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Bounty on Board

by James O. Fraioli
Photography by Charity Burggraaf and Tucker + Hossler
Photography by Charity Burggraaf and Tucker + Hossler

By James O. Fraioli /Photography by Charity Burggraaf and Tucker + Hossler

April is here, and that means it’s time to showcase a delectable array of ocean flavors at your next gathering.

With a variety of Pacific Northwest seafood available at local grocery stores and markets, get ready to fill your spring platters and boards with an impressive collection of mouthwatering bites that capture the essence of our region’s coastal bounty while celebrating its rich culinary heritage. The following recipes are courtesy of Fremont Mischief Distillery and Chef John Wahlke’s cookbook: Spirited Cooking from the Pacific Northwest, and Rich Komen’s forthcoming Five-Star Comfort Food: Inspirational Recipes for the Home Cook. For good measure, I’m throwing in a fun cocktail that pairs well with this month’s seafood spread, thanks to Sammy Hagar’s Cocktail Hits.

Let’s begin adorning the platter or “seacuterie” board with a staple that’s a must for any seafood lover, and that’s glistening slices of Gin-Cured Sockeye Salmon. Sockeye is preferred due to its low level of fat compared to Chinook (king) salmon. It’s also more flavorful than coho (silver), chum (dog or Keta), or steelhead trout. When shopping for this recipe, select fresh, wild salmon that has been lightly handled and properly stored (below 40°F) prior to sale. The seacuterie board, incidentally, is a riff on the charcuterie board, which originated in France. Today, such boards are extremely popular due to their versatility and aesthetic appeal. The board offers a harmonious balance of flavors, textures, and colors. Beyond their culinary delight, seacuterie boards foster conviviality while encouraging sharing and conversation among friends and family at any gathering or event.

The next delicious bite to add is succulent Dungeness crab from our local waters. The Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Dip and Dungeness Crab & Sourdough Toast Points with a side of Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho offers you and your guests two mouthwatering crab choices. When preparing the crab dip, the common mistakes cooks make is adding too much crabmeat or using a mayonnaise not made with egg yolks. Eggs are essential to this recipe because the crab and mayonnaise unite to form a savory custard-like spread when baked. Adding additional crab or other ingredients will alter the egg-to-ingredient ratio, resulting in an oily disappointment.  

For a taste of our ocean’s briny essence, make sure to include a smattering of crisp Bull Kelp Pickles, made from the forests of fresh bull kelp that thrive in our area. These coastal pickles are a nice and crunchy alternative to the garden cucumber. Speaking of pickling, the addition of Pickled Halibut will perk up any seacuterie lineup. When making at home, be sure to cut the halibut in 1-inch pieces. The chunks should be slightly larger than bite-sized so the fish can maintain its cellular structure when pickled. For the pickling method, simply pour the cooled brine over the top of the fish, seal the jars by hand, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Continuing to pay tribute to our region’s commitment to fresh, local seafood, don’t forget to round out the presentation with a display of pre-steamed marinated Mussels on the Half Shell. When shopping for mussels, look for unbroken shells that are glossy and rich in color. The mussels should have a clean and salty scent reminiscent of seawater. When you get the mussels home, rinse them under cold water, lightly brush to remove any sand or grit, and remove the hairy beards that stick out of the shells. Here’s how you do it: Gently hold the mussel in one hand and grab the beard with the other. The beard is the stringy mass attached to the side of the mussel. Pull the beard towards the bottom of the mussel where the clasp is. These beards tend to be stubborn, so pull firmly. You won’t crack open the shell. Once removed, discard the beards and the mussels are ready to go.

Of course, you can’t serve a seafood smorgasbord without a crisp, lip-smacking libation. A riff on the strawberry margarita, the refreshing Strawberita welcomes the holy trinity of tequila, fresh lime juice, and orange liqueur. Be sure to shake, don’t blend, and then add the strawberry syrup, simple syrup, and sliced fresh berries.

And there you have it. A seafood seacuterie bonanza—Pacific Northwest-style.

Salmon Photo
Photography by Charity Burggraaf and Tucker + Hossler

Gin-Cured Sockeye Salmon

Serves 10 (2 ounces per serving)

½ cup Gin Botanicals, see below
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ cups salt
2 pounds fresh sockeye salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed
Handful of fresh mint leaves (6 to 10)

Gin Botanicals:

3 tablespoons juniper berries
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon dried lemon zest
½ cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chamomile
3 cardamom pods, broken
¼ teaspoon fennel
3 black peppercorns

Place all ingredients for Gin Botanicals in a blender, grinder, or food processor. Give it a couple of pulses just to crack the spices, but do not grind them. Transfer to a bowl along with the salt and sugar. Mix well to combine. Next, lay out a sheet of aluminum foil about three times the size of the fillet. Sprinkle half the curing mixture evenly on the wrap. Place the salmon fillet skin-side down on the cure. Add the mint leaves across the fillet, then evenly cover the exposed flesh with a generous amount of the curing mixture. Wrap the fillet in foil and place on a baking sheet. Now place a second baking sheet on top of the fillet and hold it down to apply a light weight to the fillet. A couple soup cans work great for this. Transfer to refrigerator and keep in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Remove the salmon from the refrigerator, rinse, and pat dry. Repeat the process (cure, foil, refrigerate for 24 hours) using new foil. You will repeat the process every 24 hours for 3 to 4 days depending on the size and width of your salmon fillet. The goal here is for the flesh to become slightly translucent and firm. The edges may be a bit saltier than the thicker middle part of the fillet. This is normal. To serve, slice as thin as possible (works well if the fillet is slightly frozen). Store any unused salmon in the refrigerator (wrapped in plastic wrap) for up to 1 week. You can also portion and freeze the salmon in airtight freezer-safe bags for up to 1 month.

Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Dip

Makes 2 cups

½ cup fresh Dungeness crabmeat, drained
½ cup artichoke hearts (unmarinated) coarsely chopped into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
¼ cup yellow onion, peeled, cut into quarter sections, then sliced paper thin
1 cup Best Foods Mayonnaise
Italian flatleaf parsley and lemon slice, for garnish

Add the Dungeness crab, artichoke hearts, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, yellow onion, and mayonnaise to a medium bowl. Mix well until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until needed.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Before serving, add the desired amount of crab mixture to a heatproof ramekin and place in the oven until an internal temperature of 140°F is achieved, or the mixture is browned on top and bubbling.

Remove from oven and top with fresh parsley and a lemon slice. Serve with warm, sliced French bread.

Dungeness Crab & Sourdough Toast Points with Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Serves 4

1 loaf fresh sourdough bread
4 teaspoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1½ ounces picked fresh Dungeness crab meat
1 small heirloom tomato, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon fresh chives
¼ lemon, zested

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, recipe follows, optional

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut the sourdough bread into large triangles and remove the crust. Drizzle evenly with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 6 minutes.

Note: You can toast for shorter or longer depending on your preference of crunchiness. Let cool to room temperature.

Add the Dungeness crab, tomatoes, chives, and lemon zest to a mixing bowl. Gently toss to combine. Spoon on top of the toast points and serve with a side of Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, if desired.

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Serves 4 (5 to 6 ounces per serving)

2 pounds multicolored heirloom tomatoes, quartered
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Basil Oil, as needed, recipe follows

Place the quartered tomatoes in a shallow pan and salt them generously. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. In a kitchen blender, add the tomatoes in four batches and purée on high. Add the pepper, vinegar, and olive oil. Continue to blend until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt. To serve, ladle some of the gazpacho into a small bowl and drizzle a little basil oil on top.

Basil Oil

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 fresh basil leaves
¼ teaspoon salt

Add the oil, basil, and salt to a blender, and blend well. Pass the contents through a coffee filter to strain. Keep the basil oil in the refrigerator in an airtight container until ready to use for up to 5 days.

Bull Kelp Pickles

Makes 3 cups of pickles

3 cups fresh bull kelp stipe, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
¼ teaspoons red pepper flakes
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon dill seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 cups white distilled vinegar
¾ cup water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
¼ cup granulated sugar

Place the sliced kelp rounds into a glass jar. Add the pepper flakes, garlic, mustard seeds, dill seeds, and coriander seeds. Add the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a small pot over high heat. Bring to a boil while stirring occasionally until the ingredients are dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour the hot brine into the jars until the kelp is completely covered. Seal the jars and store in the refrigerator for 3 days. The jars will keep refrigerated up to 4 months.

Pickled Halibut

Makes 1 (2-quart) jar

1 quart water
1 cup kosher salt
2 pounds fresh halibut fillet, skinned and cut into 1-inch pieces

Pickling & Spices

1 cup water
¾ cup distilled white vinegar
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, divided
6 garlic cloves, peeled, divided
3 bay leaves, divided
4 slices peeled fresh ginger
2 fresh thyme sprigs
½ yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and thin
2 fresh lemon slices

Add 1 quart of water to a small pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the salt, remove the pot from the heat and allow the salt to completely dissolve. Then place the brine in the refrigerator to cool completely. When cool, add the halibut cubes, cover, and return to the refrigerator for 12 hours. Remove the halibut from the brine and rinse and pat dry the pieces; set aside. Add the 1 cup of water, vinegars, mustard seeds, 1 tablespoon of the black peppercorn, 3 garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, and the ginger to a saucepot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the halibut. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and refrigerate until cooled completely. Sterilize 2 glass quart jars (or 4 smaller pint jars). Add the remaining garlic cloves, thyme sprig, and the 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns. Note: Divide evenly if using multiple jars. Carefully remove the halibut from the pickling brine and place in the jar(s), layering with the onions, fennel, carrots, and lemon slices. Finish with the remaining bay leaf. Next, strain the pickling brine to remove any corns or unwanted debris. Pour over the top of the fish until it is fully submerged, and the liquid reaches the top of the jars, almost overflowing. Seal the jars and refrigerate for up to 5 weeks. Serve with crackers, bread, on a salad, or by itself straight out of the jar.

Mussels on the Half Shell

Serves 6 to 8

1¼ cups dry white wine
1½ pounds (about 30 to 35) live mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 hard-boiled egg, halved and pushed through a medium mesh sieve
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons small capers, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh Italian flatleaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chervil
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Add the wine to a heavy (5- to 6-quart) pot over medium-high heat. When the wine begins to bubble, add the mussels, and cover the pot with a lid. Allow the mussels to open. As soon as they open, remove, and transfer them to a shallow baking dish to cool. Keep checking the pot for opened mussels. Discard any closed mussels after 8 minutes. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, carefully detach the meat and discard half of the shell. Set aside. In a small bowl, add the minced egg, vinegar, onion, capers, mustard, parsley, chives, and chervil. Whisk well to combine, then slowly add the olive oil while whisking until fully combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the mussels to the marinade and gently toss to coat. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours to chill. Remove the mussels and arrange one mussel in each reserved shell and transfer to a serving platter. Spoon a little of the chilled marinade over the top of each mussel and serve.


Serves 1

1½ ounces tequila
2 ounces fresh lime juice
1 ounce Cointreau (or triple sec)
1 ounce strawberry syrup
1 ounce simple syrup
3 freshly sliced strawberries

Fresh strawberries and lime wheel for garnish

Add the tequila, lime juice, triple sec, strawberry syrup, simple syrup, and sliced strawberries to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a rocks glass or brandy snifter filled with ice. Garnish with fresh strawberries and a lime wheel.

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