How I Cook Alaska
Michael Dinneen/Alaska magazine
Chef Reuben Gerber now helms Crow’s Nest restaurant in Anchorage.
Where does a cyclist and entrepreneur-turned-chef go after working in fine-dining restaurants in California? Alaska, of course. Reuben Gerber sharpened his knives in five-star restaurants along the West Coast but came to the Last Frontier out of love for sustainable seafood, clean air and water, and a passion for the outdoors. Like most chefs, his love of food was instilled early on. Later, after studying organic farming in Israel, Reuben honed his techniques with a classical culinary education in California, France and Italy, earning an award of excellence from the Italian Culinary Institute. After invigorating Girdwood’s dining scene at Jack Sprat, Reuben now helms the kitchen at Crow’s Nest in Anchorage, with an updated menu he launched in May.
What are you most looking forward to about summer cooking?
Summer offers such great variety. I love the Anchorage farmers markets and the abundance of wonderful vegetables. Alaska has the finest sustainable seafood in the world and in summer it’s at its peak. I really enjoy foraging for indigenous ingredients—from sea asparagus to porcini and fiddlehead ferns. And who doesn’t look forward to barbecuing under the midnight sun?
Three ingredients I always have on hand...
Extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt and passion—not necessarily in that order.
Big mileage days in the Chugach. Packrafting, backpacking, fishing, trail running. I’ve got the best backyard in the world. That’s what brought me here.
Favorite food destination?
My favorite food destination is my kitchen table. A bottle of wine, dinner with my wife, and I couldn’t be happier.
Go-to comfort food?
PBJ. When I was a little boy, I used to ask for pickles and Fritos inside. It has it all: sweet, savory, salty, acidic, crunch. Don’t worry, this won’t be on the menu.
Farro, also known as emmer wheat, is an ancient Italian grain with a delicious, nutty flavor. If you can’t find farro, substitute pearl barley.
» 1 ½ pounds fresh Alaska halibut, cut into four portions
» 10 ounces unsalted butter cut into medium dice, divided
» 2 finely diced shallots, divided
» 1 cup farro
» 2 cups dry white wine, divided
» 2 ½ cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
» 10 green peppercorns
» 8 sprigs fresh thyme
» 2 ounces heavy cream
» 1 ½ tablespoons capers, drained
» Canola oil
» Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pat halibut fillets dry, set aside. Heat 2 ounces of butter in a medium pan over low heat; add shallot and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add farro and toast, stirring occasionally. Deglaze with 1 cup wine. Turn heat to medium, cook off, about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock. Simmer over medium-low heat until farro is cooked through but still al dente.
In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine remaining cup white wine, remaining shallot, peppercorns and thyme over medium heat. Simmer and let wine reduce by half, until it becomes syrupy. Lower heat as wine reduces. Add cream. Once cream bubbles, remove pan from heat and whisk in remaining butter, one dice at a time. Once the butter is incorporated, strain sauce through a fine mesh sieve. Add capers and season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
Preheat a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season halibut with salt and pepper on both sides. Add a splash of canola oil to your pan and place halibut presentation side down in the pan. Sear fish until golden, about 4 minutes. Turn fish gently and place pan in oven for 4 minutes or until fish is cooked to desired doneness. Be careful not to overcook.
Divide farro among four plates. Place halibut over farro and drizzle sauce over fish. Serve with sautéed Tuscan kale or Swiss chard.
Kim Sunée is the author of the bestselling memoir, Trail of Crumbs, and worked previously as a food editor for Southern Living magazine. Her work has appeared in Food and Wine, US Air Magazine, and The Oxford American. She is now based in Anchorage. Visit her website at www.kimsunee.com.