 horas
Oct 15, 2012


In this second edition of her acclaimed cookbook, Chef Kirsten Dixon has added new
recipes and revised some of her classics to reflect the changes in palate. She has also Ship Date : 09/15/2012
updated her commentary on the seasonal foods and events that have evolved over the
Pub Date : 10/15/2012
past few years. Nestled on a remote wilderness lake where the famous Iditarod Sled Dog
Trail passes nearby, the kitchen at The Winterlake Lodge provides elegant regional cuisine Price : $23.99 USD / $27.99 CAD
that continues to excite international clientele, as well as culinary fans around the world.
Co owner and Chef Kirsten Dixon has successfully built her reputation on the coupling of EAN: 978 0 88240 890 3
two themes: world class cuisine and America’s last wilderness frontier. Along with her Trim : 8.40 x 10.00
husband Carl, the couple welcomes visitors who arrive by small bush plane, dog team, or
snowmobile at their remote lodge in the roadless wilderness to enjoy her stylish fare and Format : Trade Paper
log cabin hospitality. Lavishly illustrated with professional photos that include some of her 224
100 sumptuously plated recipes, the majestic roaming wildlife out the door, and some of Pages :

the most impressive landscapes under the midnight sun, this cookbook is a cooking Carton Qty:
lesson, a memoir, and an invitation into this adventurous lifestyle.
Oct 15, 2012

Sobre el autor

Chef Kirsten Dixon has been cooking in the backcountry of Alaska for more than thirty years. She attended the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and earned a Master’s in gastronomy from Adelaide University in Australia. She is one of the owners of Within the Wild Adventure Company, which the Dixon family owns and operates from their Southcentral Alaskan restaurants and lodges at Winterlake Lodge, Tutka Bay Lodge, the Cooking School at Tutka Bay, the home goods boutique RusticWild, and La Baleine Café. Kirsten has been featured by the James Beard Foundation and in national and international publications including National Geographic, Fine Cooking, Forbes, Saveur, and more.

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The Winterlake Lodge Cookbook - Kirsten Dixon



Late in the evening our caretaker calls us from Winterlake. The sun is still up and we’re doing some early work in the garden behind our office in Anchorage. Everything around us, even the air, indicates summer is here.

Our caretaker has been at the lodge for nearly an entire year without leaving. He feeds our dogs and shovels the crushing amount of snow from the lodge and cabin roofs every few days. He also keeps an airstrip on the frozen lake packed down by snowmachine to allow safe landings. With the warming trend, the lake is melting and he thinks a floatplane can land safely. It’s the end of May and the season’s first guests will arrive at Winterlake in just a few days.

It’s the call we’ve been waiting for, and Carl swings into action. We assemble our Winterlake team—our chef, housekeeper, and guides. Our expeditor in Anchorage, Neil, begins to gather food supplies, and we reserve an aircraft to fly us out early in the morning. Summer has officially begun at Winterlake Lodge.

During that brief period between April and June, Winterlake Lodge is in breakup, the time each year when ice melts. The ice is too soft to land an airplane on skis but not broken up enough to land on floats. Each year, Carl and I must decide where we will live for the nearly two months of breakup. Usually, we choose to stay in Anchorage so we can hire summer staff and organize and gather supplies for the busy season.

At Winterlake, the summer light reflected from the lake covers the lodge in sparkles. Resident loons return each June, and now as we fly in, we see that they have already arrived. They greet us with trills and melodic hoots as our plane splashes down on the lake. Their calls are really a warning to stay clear of their nest site, but I like to think of their greeting as a familiar welcome. Once all our boxes and bags are unpacked and the lodge is in order, we sit on the deck and watch the loons dip and dive under the water and pop up again like fat, black corks in the sun’s twinkling path.

The mountains surrounding the lodge seem to turn new and varied shades of green every day. A waterfall flows down Wolverine Mountain behind the lodge, and with the arcing summer, the frozen icefall turns to a trickle and then to a flowing torrent tumbling into nearby Red Lake. During our Winterlake summer, we can hear the constant muffled roar of water falling.

Behind the lodge, at Red Lake, a smaller and more private lake, huge trumpeter swans live all summer until it begins to get cold in the fall when they migrate south. If we walk along the Red Lake trail and sit quietly among the wildflowers, we can watch our swans glide gracefully along the lake.

Summers at Winterlake are intense. The long daylight hours require heavy workdays. It’s the time for gardening and fishing, employees and guests returning, bears in the yard and birds in the trees. Arctic grayling in our lake rise to nab mosquitoes and other delectables caught in the surface tension of the water. Large sandhill cranes fly overhead like prehistoric birds, looking for the grassy fields beyond Rainy Pass. Beavers are busy damming up Red Lake, and river otters swim along the shore in the early mornings, patrolling. We’re all here, all in our places— the cast of characters that inhabit the Winterlake summer.

Summer in Alaska means an abundance of fresh Alaska seafood, wild berries, greens, and vegetables from the market and garden, and plenty of people to feed. It’s a time to hike to Wolverine Ridge and canoe on the lake. Its a time to listen to the hundreds of birds singing around the lodge, living in the trees, and serenading us awake each morning. There are fat red-breasted pine grosbeaks perching in high branches, tiny flitting swallows that fill the canopies of the birches and spruce trees, and big gray jays looking for discarded nuggets of dog food. We are blessed with this living chorus of birds all summer. It is especially a time to take close notice of the light in the sky early in the morning and late at night—how beautiful the colors are, and how white the clouds seem, as they float over the lake that reflects them back again, in mirror image.

We stand at the dock and say farewell to our caretaker. He does another kind of work in the summer. There’s much to do here before our first guests arrive. We anticipate them. Our first guests are as much a measure of summer as the returning birds are. We inventory our supplies, make out our menus, and chill the wine. We select the music, fluff the beds, and place small bouquets of delicate early season woodland violets on the tables. The summer stretches out before us like a delicious meal just beginning, and we’ll savor every moment of it.


The first thing we do at the beginning of a new season at Winterlake Lodge is clean the kitchen. Everything comes off the shelves and the kitchen is scrubbed in a bubbly froth of bleach and soap. I always associate that invigorating fresh smell of cleaning with early summer—blossoming birch and willow trees, sun streaming in the windows, and the anticipation of a summer garden.

Out of cupboards and onto the worktable for close scrutiny come the jars and bottles, bags and canisters—the behind-the-scenes players in our kitchen. Anything that has lost its freshness or that hasn’t found a place of importance over the past year gets replaced with new ingredients. In many locations in Asia, devotees of the Buddha dress his statues in their local temples. The Buddha has summer clothes and winter clothes. I like to prepare my kitchen in the same manner—new ingredients for each new season.

A wire shelf next to the Winterlake kitchen worktable holds bottles of oils and vinegars and a basket of treasures and delights bound for the summer salad bowl—dried dark cherries, black walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and golden raisins are some of this year’s favorites. The salad basket succumbs to fad and fashion through the seasons and the years, and on forays through gourmet markets, I look for new contributions.

Our classic kitchen oil combination for salads is a mixture of grapeseed oil and walnut oil. We prefer grapeseed oil because it is light enough to allow other flavors to shine. We use it to barely coat the tender lettuce leaves we prefer. Next into the salad bowl goes a small toss of walnut oil, which adds a nutty, rich undertone to the salad. For salad vinegar, we use a sharp white or apple cider vinegar, at least 5 or 6 percent acidity. We purchase kitchen vinegar in glass jars. Vinegars that find their way to us in plastic containers are used for cleaning windows, brightening our copper pots, or for dabbing onto the freshly laundered white napkins we have at hand to wipe plate edges clean of smudges of sauce or mislaid fingerprints.

Our kitchen offers a variety of fruit vinegars— the kind that have figs or berries added to them. A splash of fruit vinegar is often the perfect finishing touch to a summer salad creation. We have as much aged balsamic vinegar on our shelves as we can afford. I imagine that there are kitchens in Italy filled with big jugs of balsamic vinegar where it can be used with wild abandon. Perhaps the chefs there dream of kitchens filled with salmon and halibut and crab.

We are less committed to herb vinegars. Even good-quality homemade herb vinegars can taste strange to me after a short time. I prefer to use herbs fresh alongside a clean, white vinegar for a purer taste.

Early on in my career, I thought we might find an olive oil that would become signature to our kitchen. No such luck. My exploration and discovery of new and interesting oils, particularly olive oil, will take more than my lifetime. We have favorites, for sure, like the buttery Moroccan oil I am currently enamored with. We always have on hand light, fruity California or French olive oils for everyday cooking and then a few extra-virgin specialty olive oils for particular uses. We use large quantities of canola and grapeseed oil. Grapeseed oil has a high heat tolerance and is nearly tasteless, so it is versatile. Asian cuisine is frequently highlighted on our menus, so we always stock little bottles of rich, toasted sesame oil. A little butter and some sesame oil tossed into the sauté pan can transform the simplest dish into sublime fare.

Years ago, I took a back-kitchen tour of Alain Ducasse’s restaurant Le Louis XV, Monaco. Near many of the spotless stainless steel workstations sat huge burlap sacks of sel gris, the wet mineral gray salt found in nearly every working kitchen in France. Chefs just dipped into the sacks as needed. That tour, in some ways, began my expanded interest in specialty salt. Sel gris is used as a cooking salt and also as a finishing salt. It is dense, so it doesn’t absorb moisture from food it touches (like blood from meat). I have always dreamed of having a big burlap sack of Sel gris but I am content with the smaller jars I can afford to purchase. I savor the rocky chunks of the fancier fleur de Sel from France, which is harvested in much same way as Sel gris, only refined more. We use kosher salt for everyday cooking, and fleur de Sel on salads, delicate herbs, and vegetables. And we prefer Sel gris for salting foods after they have been cooked. We always take care to dash bits of salt onto a tomato in a salad or over a tender piece of fish as the finishing touch.

I fill our pepper mills with a mixture of black peppercorns, white peppercorns, and allspice berries, something that I learned from famed French chef Madeleine Kamman in her 1984 book, In Madeleine’s Kitchen. I don’t use white pepper often because I find the taste a bit hot and dusty. In my cooking, I like the look of freshly cracked pepper on meats, greens, or vegetables, and I think pepper can add a little textural contrast.

Next on the shelf are big wicker baskets that we stock with a bounty of vegetables and fruits. For cooking, we favor Braeburn and Granny Smith apples, which travel best to us in backcountry Alaska and don’t turn mealy. (By the way, a Braeburn and Granny Smith combination makes a delicious apple pie.) Navel oranges, Roma tomatoes, and romaine lettuce are also good travelers and durable early summer choices. We fill the rest of the baskets with other seasonal staples of our kitchen, such as summer squash of all kinds, other tomatoes of all types, melons, rhubarb, mushrooms, and loads of cherries.

On the pantry shelf, we always have rice—Thai jasmine, Indian basmati, and Japanese-style short-grain rice are permanent staples on both staff and guest menus. If we can’t find our favorite carnaroli rice, we substitute medium-grained California rice for risotto dishes. We use medium-grained brown rice mixed with chicken stock in a favorite risotto dish at Winterlake Lodge. We add in just-picked broccoli and other summer vegetables, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and smoked halibut—our secret ingredient.

Near the stove is a big rack with pots and pans. I use copper pans and big stainless steel pots. Necessities include good knives, whisks, peelers, stacks of clean kitchen towels that we use for everything from potholders to strainers, and sturdy wooden spoons. Otherwise, we keep the clutter in the kitchen to a minimum.

In the summer we have an abundance of commercially caught wild Alaska salmon available for our menus. Even though our valley is famous for its salmon, we purchase our salmon from a professional fishmonger in Anchorage because it is illegal for lodges to serve sport-caught fish. All five species of salmon are available to us, but we typically serve red salmon, silver salmon, and king salmon, in that order of preference. We don’t serve rainbow trout at Winterlake, because Carl is a strong believer in a catch-and-release policy for wild rainbow trout in Alaska and I don’t care for the quality or flavor of farmed rainbow trout. Since we encourage our guests to not harm rainbows, we think we shouldn’t serve them on a plate!

King crab is a big summer favorite for many Alaskans. Of all the varieties of crab, I prefer king crab because the flesh is distributed in big meaty pieces, and the shells are easy to crack and handle. It also makes a particularly nice, clear crab stock. I buy frozen king crab in 10-pound cases and I often ask our fishmonger to split the legs in half to ease the kitchen work. I’ve never bought a live king crab because they are usually processed at sea. King crab is really an Alaskan fast food. For an elegant, quick meal, you simply have to defrost a leg of king crab and serve it up with melted butter and lemon. For Winterlake barbecues, crab is served along with reindeer steaks, salmon, and other grilled fare. My favorite way to serve king crab is on a large platter, family style. We give each of our guests a big white bowl of garlicky pasta studded with peas, grilled onion, herbs, and fresh tomatoes. They can select crab legs from the platter. A glass of Sancerre, a hot buttery chunk of French bread, and dinner is served.

How to fillet a fish

These days when you buy salmon in the market, it usually is available in fillet form. Look for moist, fresh flesh that isn’t dried out, discolored, or weeping. If you have a whole fish and need to fillet it yourself, start at the head rather than at the tail. I like to put a green flat nylon scrub sponge between the fish and the cutting board to anchor the fish so it won’t slip around. Then I stand in relation to the fish so I can move a knife toward me. For big salmon, I use a long meat-slicing knife with small hollowed grooves along the blade. I cut around the gills until the knife hits the backbone. Then, holding the knife flat against the backbone, I cut toward the tail using the backbone as a guide. One quick slice and the fillet is freed from the bone. Flip the fish over and repeat.

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