Alaskan Seafood Fettuccini with Shrimp, Sea Scallops and Salmon

Freshly made fettuccine tossed in olive oil and Italian seasonings and topped with a medley of Alaskan seafood sautéed in olive oil, garlic and tarragon.

Tarragon has long been among our favorite all-around herbs for many seafood dishes, and it really shines in this simple-to-prepare entrée. Sometimes referred to as dragon’s herb or dragon’s-wort, tarragon adds a gentle sweetness that hints at anise or fennel, but is more subtle.

The basic dish evolved from a piece of advice an older gentleman – an immigrant from Italy – shared with me some years ago when he observed that in his opinion the best tasting and easiest pasta dish is made by sautéing chopped garlic in olive oil and tossing the pasta in that and nothing more. Perhaps a little basil, marjoram or oregano might be added, he allowed.

In this dish, I’ve added chopped sweet onion, tomatoes and three kinds of seafood to the olive oil and garlic. Tarragon, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper flavor the seafood. When I lived in South Carolina, I used to make this dish with white shrimp which I was able to cast a net for, and instead of salmon, I used freshly caught striped bass or pompano.

For two servings:

Pasta Ingredients

  • pasta for two people (fettuccini, angel hair or spaghetti)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp fresh
  • 1 tsp dried basil or 1 tbsp fresh
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Cook pasta according to directions.
  2. Drain pasta. Place in large bowl. Add olive oil and herbs and toss.
Seafood Ingredients
  • equal portions of wild salmon fillet (skin removed, or not), sea scallops and shrimp. Use about 1/4 pound seafood per person or slightly more.
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh, seeds removed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon or 3 tbsp fresh
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Cut salmon into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch cubes. Slice sea scallops into 3 or 4 slices. Peel and devein shrimp.
  2. In a bowl, mix together seafood, garlic, tarragon, sea salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Add olive oil to a frying pan and heat over medium-high heat.
  4. Add onions and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add remaining ingredients. Stir frequently for about 1 1/2 to 3 minutes. Avoid overcooking. (Remember: seafood will continue cooking after being removed from heat.)
  6. Serve pasta. Top with seafood medley.
  7. Add additional ground pepper, grated Parmesan, pine nuts or a sprig of fresh tarragon.

Enjoy this with a crisp, well-chilled sauvignon blanc.

Cedar Planked Sweet Alaskan Shrimp on Mushrooms

Cedar planks add fire-cooked aroma and rustic class to seafood. The planks work in ovens as well as on the grill. In making this dish, I supplemented a few Crimini caps given to me by a friend with pieces of dried oyster mushrooms.

We are convinced that one of Alaska’s best kept secrets is that it is a food-lover’s paradise. Many Alaskans harvest wild game such as moose, Sitka deer, caribou, mountain sheep and ptarmigan. Ranched reindeer, bison and elk are available as well.

The growing season may be short, but with long hours of sunshine, markets in central and southeast Alaska are typically full of locally grown produce. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cloudberries, currents and more can be found growing wild or purchased at local markets, making Alaska one of the best places on earth to get a slice of pie or a jar of jam. Meanwhile, foraging for mushrooms and edible plants, including seaweed, remains an important part of the culture up here. Not long ago, we were treated to a salad featuring young fireweed shoots, and the seaweed salads we’ve had have been delicious. While the wines we pour with this bounty are shipped up, we don’t have to go far at all to enjoy superbly crafted local beers.

But the centerpiece of Alaskan food is without a doubt seafood, starting with salmon. All five Pacific species are abundant, and they all have their place in the kitchen. Fresh halibut is a revelation on the palate, not to mention one of the most versatile fishes one can cook with. People who eat a lot of fish often find that they end up preferring various species of delicately flavored rockfish. Our own top choice is sea-run Dolly Varden – a char with pale orange flesh, a delicate flavor, and just enough fat to be self-basting. Aside from these fin fish, there are oysters, sea scallops, clams and several species of crabs, all of which benefit from Alaska’s clean, cold seas.

And, of course, there are shrimp. Known as amaebi in Japan, the shrimp of Alaska’s waters are prized for their natural sweetness. The recipe offered below has many possible variations. For example, try a shiso leaf instead of the tarragon, freshly picked chanterelles or Portabellos instead of Crimini mushrooms, or, for a lighter flavor, sea salt instead of soy sauce. Ginger, lime zest, sherry or a sprinkling of sake would add yet another dimension.

Cedar Planked Sweet Alaskan Shrimp on Mushrooms


  • cedar or alder plank, soaked for at least 2 hours
  • 12 Alaskan shrimp, peeled, deveined, butterflied, tail on, and if large enough, lightly scored
  • 12 fresh mushroom caps or 12 appropriately sized pieces of any good mushroom
  • 2 tablespoons clarified butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • freshly cracked pepper
  1. Preheat oven broiler to hot (500 °F).
  2. Heat clarified butter in frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and mushrooms. Add soy sauce, sprinkling on mushrooms and in butter, and move mushrooms around to coat with butter and soy sauce. Cook till mushrooms are just cooked, turning once.
  3. Remove mushrooms from pan and place on plank. Sprinkle each piece with dried tarragon, or add leaves of fresh tarragon. Place shrimp on mushrooms, fixing in place with toothpicks. Add freshly cracked pepper.
  4. Place plank in oven and broil for 3 – 5 minutes.

If you make more than a few of these, your guests will not have room for dinner. They are addicting. They’d be terrific prepared on a grill, too, and would pair beautifully with hot sake.

Scallop and Shrimp Chawan Mushi with Smoked Quail Eggs

Chawan mushi combines two of my favorite things: custard and an element of pleasant surprise. Although the custards served to me (mostly by my grandmother) in my youth were invariably sweet, it was love at first spoonful when I had my first taste of chawan mushi in a Tokyo restaurant. On that occasion, I would have been happy just to enjoy the small ramekin of savory soupy custard that came with my meal. But when one of those spoonfuls revealed a sweet shrimp, and another a tender boiled quail egg, I was full-blown, head-over-heals gone.

Japanese diners seem to think of chawan mushi more as a soup than a custard, and I have to admit that over time, I have come to prefer this dish fairly loosely set. In addition to fresh, grilled or smoked seafood (a bit of smoked salmon makes a nice finishing piece), fresh vegetables such as peas, butter beans, lotus root or mushrooms, or a tender piece of salty grilled chicken, beef or wild game all work well. Creative cooks may want to experiment with the basic dashi recipe or substitute chicken or beef broth. A pinch of smoked sea salt adds another dimension to this versatile dish which can be served hot to take the chill of a winter evening or refreshingly cold on a warm summer day.

Below are the directions for Scallop and Shrimp Chawan Mushi with Smoked Quail Eggs – with much appreciation to a Japanese friend who mailed us a package of smoked quail eggs, thus inspiring this dish. By the way, chawan means tea cup; mushi means steaming.

The Watercourse, a signed and numbered giclée by Whitehorse, Yukon Territory artist Nathalie Parenteau serves as the backdrop for this All-Clad poacher. With its raised tray, it’s perfect for steaming chawan mushi either in an oven or on a stove top. In the past, I’ve improvised with a large round kettle fitted with an inverted shallow wicker basket. The same kettle also works with an inverted metal strainer that happens to fit.

Jack’s Dashi


  • 2 cups water
  • sheet of dried kombu (Japanese kelp) about 4″ x 4″ (about 5 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon “Better than Bouillon Lobster Base” (or make traditional dashi with 1/4 cup dried bonito flakes)


  1. Add two cups of water and the kombu to a pan. Heat over medium heat.
  2. Just before the water boils, remove the kombu. Turn off heat and stir in the lobster base bouillon.
  3. Strain through cheese cloth or fine-mesh strainer to remove stray pieces of kombu (or bonito flakes, if those are used). The lobster bouillon base will create a slightly darker dashi than bonito flakes. In the finished chawan mushi, this will create an attractive cream color.
  4. Set aside to cool.

Scallop and Shrimp Chawan Mushi with Smoked Quail Eggs


  • 6 small ramekins, preferably with loosely fitted lids. Plastic wrap with a small puncture (to allow steam to escape) can be used to cover the ramekins if lids are not available.
  • 2 cups dashi (see recipe above)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 6 sea scallops
  • 6 sweet shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed (Alaskan shrimp are similar to the ama-ebi of Japan and are perfect for this dish)
  • 6 smoked quail eggs
  • (optional) sea salt to taste
  • (optional) 2 tablespoons good sake


  1. In a bowl, whisk eggs until smooth. Make sure dashi is cool (so it won’t cook the eggs) and stir into egg mixture. Add soy sauce (and sake, optional) and mix together, but avoid mixing so vigorously that foam is created. Taste for appropriate saltiness. If more salt is desired, use sea salt. Set mixture aside.
  2. Slice scallops depth-wise into three or four parts. Place scallops and 1 shrimp each into the ramekins.
  3. If there are bubbles or foam on the egg and dashi mixture, use a spoon to remove. The finished chawan mushi should be smooth. Cover the scallops and shrimp with the egg and dashi mixture so that ramekins are about 2/3 full. Cover each ramekin with a loosely fitting lid or punctured piece of plastic wrap.
  4. Arrange the covered ramekins in a steamer and gently steam for 12 minutes, until mixture is loosely set.
  5. Turn off heat. Place a smoked quail egg atop each chawan mushi, cover with lids again, and keep them in the steaming pan so that the custard continues to set and the egg warms through – approximately 3 – 5 additional minutes.

This dish makes a delicious appetizer, can be served as one would serve a soup, or as part of the main meal. It will keep nicely in the refrigerator for a day or two. Our village in bush Alaska is dry, so sake is not an option. But I highly recommend you include it, as it really compliments the flavors of this dish – and pairs well as a drink served with the finished chawan mushi.

Thai-Spiced Scallops

Large Alaskan scallops (from Kodiak) rolled in Thai Seasoning, pan-seared, and arranged on freshly made linguini topped with wilted spinach, sweet onion, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. We brought five pounds of frozen scallops with us to the bush this year–and are happy to have done so!

I don’t use many pre-blended spices, but a good Thai seasoning blend has long been an exception. These days I’ve been using The Spice Hunter’s Thai Seasoning, but Spice Islands Thai Seasoning is (was?) very good as well. (I’ve been unable to find it in any Anchorage grocery store.) My guess is Penzeys Bangkok Blend is at least as tasty.

A little heat, a hint of sweet, Thai blends are great for spicing up squash or pumpkin soup, stir fry, or as a rub on chicken, pork, shellfish and fish.

The above scallops are a cinch. Roll the scallops (or shrimp, or pieces of fresh fish) in Thai seasoning and set aside. After that, you need bit of olive oil heated to medium high in a frying pan, a pair of tongs to move the scallops around to sear all sides, and about about one minute total cooking time for the scallops. (Don’t overcook them–even after removed from the pan, they’ll continue to cook, and they do not need to be hot when served.)

This dish is as good an excuse as I can think of to pop the cork on one of Oregon’s exquisite Pinot Gris.