beach food

August 20, 2007


It was 45 degrees and raining in Anchorage, and didn’t feel much like summer was almost here. We had left work early on Friday afternoon, trying to sneak out of town ahead of the Memorial Day weekend traffic. So had everyone else, and it was a long, slow ride down the Kenai Peninsula to Homer. A “drinking village with a fishing problem,” Homer is literally the end of the road, 250 miles south of Anchorage. Every year a group of us heads down over the holiday weekend to spend the three or four days on a beach across Kachemak Bay. It started as a kayaking adventure, but with the advent of multiple kids, dogs, and expectations, the annual trip has grown into a beach party (kayaking optional) where the only requirement is that you provide your own camp chair – no poaching.

Food is important to this crowd, and everyone is teamed up to cook at least once for the whole group. It works well since you only end up cooking and cleaning up once over the long weekend, and the rest of the time can be devoted to beer, napping, and throwing horseshoes bird watching, rock climbing, and nature studies.


Our group drew the Sunday night dinner, and since the barbecued pork ribs went over pretty well last year, we decided on something similar this time around. It didn’t hurt that I had just spent 10 days in North Carolina getting reacquainted with the food I grew up with. Our beach meal this year was real cole slaw, hush puppies, baked beans, a couple of slow-cooked pork tenderloins.

Early in the afternoon I dug out a pit roughly the same size of a jacuzzi tub and set the kids to work lining it with rocks. One of the younger children noted that it was just the right size for cooking one of them. I agreed, and suggested he find his rocks more quickly. He worked well after that, but didn’t look at me for awhile. I considered asking him to lay down in it so we could check the size, but not only is his dad a much larger fellow than I, he’d been drinking for most of the day and might not have seen the humor in it. The plan was to fill the bottom of the pit with hot coals and slow roast a few large chunks of pig. In one form or another, pork is a bit of a tradition at our gatherings. This is a crowd that likes its bacon.
shrimp boil

We’ve joked for a few years about bringing along a live pig and going through with the whole process, from slaughter to butchering to roasting, but it hasn’t happened yet. A boy can dream, but shooting a fat little pig in the head might put a damper on the children’s appetites, perhaps change the tone of things a bit. These tenderloins were large, and would need awhile to cook. A good rule of thumb when slow cooking any cut of meat is too leave the fat. Resist the urge to trim it away. If the fire is too hot, the fat will just burn away and help protect the meaty goodness underneath. If the coals are right, the fat will help tenderize and flavor. Fat is your friend… I cooked the pork loins with a dry rub for seasoning, rolled them in tub of sauce, and put them back on the grill to char up.

bbq sauce
2 cups cider vinegar
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tbs ground white pepper
1/2 tbs red pepper flakes
2 tbs sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
There are two types of bbq in North Carolina – the western, or Piedmont style, and the Eastern type. This recipe is for the Lexington-style sauce: I’m a little conflicted, since I grew up in one region and was educated in the other. Mix all ingredients together and let sit at least overnight. The longer the sauce sits the hotter it will get as the heat from the red pepper is brought out. Makes just shy of 3 cups.

While we played with the food, others were out rummaging around the woods and beach, collecting appetizers. We ended up with a goodly pile of fiddleheads and a huge bucket of mussels. Andrea went after the fiddleheads with some butter and white wine, and Andy added cream to the mix for the mussels. They all quickly disappeared…

scavenged treats

The meat roasted and we took stock of the rest of what we needed to do to get twenty folks fed and happy. Most of it was ready to go – mixed or made in town and kept on ice till we were ready to feast. I wasn’t willing to risk life, limb or tummy on cole slaw that had been sitting around for a few days, so before we left Anchorage I forced 3 heads of cabbage through a Cuisinart food processor. Just as an aside, a 3-cup food processor is a handy tool for the kitchen, useful for grinding dry herbs, making bread crumbs, or perhaps emulsifying the occasional vinaigrette. It is much less appropriate to use a 3-cup food processor to cut up enough cabbage to make 10 pounds of cole slaw. Also, using chopsticks to force the larger bits of cabbage closer to the processor blades works about as well as one would expect. There were splinters, loud noises, and cursing.

cole slaw
2 heads cabbage
2 large onion
8 medium carrots
1 green pepper
1 tbs salt
1 tbs ground pepper
2 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoon sugar
2 cups mayonnaise
Mince the cabbage in a food processor, adding chunks of onion, green peppers and baby carrots. Grind until well chopped, but this ain’t a smoothie. Transfer to a large bowl. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and mayonnaise. Mix well and serve cold.

I had mixed all of the dry ingredients for the hush puppies in town as well, attempting to scale up a small recipe into one that would serve a lot of folks. The hard part is getting the consistency correct, but a little trial and error and plenty of willing tasters got us where we wanted. The night before we had enjoyed an enormous shrimp boil, and the burner was going to play double duty as a fryer. With all the tasting that needed to be done to get the recipe right, and then unofficial tasting done as the fresh-fried hushpuppies came out of the oil, there weren’t that many left when it came time to queue up for dinner. For twenty people, this recipe should be doubled.

if you don’t know what a hush puppy is, Southerners and kids probably don’t like you…

6 cups yellow corn meal
6 tbs all-purpose flour
6 tsp baking powder
3 tbs sugar
6 tsp salt
1 cup minced onions
ground black pepper
Boiling water
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups milk
oil for frying
Heat the oil in deep skillet or fryer to 375°F. Except for the baking powder, mix the dry ingredients together. Pour in enough hot water to make a thick mush. You’re shooting for a dry oatmeal-like consistency. Fold in the milk, egg and baking powder. Drop by spoonfuls into oil, and fry until golden brown. They will start to float, and knowing when to pull them from the oil may require some taste tests. Serve them screaming hot with honey butter.

good night

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 lisabeth August 21, 2007 at

welcome back jared!
sounds like a wonderful yearly adventure to homer.

2 Lydia August 21, 2007 at

Fiddleheads and barbecue — and the most beautiful setting — what could be better?

3 christine (myplateoryours) August 21, 2007 at

Welcome back. What a feast you had. If that was Memorial Day, does that mean we are still working our way to your European trip?

4 aileen August 21, 2007 at

Welcome back! It sounds wonderful – friends, pork pits, fiddleheads, and mussells. Actually, in all honesty, it sounds better than wonderful!

5 Cynthia August 21, 2007 at

Welcome back! I had to do a doubletake when I looked in my feeder and saw Alaska Cooks in bold! :)

Seems as if you all are having a blast.

6 jcockman August 22, 2007 at

Thanks, all. I’m back. AK Cooks is back. Summer in Alaska is hard time to sit inside at a computer, right Aileen? Christine, Europe post is in works. Tried to follow some of your footsteps in France, but got a little overwhelmed.

7 kristen October 10, 2007 at

Where’s the beef?

8 The Guilty Carnivore October 22, 2007 at

“others were out rummaging around the woods and beach, collecting appetizers. We ended up with a goodly pile of fiddleheads and a huge bucket of mussels”

Is Alaska such a magical place that this is just happenstance? A wonderful land of opportunity and bounty? Holy Christmas!

jared says: yes! you can pretty much wander and just snack on much of alaska. some of it needs to be killed and cooked, but there is a lot of good stuff just laying around.

9 Steve October 31, 2007 at

I spent eight years stationed in Anchorage, and always loved going down to Homer and Seward. We went on several clamming/camping trips, and always ended up with about 50 pounds more clams than we needed; cooked them up and donated them to the local soup kitchens.

jared says: it’s amazing how much food is available just for the harvesting up here. at least until it all gets buried in three feet of snow. last weekend we were still finding blueberries. course, they were frozen…

10 Jenny Crossman April 7, 2010 at

Don’t know about you but the best beach food that we have ever eaten was at a beach called, “Kutcharitaville Key West Cafe and Bar”. They serve the most fabulous beach foods that we have ever put in our tummies! Like their world famous goody goody “The World’s Greatest Cheese Burgers”. And the Greatest Fried Grouper Sandwich called “The Super Grouper”. the Best Fish Sandwich that I’ve ever eaten. Kutchie’s serves the most wonderful home fries with their sandwiches called “Beach Potatoes” simply the best fries ever! Awesome Killer Island Drinks that will knock you on your ASS. Finish up a feast at “Kutcharitaville Cafe'” with a huge slice of Kutchie’s “The World’s Greatest Key Lime Pie”. You’ve never really eaten Key Lime Pie until you have had the one that Kutchie Pelaez bakes. Thank God that Kutchie has his Grandmother’s 1920’s Secret Recipe for his World Famous Key Lime Pie!
We don’t go to NC for any other reason than to go to Kutchie’s World Famous Restaurant. ….If you like to listen to the Sounds of the Golden Oldies like , “The Four Tops”w/the King “Levi Stubbs” as well as all the other “Motown Greats” like Marven Gay, the Temptations, Jerry Butler, the Drifters, The Tams and about anyone from the 1960’s. You will even hear a lot of Island Music and a Pile of Jimmy Buffett. If you really want to “Get Down” then we highly recommend that you “Get on Down to the Island of “Kutcharitaville”. Cause that’s where It’s “All Happening Man”. Tell Kutchie Pelaez that the “Atlanta Crew” sent you.”Kutcharitaville” The Best of The Best, A Real Class Act. The Best Restaurant in The World.

…..Jenny Crossman,…..Atlanta

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