It's the middle of a busy day on the job and the clock says it's time for lunch, but what to eat: the box of crackers stashed in a filing cabinet or the microwaveable cup of instant noodles that has been in the breakroom since day one? The phenomenon of the "Sad Desk Lunch" is nothing new.
But here in Alaska, we hunker for a nosh anywhere our jobs may take us—whether it be at a desk, in the cab of a haul truck or the cockpit of a Cessna, in the middle of a field or bay or on our feet without a moment to spare. Here are some inspired alternatives, to prepare in advance, for a long week of work, wherever that may take you.
Fisherman's Catch: Chicken Chili
Start to finish: 40 minutes / Serves: 4
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
1 8-ounce can diced green chiles
3 cups quality chicken stock
⅔ cup heavy cream
1 medium poblano pepper
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder, mild or hot
½ teaspoon paprika, smoked or sweet
⅛-¼ teaspoons ground cayenne (to taste)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
1. In a bowl, mix cumin, coriander, oregano, chili powder, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and salt together.
2. Season chicken on both sides with spice mixture, leaving half of the spice mixture in the bowl. Set spice mixture bowl aside. Heat oven to 375 F.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown on both sides.
4. While chicken is browning, coat poblano pepper in olive oil. When chicken is browned, add poblano to skillet and transfer skillet to oven. Roast chicken for 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, flipping the pepper once.
5. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in dutch oven over medium heat. Cook onion to soften, about 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook additional 2 minutes. Add half of cannellini beans to pot, along with approximately ⅔ cup chicken stock.
6. Puree mixture, using either an immersion blender, standard blender or food processor. Return mixture to dutch oven, if necessary.
7. Add remaining cannellini beans, canned chilis, chicken stock, heavy cream and spices.
8. When chicken is cooked through and poblano is roasted—skin should be slightly blistering—remove from oven and allow to cool to the touch. When cool, cut chicken and poblano and add to dutch oven.
9. Bring chili to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes and serve. If a thicker chili is preferred, allow chili to simmer longer.
Ploughman's Lunch: Crudite and Charcuterie Platter
Start to finish: 10 minutes / Serves: 1-2
Chop and arrange your favorite Alaska grown vegetables and Alaska-cured milano salami and prosciutto. Throw in some tasty cheeses to round out the platter.
Share or don't.
Banker's Bento Box: Vegetable and Tofu Stir Fry (adapted from Marzia at Little Spice Jar)
Start to finish: 30 minutes / Serves: 3-4
1 3.1-ounce bundle dried soba noodles
1 14-ounce package firm or extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1½ tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1½ tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
2 fresh scallions
1 hard boiled egg
1. Prepare soba noodles per package instructions—typically cooking in boiling water for 4 minutes and draining before running cold water over cooked noodles. Set aside.
2. Place a paper towel folded in quarters on a plate. Remove the tofu from the package and place the tofu on top of paper towel. Place another folded paper towel on top. Place a flat surface, such as another plate or a cutting board, on top of tofu and two 28-ounce cans or anything that weighs 2-3 pounds to help remove the water from the tofu. Let the tofu drain for at least 15-20 minutes.
3. Once dry, cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and toss cubes with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
4. Combine sesame oil, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, cornstarch and water in a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. Set side.
5. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cubed tofu to the pan and let fry for 3 minutes, flipping the tofu to brown all sides. Add the prepared sauce to the tofu and allow to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. When the tofu is caramelized, remove to a plate.
6. Place noodles in bottom of dish and top with ginger-soy tofu, scallions and hard boiled egg.
Journalist's Jar: Farro Salad
Start to finish: 35 minutes / Serves: 4
1 16-ounce package farro
1 cucumber, either halved with seeds removed or an English-long variety, diced
1 9.5-ounce jar Kalamata olives, halved
1 16-ounce container cherry or heirloom tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 4-ounce container feta cheese, crumbled
1 5-ounce bunch of mixed greens, arugula or spinach
1. Cook farro according to package—typically add 1 part farro to 2 parts water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
2. Layer cucumber, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, feta and greens into mason jar or other container, adding as much of each ingredient as preferred.
3. Serve with favorite dressing, or a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
These recipes were first published in 61°North – The Food Issue. Contact the editor, Jamie Gonzales, at email@example.com