Amid the stacks of cookbooks I’ve amassed, only a handful focus on local cuisine. I have a few cookbooks authored by local chefs and the popular “Best Places” series, but still a pretty scant selection considering the vast array of foods available to us in the Northwest.
I feel proud when I can add another to the shelf, and “Lark: Cooking Wild in the Northwest” from Seattle’s Lark restaurant is no exception.
The book is divided into three singularly Northwest seasons: mist, evergreen and bounty. Author and chef John Sundstrom, who now calls the Northwest home having grown up in Salt Lake City, defines these as the distinct seasons of the Northwest. Mist embodies winter’s gray, followed by the evergreen sprouting of spring and early summer, to the bounty of summer’s end and into fall.
We’re still in mist season, which spans November through March. It’s the time of year new inhabitants dread and natives take as a matter of course. We hunker down, brave the short days with an armory of Vitamin D supplements and the promise of summer. I wondered how short the list of mist recipes would be.
Happily, not short at all. There are mussels with bacon and apple, duck leg confit, chioggia beet salad and a list of 22 other enticing dishes. I opted to make the hamachi crudo and rosti potatoes. The latter topped with cream and caviar — I figure, when better to splurge than at the end of our grayest days? I decided to finish with the hazelnut brown butter cake.
Preparing dishes that embrace the dark and rain out my window might just help me cherish these gloomier months a bit more. The pewter skies really are lovely.
While I wanted to choose dishes highlighting the gray days of the Northwest, Sundstrom takes a rare break from using locally sourced ingredients with his hamachi crudo, and it’s too tempting to ignore. Mediterranean flavors sparkle with the fattiness of this Japanese yellowtail fish, which is sliced thin and served raw.
One note: The recipe calls for fennel pollen, which has a sweeter, more intense flavor than fennel seed, and can be found online or in specialty spice shops.
½ fennel bulb
8 picholine olives
1 preserved lemon or store-bought
2 tablespoons very thinly sliced chives, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces sashimi-grade yellowtail (hamachi) loin, trimmed
1 tablespoon wild fennel pollen
1 tablespoon fleur de sel
1 tablespoon lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oil
First, prep the fennel salad ingredients. Slice the fennel very thinly by hand or using a mandoline. Slice the sides of the olives away from the pits. Quarter the lemon and remove the flesh from the rind. Discard the flesh and cut the rind into small dice.
In a bowl, mix the fennel, olives, lemon and a tablespoon of the chives. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice the yellowtail across the grain and divide it equally among four plates.
In a small bowl, mix together the wild fennel pollen and fleur de sel, and sprinkle a small amount over the yellowtail. Reserve the leftover for another use.
Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon chives over the yellowtail. Dress each plate with a drizzle of the lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oil. Mound a quarter of the fennel salad in the center of the yellowtail on each plate and serve. Makes 4 servings.
Consider these grown-up hashbrowns for dinner. With the paleo trend in full swing, you should be able to find duck fat at your local grocery. It’s worth getting, since there’s nothing quite as amazing as potatoes fried in duck fat. And the caviar? It’s a must. I opted for a local salmon caviar that didn’t break the bank and provided that briny pop.
I went for the single-pan version, but the dish took much longer in the oven to replicate the rich brown color shown in the photos. Also worth noting, I used a round sheet pan to flip the rosti.
6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup duck fat
¼ cup clabber cream
2 ounces paddlefish caviar
1 tablespoon chives, finely sliced
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place either four mini frying pans or one small cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat.
Shred the potatoes into about 1/16-inch pieces on a mandoline with a julienne attachment. Use your hands to squeeze out as much water as you can from the julienned potatoes. (This will help them brown and crisp when cooking.)
Season the potatoes generously with salt and pepper. Let the potatoes sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, then again squeeze out as much water as you can with your hands.
In a small saucepan, melt the duck fat. Drizzle about ¼ cup of the melted fat over the potatoes. Mix well to incorporate. Place about 1 tablespoon of the remaining duck fat in each mini frying pan, or the full remaining ¼ cup if using a cast-iron skillet. Divide potatoes evenly among the mini pans, or spread them all evenly in the cast-iron skillet, and place back in the oven.
Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the rostis are golden and crispy on the bottom. Flip them over and cook for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden and crispy on the other side.
Serve the rostis with a generous amount of clabber cream, caviar and a sprinkling of chives. Makes 4 servings.
Chef’s note: This recipe is best made with duck fat, but could be made with clarified butter or vegetable oil.
Hazelnut brown butter cake
A simple and sweet cake filled with toasted Oregon hazelnuts. Sundstrom serves the cake with salted caramel toffee ice cream and hazelnut brittle.
You can make the ice cream and brittle yourself (recipes are in the book), or just grab a pint of Tillamook’s Salted Caramel Hazelnut and call it good.
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
4 egg whites
1 1⁄3 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup hazelnut meal or finely ground hazelnuts
1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and cracked or roughly chopped
½ cup pitted and sliced dates, for finishing
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease six 3-inch ring molds or an 8-inch cake pan with butter. If using ring molds, place them on a parchment-lined baking tray.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it is golden brown. Cool to room temperature.Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip the egg whites in a large bowl until they reach stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, hazelnut meal, and flour. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites. Fold in the brown butter and hazelnuts.
Pour the batter into the molds. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, less if using a cake pan.
The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
To serve, unmold or slice the cake and serve with a scoop of salted caramel toffee ice cream and some hazelnut brittle. Garnish with the dates.
— Recipes reprinted with permission from Sasquatch Books from “Lark: Cooking Wild in the Northwest” by Johnathan Sundstrom.
Lark Cooking Wild in the Northwest
Publisher: Sasquatch Books
Price: $29.95, available on Amazon
Who’s should buy this? Local folks who love Northwest cuisine and creating restaurant-quality food in their own kitchens.