Fresh Alaska fish remains available -- but it isn't cheap.
Stopping by my one of my favorite fishing spots, on the banks of the New Sagaya River, I found big, beautiful whole halibut, headed and gutted, for $10.95 a pound Tuesday. Halibut filets were $18.95 a pound. They also had meaty cod filets for $6.99 a pound and troll-caught king salmon filets for $20.95 a pound.
Since this was New Sagaya City Market, all of the above were fresh. I'm told that the right way to eat never-frozen fish is to cook it as little as possible; save brining, blackening, breading and deep-fat frying for resuscitating the packs you pull up from the depth of your freezer months after burying it there. However, the nippy weather had me thinking of turning this pristine bounty from Alaska waters into a hearty chowder, a broth so stuffed with other ingredients that you might need a knife and fork to extract it from the pot.
The recipe below is for such a chowder. It allows for a variety of fish, and I'd be tempted to toss in some Dungeness meat, the live crab also available at New Sagaya (talk about fresh) for $8.95 a pound.
But, in all honesty, well cared for frozen fish will probably work just as well. Fred Meyer has previously frozen sockeye and coho salmon at $5.99 a pound; obviously, you'd need to spend some time and energy extracting the bones before throwing the meat into the pot -- but those can be brined and smoked and picked over as a snack, so don't toss 'em out.
Freddie's also had fresh halibut cheeks for $12.99 a pound, which would make a great star ingredient in your chowder, if you can resist broiling, baking or grilling them.
Turning now to produce, the Center Market -- the only local farmer's market running now, because they're indoors in The Mall at Sears -- will be open this Wednesday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Starting in November and going through the winter, they'll be open on Wednesdays only. This week marks the start of their third consecutive indoor season, giving Alaskan craving a little lively green food during the dark months an anniversary to salute.
Look for yummy sprouts from Alaska Sprouts, delectable fungi from Northern Lights Mushrooms in Kenai, local honey (some in the comb) and the usual suspects -- potatoes, beets, carrots and so forth.
This is the last week that local apples will be available at the market. Snag a few for Halloween.
Duane Clark and Alex Davis are both bringing in lamb chop. Clark tells us he also has cuts of grass fed beef along with free range ducks and chicken. You can place orders for quarter and half beef packages with him, either at the market or online at countryhealthfoods.com.
The market is another place to look for Alaska seafood.
Everything but the kitchen sink fish chowder
3 slices bacon, cut up
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery sticks, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 ounces fresh (or 1 small can) mushrooms, (drained if canned)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup white wine
1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth
1/2 cut half-and-half
1/2 stick butter
2 1/2 cups milk
Spices: bay leaves, dill weed, cayenne pepper, paprika, celery salt, garlic powder
6 small potatoes, peeled and diced
2 pounds halibut or other fish
Salt and pepper to taste
In a 6-quart pot, cook bacon until crisp. Drain off fat; reserve 1 tablespoon. Crumble bacon and set aside. Saute onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms in bacon drippings. Add 1 tablespoon water; thicken with cornstarch. Add wine, chicken broth, half-and-half, butter and milk. Add any or all of the spices to your taste. Add 1 cup water; stir. Add potatoes and bring to a boil, cooking until potatoes are almost done. Add halibut or other fish or other seafood. You may need to add more water. Season to taste; cook at medium heat until fish is done. Serve in large bowls. Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley and bacon over chowder. Serve with fresh bread to make a meal.
Source: "Recipes to the Rescue," as found in the "Best of the Best from Alaska Cookbook," edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley (Quail Ridge Press, $19.65)
Daily News Arts and Entertainment editor Mike Dunham has gained 15 pounds in the course of researching this column for the past few weeks and is happy to report that the regular Market Fresh reporter Steve Edwards will return next Wednesday. If you have suggestions for a future Market Fresh column or a really good recipe featuring Alaska-grown vegetables, seafood or game, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By MIKE DUNHAM