Sunday, October 26, 2014

Icelandic Fish Stew

The second stop on our northern journey was the small but mighty country of Iceland.  We arrived after a long flight at 5 am and proceeded to complete a quick tour of Reykjavik before heading West. We learned that Icelanders are not morning people, which would have typically suited us just fine, but we were wide awake and hungry in the early morning hours so this bakery was a savior (and delicious).

After heading out of the capital, we stopped in the sleepy town of Borgarnes where our air BnB reservation was.  We took a sort of short power nap and then headed out for a drive around the Snaefellsness Peninsula. We got a very late (4pm) start, and after many stops to explore we found ourselves in Stykkishólmur at 9pm and found the only cafe open for some dinner. I had the traditional fish soup, and it was heavenly. What follows here is my attempt to replicate it . After finishing dinner, we took a quick jaunt up Helgafell a small 73 meter rise steeped in history and good luck. We finally made it back to Borgarnes around midnight.

Our second day started late again and we headed (against the advisement of our rental car agency) off the ring road on a search for the local brewery. The brewery idea ended with us showing up at someone's garage...but we continued past to visit Hraunfossar Lava Falls, drive up and over the foothills and on to Þingvellir, the site of much Icelandic history and also where the North American and European tectonic plates are pulling away from each other. We finished the day hiking to the hot river above Hveragerði and soaking in the mist.

The next day was spent visiting the Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls in the morning. At 2:00 pm we decided to undertake the 25km hike from Skogar to Þórsmörk over Fimmvörðuháls pass between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull ice caps. Eyjafjallajökull is the volcano that erupted in 2010 causing major air traffic disturbances.  The scenery was spectacular, however the wind and rain were brutal.  We had to make a 8:00 pm bus, or spend the night in Þórsmörk (there were some pretty expensive basic huts). We ended up making the bus with a few minutes to spare thanks to some on and off jogging on the way down. We arrived late night in Vic and found one of the last available rooms thanks to a wicked storm that was raging.

Our final full day was spent visiting Jökulsárlón the iceberg lagoon and a quick walk on the black sand beaches at Vic.  We returned to Reykjavik for a night in the city before taking off to Trondheim in the morning.

Icelandic Fish Soup
barely adapted from Manger
  • 5 tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 small onion – finely sliced
  • 1/2 leek – finely sliced
  • 3 tomatoes – chopped into very small pieces
  • 2 small stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 1.5 liters chicken or vegetable stock/ 6 cups
  • 50 ml/ 1/4 cup cream (you can add up to a cup or less if you wish, or none)
  • 100 ml/ 1/2 cup sherry or port or Noilly Prat
  • 3 tbsp tomato concentrate
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads (optional)
  • 3-4 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 160 ml/ 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 325 g  / 3/4 pound small shrimps (without shells)
  • 500 g/ 1 pound mixed nordic fish – salmon, haddock, plaice, halibut – cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I found this to need quite a bit of salt)
  1. Melt 3 tbsp butter in a large pot, add all the vegetables (except the tomatoes) and cook for 10 minutes until tender. 
  2. Add sherry/noilly prat/port and white wine and reduce for 4 minutes. 
  3. Add the stock, tomato concentrate, saffron and vinegar. Boil for 15-20 minutes. 
  4. Add the fish, shrimps and chopped tomatoes, bring to a soft boil and simmer for 5 minutes. 
  5. Add cream and final 2 tablespoons butter and stir. It is important not to make the soup boil again (as the cream might ‘break’/curdle).
  6. Serve with some warm bread and butter on the side.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Alaskan Summer: Nancy's Broiled Salmon Fillets

When the sun shines, Alaska is an amazing place.  We started a month-long Northern tour with a six-day stop in Alaska this July.  We met my parents in Anchorage and proceeded to the Kenai peninsula.  Our first stop was the Taylor Fish Camp, where our family friend Nancy runs a set-net fishing operation.  We wandered the beach, watched the coming and going of fishing boats, and enjoyed endless sunshine.

the cook shack:

woodfire pizza oven on the beach:

Then we headed further south to Homer, where we met up with Megan, Katie, and Grant.  We had a lovely evening in Homer (return to the Mermaid Cafe, now called Little Mermaid), and then caught a ride with Bob and Barbara across Kachemak Bay to the Humpy Point Yurt.  We spent 2 nights yurt-ing, fishing, hiking to the Grengwik glacier and enjoying each other's company.

yurt life:

Our last nights in AK were spent back at the fish camp, eating the day's catch.  We ate plenty of good food in Alaska, but I thought I would share Nancy's preferred technique for salmon.  You can see pictures from our winter trip to AK in 2013 and my typical salmon cooking method here.

dinner with the crew:

Nancy cooks for the crew and along with a genius invention of lime popsicles dipped in tequila, we were treated to wood-fired pizza, curry, and this meal of freshly caught salmon.

When I asked Nancy what she put on the fish, her response was "salad dressing," meaning oil, acid, salt, pepper and a little bit of spice.

Nancy's Broiled Salmon Fillets

  • 1-2 large Salmon Fillets (depending on how big your "crew" is, about 3-4 oz/person)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2  teaspoon or more chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • sea salt

  1. Pre-heat broiler to high and oven to 350.
  2. Whisk together oil and lemon juice and pour over fillets
  3. Sprinkle spices over top and rub in with your fingers
  4. Place under broiler and broil until medium or the flesh just pulls apart along the natural separation with a fork, about 5 minutes for medium thickness
  5. If the top gets too dark, transfer the fish to the oven and finish.