Easygoing Grill Night
Guests expected: 6
“Having access to wild Alaskan salmon is amazing,” says best-selling cookbook author Kim Sunée, who moved to Anchorage seven years ago. She loves to serve salmon as an entire glorious fillet, with rice, lettuce, cilantro, and a crunchy topping like bean sprouts or cucumbers, so people can have them as sides or use them to make their own ssam (Korean-style wraps). “It’s pretty, fresh, and great for those who aren’t eating gluten. And because they make their own bites, it’s more convivial.”
But it all starts with the salmon. Right before fishing season begins in Anchorage, the locals clean out their freezers and give away armfuls of last season’s still-top-quality fish. “I’m always happy to take it. And I’m always looking for new ways to cook it,” says Sunée. That extends to freshly caught salmon too: She sears thick slices and seasons them with lemon, smoked salt, and good olive oil. Or tops them with jalapeño, lime, mint, parsley, and toasted pistachios. And, she adds, “Leftovers are excellent in breakfast tacos and midnight pastas, chowders, salads, and dips!”
This twist, flavored with the mellow Korean-style fermented red chile paste called gochujang, gives the fish an alluring spicy-sweet depth. It’s based on a recipe in Sunée’s most recent book, Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks, written with Seung Hee Lee.
Dinner and a Show
Guests expected: 10
It’s a street-festival favorite: enormous pans of paella bubbling over open-air burners, drawing a crowd. Scott Ketterman of Portland’s Crown Paella, who’s created these delicious spectacles for up to 700 people, says that’s the whole point of paella. “It’s a communal dish that brings people together. In Valencia, where it’s from, it’s the traditional Sunday family meal.” For parties, he says, paella is a host’s dream. “You do most of the work beforehand, and then you just stand at the fire adding things to the pan, sipping wine and creating this amazingly impressive dish. People love to watch it cook.” Terrific as a main course, this vegetarian version is also good as a side for grilled fish or pork tenderloins.
To make it, you’ll need a sturdy 17- to 18-in. paella pan like the polished steel one from Hot Paella (from $36; hotpaella.com).
Recipe: Grilled Vegetable Paella
A Fragrant Feast
When cookbook editor Leslie Jonath was thinking about contributors to tap for her big-batch book, Feed Your People, she knew she had
to include James Syhabout. The creator of the Bay Area’s Hawker Fare, Hawking Bird, and Commis restaurants, he grew up among Isan Thai, Laotian, and Cambodian immigrants in Oakland. Squeezed into subsidized housing, the tenants held epic parties. “Dinners floated from apartment to apartment,” writes Syhabout in his own recent cookbook, Hawker Fare. “The messy prep would be all spread out on last week’s free newspapers, in colorful plastic or enamel bowls and plates. The women cooked without recipes, using only their eyes, their tongues, and their hands, which always remembered.”
Syhabout recalls how his mother used to make phat garlee peek gai (curried chicken wings) when he was a kid, with just the tips of the wings, since they were cheap and delicious. For this version, he uses widely available upper wing parts instead, but the intensely aromatic (rather than hot) seasonings are the same. If you want it scorching, bite into the sauce’s whole arbol chiles, or throw dried Thai chiles into the curry paste. Either way, you’ll want to have two or three 6- to 8-qt. pots and a roasting pan on hand to make it all happen.
Rock the Block Party
Guests expected: 50
This tangy, exuberant salad comes together quickly, considering the size of the recipe. Created by Brad Cecchi, chef and owner of Canon, a seasonally driven restaurant in Sacramento, it brings in flavors from all over the globe and blends them with top-quality local produce. “We try to find ingredients that are super powerful, that leave a longer-lasting finish and flavor profile,” he says. For instance, the ranch dressing is hopped up with earthy-sweet black garlic, a Korean specialty, before it’s tossed with crunchy napa cabbage. Nectarines and shallots, pickled with tamarind, are layered over the cabbage, and the whole thing is finished with a shower of cilantro and Thai basil. “This salad is great because it doesn’t need to be hot or ice-cold and won’t wilt,” he says. “It’s not your typical party fare—it’ll make you look cool. And it’s beautiful.”
The ideal companion, he suggests, would be grilled or smoked whole chickens, baby back ribs, or beef tri-tips. And make sure you have enough platters—about six should do—for serving.
Recipe: Summer Nectarine and Herb Salad
A Spanish Fiesta
Guests expected: 75
Nicolasa Chávez knows more about gazpacho—the chilled Spanish soup of puréed raw vegetables—than most people. As curator of Latino, Hispano, and Spanish Colonial Collections at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, she organized an entire exhibit on the history of New World cuisine. Adept at digging deep into recipes, she can trace gazpacho to Roman times, but mainly she just loves the dish. “It’s simple, nutritious, and all-around delicious. If you add protein, you have a meal.” Her grandfather introduced her to it long ago in Seville, and now it reminds her of him and of their family’s Spanish roots.
Chávez, an excellent home cook whose ancestors settled in Sante Fe in 1603, has tinkered with the typical gazpacho recipe, sautéeing the garlic and onions to mellow them—and using red bell pepper rather than green because she prefers its flavor. “Be sure to strain the soup for a smooth, silky, creamy feel,” she adds.
We love the mellow character of her version—and the fact that serving it to a crowd won’t break the bank. This recipe makes about 22 1⁄2 quarts, so you’ll need 3 large bowls, stackable storage containers for chilling overnight, 6 to 9 half-gallon mason jars, ladles, 3 trays, and crushed ice to keep the soup cold.
Recipe: Nicolasa’s Gazpacho