The chefs arrive in my hometown of Juneau, the capitol of Alaska. They’re met by Padma and Sean Brock for the Quickfire. They have to highlight Alaskan King Crab. Sean says he flew 13 hours to get there. That sounds about right if he came from Charleston.

Lizzie is making a king crab frittata. That sounds good. Brooke’s making crab toast, and is using Dungeness crab in a compound butter, unless she eats it all first. Josh is going to make a king crab succotash, since Sean is from the South and succotash is a Southern thing, then he says he’s going to put bacon in it. I think the bacon will overpower the crab.

Sheldon’s pushing his creativity by using the Dungeness innards to make a miso soup. Ohh-kay. He says he’s serving it with pine-smoked asparagus tips. That’s interesting, since he’s using fresh branches. Without touching, I can’t tell for sure, but I’m fairly confident they might actually be spruce. He sniffs them, but the best way to tell the difference is in how the needles are attached to the branches and whether or not they “give” a little when you run your hand along them. Not a lot of people know that; in fact, I only know it because I was shown the difference one summer on a nature walk at the Mendenhall Glacier. This will be important later.

Lizzie presents her crab frittata with cherry tomatoes, garlic oil, and fried capers. Padma asks her if she soaked the capers and Lizzie says she drained them. That means they’re going to be rather briny.  Sheldon’s next. His dish appears on the chyron as King crab, Dungeness crab “miso”, pine-smoked asparagus and charred corn.  Brooke has King crab, sweet corn and leek salad on toast with Dungeness crab butter.  Josh butter poached his King crab legs with paprika and is serving it with succotash and bacon.

Sean tells Lizzie he liked the idea but it was a little over-cooked and there were too many capers. Josh’s attempt to succotash up to Sean failed, since Sean is a “succotash snob”. He thought the bacon was unnecessary and agrees with me that it covered up the crab.  Sheldon’s dish was simple, interesting, and highlighted the crab.  Sean tells Brooke he didn’t want to like her dish because it was so easy, but it was delicious. Of the two of them, Sheldon wins.

For the elimination challenge, they have to use salmon and sourdough to feed some locals, which Padma equates to feeding succotash to a Southerner. She’s not wrong. She tells them they’ll be getting their salmon at the dock the next day and their sourdough starter is waiting at the B&B where they’ll be staying, the Jorgenson house. (As opposed to the Jorgensen house, which is in Portland.) I guess they’ll be baking bread tonight! Tomorrow, they’ll be cooking for 200 Juneauites at the Gold Creek Salmon Bake.

As they check out the B&B, Sheldon hides in a closet, which has been curtained off, and manages to almost literally scare the pants off Brooke. They save the kitchen for last, since they know they have to get right to work. They find their starter. It’s about 31 years old, which is fairly young for sourdough starter, as Josh explains. They taste it and agree that it’s sour.

Sheldon’s putting green tea and chives in his. That’s an odd combination. I can tell he’s using a Magic Bullet cup to chop the chives. I love those things! Josh is making two batches, one traditional and one with black olives.  It looks like he’s using kalamata olives. I hope so, because otherwise I don’t think it’d be a good combination, but the brine of the kalamatas should work well against the tang of the sourdough. He says he’s going to put the traditional bread in his soup and use the other as croutons. Salmon soup? I don’t know about that.

Lizzie’s planning on making individually hand-rolled rolls stuffed with salmon. That does’t sound good. If it was true smoked salmon in a spread, maybe, but I don’t think they’ll have time to smoke it the way most Alaskans consider salmon smoked. Throughout their conversations, I’ve been trying to figure out who’s baked and/or made sourdough bread before, and who hasn’t. I’m really not sure. It turns out they’re just proofing the dough tonight and will bake it the next day. Good idea.

The next morning, Josh gets to talk to his wife because she’s due to have the baby at any moment; in fact, he later tells Tom she’s actually two or three days past due.  They go down to the docks to meet the boat bringing them their catch, which is about as fresh as you can get it without going out on the boat yourself. They’re dressed head to toe in rain gear because, as usual, it’s raining in Juneau. The Pacific Horizon has brought them four of the five varieties of Pacific salmon: chum, coho, king, and sockeye. This is further confirmation for me that it’s past August, as pinks are usually all spawned out by then. In case you’re wondering about silvers, chinooks, and humpies, well, those are actually coho, kings, and pink. Chum are also referred to as dog salmon. Combine that with the fact that chum is commonly what fish guts, etc. used for bait is called, and maybe you’ll understand why the locals were surprised that Sheldon actually served it to them.  Besides the chum, which he plans to smoke and serve with a pea soup, he has sockeye, aka red, salmon. He’s planning on using the same method he used on the asparagus tips yesterday.

The chefs get to cleaning and filleting. They get to talk about their experience doing this and we find out some more about Lizzie’s dad. Once they get out to the salmon bake (and it’s a ways out of town, up in the mountains), they have three hours to prep and cook. Josh wants to get more of the sourdough flavor in his soup. I think he’s putting starter in it.  Sheldon says the base of his pea soup will be a seafood broth, and that he’s never made pea soup before. Brooke’s making a poached sockeye salmon with seafood sauce, a mustard seed caviar and grilled dill sourdough. That’s a good combination; dill is a good seasoning for salmon and will also blend well with the sourdough. Lizzie’s making a citrus and beet glaze for her grilled sockeye, which she’ll serve on the rolls with a poppy seed butter.

They’re all thrilled to be working with such fresh fish. Josh explains to Tom that his soup is roasted garlic and sourdough with steamed salmon and a ragout of beans and clams. Tom asks about his wife, and it sounds like she’s actually finally started labor. When he gets to Sheldon and Sheldon tells him what he’s making, Tom has to laugh because it’s exactly what he was craving the day before.  Lizzie describes her dish and Tom likes that she’s doing rolls. He’s concerned that Brooke’s planning on poaching her salmon to order. The only way I know to poach fish takes over half-an-hour, so I don’t know if that’s going to work well or not, but she’s too far along to change. All of a sudden, Sheldon’s running around like a madman trying to grill/smoke his salmon and bake his bread, and then time’s up.

The smell of all that fish drew a mother black bear and three cubs to the area, and we see some shots of them in the trees nearby. I hope all the noise scared them off again. They’ll walk right up to the food otherwise.

Hugh and Emeril join Sean, Gail, Tom, and Padma. Brooke’s up first. They like her dish. Sheldon’s 2nd. Padma doesn’t like his bread, and Gail’s salmon was raw on the inside and charred on the outside. The locals ding him for using chum, which Padma tells him at judges table they usually feed to their dogs.

During the interstitial, Emeril tells how his head chef rescued the “mother” sourdough starter from their restaurant just before Katrina hit and kept it with him and fed during the evacuation and the three months it took them to reopen. That’s dedication to your job.

The judges like that Josh was being creative, but Tom’s not sure the soup goes with the salmon. He has a problem with putting strong flavors together with mild ones, and then being surprised when the mild ones get overpowered, doesn’t he? The judges like the crust Lizzie got on her sliders, but don’t understand why she used a glaze on her salmon after it was cooked instead of a marinade before. They go talk to the locals to get some opinions. One guy actually says he doesn’t understand why the locals don’t cook with chum; he thinks it’s just fine. Cheechako.

Judges’ table.  They ask Lizzie if she tasted her slider, and she says she tasted the components. They explain why she should’ve tasted it all together; there wasn’t enough seasoning on the salmon for the amount of bread. I’m not sure what she could’ve done to improve it at that point, though. Padma tells Sheldon the aforementioned chum thing, but adds that they liked his, although the judges found it bitter. To my mind, that confirms he was using spruce, but really, any resinous wood is going to make raw meat bitter; it gives off way too much creosote and soot. It’s just that I know from living there that the closest evergreen to you is more likely to be a spruce than a pine. Spruce are the ones that look like the traditional Christmas tree; pines are more sparse, and from most of the camera shots I saw lots and lots of Sitka Spruce.

Gail likes Brooke’s broth and Sean loved her bread.  Emeril loved Josh’s soup, and Hugh liked the salmon, but they agree with Tom that the soup overpowered the salmon.  Brooke wins! I think Lizzie’s in trouble; it looks like it’s between her and Sheldon. Aaand, it’s Lizzie. Next week (OK, this past Wednesday as I type this), they’re going for a dogsled ride and cooking on top of the Mendenhall Glacier. I’m looking forward to that; it has seriously receded since I worked there.  Then they’re cooking for Governor Parnell.

Last Chance Kitchen. Lizzie’s not surprised to be facing Kristen. Tom says there’ll be one more LCK after this. Today, they can only cook using a campfire. Kristen says she’s only done that with s’mores. And hot dogs, she adds after a pause. They don’t even have any equipment, just grates over the fires. Lizzie grabs the salmon and is making fish stew. Kristen grabs the cod, leaving the bright orange Irish Lord by it’s fugly lonesome. Don’t blame them. That’s what the bait type chum is made from.

Kristen’s making an Asian-themed soup to show she can do more cuisines. She’s happy to discover the grate over the cookfire swivels so that you can somewhat control the amount of heat you’re working with. Of course, it starts to rain.  Lizzie’s using fennel and leek with hers, Kristen’s using fennel, corn, chilis, and coconut milk. When Tom tastes them, he has some more of Lizzie’s and Kristen and I are both worried. I’m mostly worried because I put off watching this for so long that I think the voting period to save her if needed might be over. Luckily, it appears the producers want her back as much as I do, so she wins.

Nina Lisa

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