Alaska is home to the greatest fisheries in the world and smoked Alaskan salmon has to be the top shelf delicacy for locals and visitors alike. Whether you choose to smoke those kings you caught in the spring, sockeye in the summer or those feisty silver salmon in the fall, smoked salmon remains the ultimate reward to the angler’s harvest.
This recipe was inspired by my favorite dish at Humpy’s restaurant in Anchorage Alaska. For twenty years I was fortunate enough to work in Alaska and travel throughout the state and as a helicopter mechanic I chased these workhorses of Alaska to every corner of the last frontier. These travels regularly took me through Anchorage as I headed elsewhere and each time I tried to layover or at least have dinner at Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse. The first thing I ever tried was the smoked salmon and scallop pasta and it is the only dish I have ever had at Humpy’s.
It has been awhile since I was in Alaska and one day I decided to try to at least get close to Hump’s recipe and this one is so close I can hear the bar room chatter, very prominent yet welcoming, like a big get together at a friend’s house for drinks and meals. I cooked a lot at these get togethers when I was in Alaska and miss them immensely and like Humpy’s it was the highlight of the Alaskan lifestyle that I miss the most.
There are many Alaskan memories that tends to permeate the mind and for me it is friends, food, fly fishing, hunting and beer. Alaska is home to the best beer I have ever tasted and it is the Alaskan Amber by the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau Alaska. Alaskan Amber has made its way to some “lower 48” states and I occasionally see it and grab a few cases. Keep in mind, I have lived in Germany where every town has its own brew and they are good. I have also worked in the Northwest and lived in Denver, where I fly fished and frequented Boulder, Colorado back when the micro brews were getting crazy popular so I have tried many brews and Alaskan Amber is the best. This would be my recommendation, but any good dark beer will do. I’m not a wine guy so if you try this and have a wine recommendation, please let me know and I will add it to this article.
As you can tell, this recipe means a lot to me and is a trigger for many great memories I have of Alaska and all of the great times I had there. It’s funny how the memories come up in the mind, then the stories get told. Again. Then friends are contacted over the next week or two as the memories linger and the need to get in touch comes forth. Food and cooking is a powerful thing. Be sure to check out some of my stories throughout the website to get a touch of those memories within.
Smoked salmon is so flavorful that it tends to be eaten alone or with a little cream cheese and crackers. Dips are fantastic with smoked salmon as well as other stand-alone dishes used as appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. This recipe is a rich and filling recipe that screams Alaska to all that try it. The smoky flavor mixes well with the salmon pastacream sauce while the scallops balance the flavors and textures very nicely with the pasta. You can’t help but savor each bite of this delicious dish as the flavors fill your senses and conjure thoughts of adventures and all the things that make Alaska so grand.
10 large scallops, cut into fourths
16 oz. pasta
½ pound smoked salmon
¼ cup of fresh bacon bits
8 oz. sweet snap peas
6 scallions or 2 shallots
½ cup white wine
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup of the pasta water
1 tbsp. chopped dill
2 tbsps. chopped cilantro
2 tbsps. chopped parsley
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. chopped thyme
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Sprinkle of smoked paprika after plated
Start with your bacon bits. Cut five bacon strips into small pieces and simmer in a large skillet that can be used for the duration of preparing all of the ingredients. This keeps all those flavors from one step to the next. If you have kitchen shears it will make short work of cutting those bacon strips into bits. When the bacon bits are crispy set them aside on a paper towel to drain.
Cut the scallops into fourths. You can leave them whole but quartering them evenly distributes their great flavor throughout the dish. Sauté the scallops in the bacon drippings for a couple minutes. A lot of the water will cook out of the scallops this way. You can just add the scallops to the sauce, but this method really flavors the scallops and adds a bit of firmness to them to help them hold up better as they cook in the sauce. Once the scallops have simmered remove them from the skillet and set aside.
SALMON PASTA CREAM SAUCE
Add a little olive oil to your skillet along with the snap peas and chopped scallions and simmer while you mince the other ingredients and adding them with a stir. Simmer the peas, scallions, dill, thyme, cilantro, parsley, sea salt and black pepper only sweating them until they release their moisture but before caramelization. Add the wine and simmer on low heat for just a couple minutes before adding the cream. Add the heavy cream and heat up slow and easy, don’t rush it and stir frequently. Slowly stir in the Parmesan cheese, allowing it to melt as you go. Continue to stir until the Parmesan is fully incorporated and there are no lumps. Allowing the Parmesan to warm to room temperature helps it to more quickly melt and incorporate into the cream sauce.
Break the smoked salmon into small chunks and add them to the sauce along with the bacon bits and scallops.
The pasta can cook while the sauce simmers. Cook your favorite pasta until al dente or firm to the bite, then drain. You can add the pasta to your sauce or leave it on the side. If you leave it on the side add a splash of olive oil and some basil and toss. This keeps the pasta moist and creates a more appetizing presentation. If your sauce is thicker than you like, this is the time to add some of the pasta water to thin it a little.
This recipe is my favorite Alaskan dish highlighting all of the season’s adventures and great times with nature along with friends, or not, reliving them together or alone. It’s delicious either way.