Tales from Alitak Alaska

The summer of 1997 Brenna and I signed a contract to work aboard the F/V Halcyon for captain Markus Abramson for 90 days. Home port was Alitak, Alaska on the southern tip of Kodiak Island. This part of the island has no trees, but tundra and beaches with set net cabins miles apart. The only access is still by boat or seaplane. The kind of place that reminds you of how small you really are. 

We readied the 41 foot fiberglass vessel with fuel, water, provisions and a seine net for the traditional June 9th season opener and went to work on sockeye salmon. The prices paid to fishermen had been dropping for many years since the glory days of yesteryear (mid-late 1980s). 

Fishermen all over Alaska were grumbling about striking for a fair price on humpies (pink salmon) mid-season.Canneries and buyers had posted a price of 5 cents a pound for pink salmon. The Kodiak Seiners Association was formed to address the issue around the island with communication to other groups around the state. Most of the Alaska salmon fishermen decided to strike for 5.5 cents which lasted for about a month. I don’t remember which side gave in. A dock full of 30 boats and crews with nothing to do all day in a remote part of the world created interesting opportunities. Hunting Sitka black-tailed deer occupied a few days. Learning cribbage took a week of tournaments to master with other captains and crew amongst the fleet.

Crew from the F/V Dolphin introduced us to an abandoned net loft where the community smoker and table tennis was stored. Being a long walk from the docks, smoking fish is a commitment of time away from the distractions and relative comfort of the boats. Tending the old wooden smoker while playing ping pong filled many days with staycation gratification. Kodiak red fox would tip toe by us, eager for a taste of cold smoked fish that trailed smoke across the bay for days on end. Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis) were abundant, covering the hillsides. We snacked on the berries as we gathered them and brought plenty back to the boat for a fresh cobbler and pancakes.

That season was a total bust for money and a jackpot in experiences and relationships never to be repeated. After that, I knew I really wanted to become a commercial fisherman and I was able to buy my permit at the bottom of the market with no way but up for the next 20 years. “Hurry up and wait” boat life taught me patience and the power to be present, thanks to repetitive drudgery with moments fo sheer panic or conquest over the ocean. 

A few weeks ago, my family presented me a table tennis set for Father’s Day. I had not thought of the early days in Alitak until I picked up a paddle to play with the family. Brenna still has a mean backhand and we’ve been tending to the smoker in between games getting ready for market.

We have a great supply of smoked sockeye salmon available for the Los Ranchos Growers Market on Saturday…come see us! If you like our fish or our story, please share this email with a friend and encourage them to join our email newsletter or come on down to the market. We appreciate the opportunity to feed you and your families and friends!



Wild Salmon (Pt. 3) – Sockeye

Welcome to the final installment in our series on Wild Pacific Salmon. There are five species of salmon in the cold, clean waters around Alaska, today we will discuss our customers’ all time favorite, Sockeye Salmon.

Well traveled, Sockeye Salmon spend their time in salt water swimming and feeding in the Alaska Gyre in the Gulf of Alaska before returning to their natal streams to spawn. They hatch and live in fresh water for 1-4 years and then spend 3 years in the open ocean.

Wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon are well known for the brilliant red hue their fllets possess both raw and cooked. This is due to their natural diet of krill and plankton which contain a carotenoid pigment called astaxanthin. This powerful compound not only provides a deep color and strong (not fishy) flavor, but also is an antioxidant, may help prevent cancer, promotes skin and heart health, and can alleviate joint pain. A 3 ounce cooked portion of sockeye salmon contains 23 grams of protein, 3.8 micrograms of vitamin B12, 14.2 micrograms of vitamin D and a whopping 730 milligrams of the omega 3’s DHA and EPA. These essential fatty acids are the most studied, beneficial, and readily usable fats for the body. Salmon, by far, contains more DHA & EPA than any other source.

This firm, robust and vividly colored fish has a high oil content and is a perfect star of the plate when prepared by baking, broiling, grilling, poaching, sautéing, smoking, sushi/sashimi, roasting or steaming.

If you’d like to review the first two parts of this series (including recipes) check here:

Wild Salmon (Pt. 1) ~ Coho

Wild Salmon (Pt. 2) ~ Keta

Although we’ve offered all five species, we currently have Sockeye and Keta Salmon in stock. While we aren’t planning extended features on two other salmon, they are worth brief mention here. 

King, or Chinook Salmon, is the largest and least abundant of the Wild Pacific Salmon with the longest lifecycle in the open ocean. Most kings are troll caught in southeast Alaska. The first Copper River King Salmon of 2022 was about 10 pounds and sold at Pike Place Market in Seattle last month for just over $900. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s 2022 salmon forecast anticipates a return of approximately 310,000 King Salmon statewide.

Pink Salmon is the smallest and most abundant of the Wild Pacific Salmon species. Typically, the returns are larger in odd numbered years. The 2022 forecast calls for a total return of approximately 67.2 million fish, lower than in 2021. As Pink Salmon is the most bio-abundant, most are canned and not as easy to find fresh or frozen. We recommend canned Wild Pink Salmon over fresh farmed salmon any day of the week.

Overall salmon forecasts for 2022 call for a total commercial harvest of 160.6 million salmon (all species). A record Sockeye Salmon harvest of 74 million fish is anticipated and the Coho and Keta returns are projected to be average.

Alaska Sockeye Salmon with Red Chile Honey Glaze


1/2 cup honey

3-4 tablespoons red chile sauce

1.5 pounds Alaska Sockeye Salmon

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

1 lime


1. Make the glaze by stirring red chile sauce and honey in a small bowl until well combined. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

2. Prepare the salmon for grilling by removing the salmon from the refrigerator 15 minutes before cooking. Heat grill to 375F. Season salmon with salt and pepper.

3. Grill the salmon by lightly coating preheated grill with olive oil. Carefully place salmon skin side down to the center of the grill. Close grill cover and cook for 5 minutes. 

4. Glaze the salmon, finish grilling, and serve by spreading the glaze on the salmon filets evenly. Close grill and continue to cook about 5-7 minutes more. Cook just until fish is lightly translucent in the center – it will finish cooking from retained heat. Remove from grill and let rest a few minutes before serving. Garnish with lime zest and serve with lime wedges.

Variation: Salmon can also be roasted in an oven preheated to 375F or pan-seared and finished in the oven. Cook just until lightly translucent in the center; be sure to let salmon rest a few minutes before serving.


Brenna & Kenny

Hello New Mexico

We’re happy to be back in the Rio Grande Valley for the summer and will begin the Los Ranchos Growers Market this Saturday, May 28. We plan to be there most Saturdays through the end of September.

We gladly accept advance orders for pick up at the market. Orders can be placed via phone or email by 6pm on Fridays. Please be sure to review our product/pricelist before ordering. We look forward to seeing you soon!


Kenny & Brenna

What is cubed steak?

Our perfect harvest methods require us to estimate a year or more in advance what we plan to share with fellow FishHuggers. Inventories of preferred cuts dwindle while waiting patiently for the next cycle of having every cut available to those with specific tastes or need for convenience.

We lean towards selling what is most desired and eating whatever is picked over. This method has inspired me to be creative with whatever is left in my freezers.

The technical difference between a roast and a steak is how thick or thin any muscle group is cut. Rib steak or rib roast, round steak or round roast, chuck steak or chuck roast. The strong locomotive muscles of any animal have the most flavor. Dry aging for 14 days or more is the first step and hammered tender is the second step. Marinades and cooking techniques are the third step.

My beeves yield an average of 20-25 pounds of tendereized round steak per animal, labelled as cubed steak or eye of round. It is my source for jerky, chicken fried steak, steak strips, fajitas, pho, broth, swiss steak, tartare, and eating raw with salt similar to the liver king and carnivore md.

Urbanites tend to purchase just in time to consume immediately to satisfy cravings or storage and time constraints. Rural families tend to purchase just in case to satisfy efficiencies in price and logistics of food security. This method forces people to eat what is available instead of what is desired at the moment.

This principle applies to food, fuel, spare parts and tools. My father was a logistics genius after serving 20 years as an accomplished military officer, followed by 20 years of running a commercial farm with my mother. He would say, “If you rely on one, you’d better have two. If you use it every day, buy the best. If you use it once a year, rent or borrow. If you borrow, bring it back as good or better than you found it, fill the tank and fix the tire. Do what’s right because it is only money.” I can’t call him for advice anymore, but I know what he would say because he said it so often while he fed me and taught me how to learn and work. Make a decision, only time will tell if it is a good or bad one.


[PHX + ABQ] Spring update

Phoenix: We’re staying here in Arizona a bit longer than usual. We’ll be at Roadrunner Park and Ahwatukee Farmers Markets through the weekend of May 14/15 this season. If you need to stock your freezer and pantry for the summer, please let us know. It’s officially still spring, but temperatures are forecast in the high 90’s the next 2 Saturdays, so we recommend shopping early and bringing pre-chilled coolers/cooler bags and gel packs. If you’d prefer to pick up or shop at our home, please do schedule an appointment. If you’d like to join Kenny’s Kelvinator club, we currently have both 7 cubic ft and 14 cubic ft freezers available for pick up or delivery. Generally, you can plan on storing 20 pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer space. 

Albuquerque: We intend to begin the Los Ranchos Growers Market in New Mexico in late May 2022 and continue most Saturdays throughout the summer. We have pork and beef ready for harvest during the summer and early fall. We are bringing A TON of salmon to New Mexico and look forward to seeing you soon. Advance orders are welcome.

Our many thanks to you all, we appreciate you so much! As always, we welcome your comments, questions and insights.

Brenna & Kenny

Kelvinator and elderberry

I have been searching for superior complementary products to support my friends and family since I sold the first filet of salmon in 2002. Equipment and super foods both fall into this category.

The most precious food in the world is also the most delicate. Colder temperatures extend the lifetime of perfectly harvested plants and animals. Since energy is vibration, super cold deep freezing slows the vibration until you prepare it. I have settled on Kelvinator commercial chest freezers with full confidence that the last filet or ground steak 2 years later will taste as good as the first out of the box. 

As a proof, I picked and froze fresh elderberries last summer in 5 gallon buckets with good seals in my commercial freezer. Quarts of elderberries are $20 each and guaranteed to stain your fingers for the finest syrup you’ll ever sip. I use them to infuse extra power, flavor, and color into my meades and melomels.

My Kelvinator club is slowing growing. Peace of mind is a stainless steel treasure chest on wheels with plenty of meals vacuum packed in suspended animation ready to prepare just in case. 7 to 21 cubic foot freezers full of food are available to order for delivery or pick up.

We plan to be in Phoenix a few more weeks before we head back to New Mexico for the summer to harvest pork and beef.


Give the people what they want

It’s a fine Friday night and our truck is loaded with salmon, beef and honey for the farmers markets in Phoenix this weekend. Weather is going to be perfect and we’re looking forward to seeing you.

As you may know, we tend to rely on our local farmers markets to supply the foods that we do not hunt, gather, harvest or grow ourselves. That means lots of produce and a bit of dairy, and maybe a surprise once in awhile. Here’s a quick easy salmon recipe using only ingredients available now at your favorite Phoenix farmers markets. 

Keta Salmon with Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette


1 Keta Salmon Loin OR 3 Keta Salmon Tail Portions

1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced (reserve greens for salad)

2 large watermelon radishes, thinly sliced

2 lemons, cut in half crosswise, seeds removed

4 cloves garlic, unpeeled

3 tablespoons Bariani Olive Oil

Kenny’s Spice Rub

1 teaspoon Raw Honey

12 ounces+ mixed greens. I used a lettuce mix, some spinach, a variety of microgreens and the green fennel fronds. Then we added 1 large bunch of I’itoi onions and a few cherry tomatoes. You can go with any of your favorites here. When it comes to salad, I’m a fan of as much variety and abundance as possible.


Heat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large roasting pan, toss the sliced fennel bulb, radishes, lemons, garlic, 1 tabelspoon of the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon Kenny’s Spice Rub (or salt and pepper). Roast until fennel and radishes begin to soften, about 8 minutes.

Season the salmon with Kenny’s Spice Rub (or salt and pepper) and nestle into the fennel and radishes. Roast until the salmon is opaque throughout, about 12-15 minutes total.

Remove roasting pan from oven. Careful, it’s hot! Squeeze the garlic out of the skins into a small bowl and mash into a paste. Squeeze the lemon pulp and juice into the bowl. Stir in the honey, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and another dash of Kenny’s Spice Rub. Place the salmon fennel and radishes on the greens. Drizzle with the dressing. 

I used a large salmon loin filet for this recipe. It was almost 3 pounds total and cooked enough to feed 4 salmon lovers at my house + a serving for the neighborhood high school wrestling champ. It took 15 minutes to fully roast. We skinned the salmon before plating to save a bite or two for the chihuahuas. If you’d prefer to eat the skin yourself, it is highly nutritious and a family favorite here when fried to extra crispy.

You could use any roasting pan or glass baking dish. I used my largest 14″ cast iron skillet.

The original recipe called for 2 large bulbs of fennel, I only had 1 so I added the radishes because I recently learned that I LOVE roasted radishes and the watermelon radishes, are big, beautiful, local and in season.



What’s the deal with halibut?

In the beginning of my fishing career, my biggest dilemma was salmon or halibut. King crab was already wrecked in the 1980’s due to overcapitalization and global mismanagement. Top crew had fled salmon boats to jump on halibut boats as the price for salmon plummeted and halibut soared into the stratosphere. I saw an opportunity to get in cheap and wait for the market to stabilize. Ten years later, the salmon industry was in worse shape, while halibut was still ascending. I questioned my ability to make good business decisions when salmon dock prices hit 5 cents a pound while halibut was at $3.75 to the fisherman. 

It reminded me of my Grandfather’s stories of the dustbowl days in northeastern New Mexico. He was a market contrarian. When others were selling out, he was buying small farms and ranches and built an empire of cattle, wheat, and corn over a 60 year period. He gave advice to anyone who would stand still to listen. A true statesman with a moral code, he enjoyed a reputation as the “Sage of Sedan”.

Salmon has proven sustainable over the last 20 years, while halibut stocks have been in slow decline. Salmon fishing with a well trained crew is a pleasure to me, while halibut fishing felt like a prison sentence with a chance of drowning.

In spite of my personal feelings, halibut is a resource in demand and available as a luxury fish. Well harvested halibut by a dedicated crew can be an amazing experience. Half of the time, when you order halibut off a menu in America, it is substituted with another whitefish, farmed or wild caught, with or without the retailers knowledge.

I have maintained healthy relationships with honorable fishing boat captains in Alaska. After catching millions of pounds of fish, I am an expert on grading fish quality. I am proud to share the highest grade of halibut I have seen in years. Pearly white, boneless, skinless half pound portions with a pedigree. Come see us for halibut filet! Here’s a recipe to get you started:

Alaska Halibut with Lemon Dressing

1-1.5 pounds of Alaska Halibut Filet (cut into 4 portions)

6 Tablespoons butter, divided

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

4 sprigs rosemary

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 leeks (white and light green part only), sliced

2 zucchini, sliced

5-6 ounces baby spinach leaves

2 Tablespoons dry white wine or vegetable broth


1. Heat broiler/oven to medium-high heat (450F). Pat fish dry with a paper towel. Arrange filets on a lightly buttered baking sheet.

2. Broil 5-7 inches from the heat source for about 5 minutes. Remove fish from oven, and place 1/2 tablespoon butter on top of each filet. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons lemon juice, then season with sea salt and pepper. Return to oven and cook an additional 4-6 minutes for thawed/fresh fish OR 7-10 more minutes for frozen filets. Cook just until fish is opaque throughout.

3. Meanwhile, add remaining butter to saucepan with the lemon zest, remaining lemon juice and mustard. Heat gently, whisking until melted, then add the rosemary. Keep warm.

4. Heat the olive oil in a large pan’ cook the leeks and zucchini over medium heat until soft. Add the spinach and wine or broth, stirring until the leaves have wilted, about 1-2 minutes.

5. Serve the halibut and vegetables, pouring the warm lemon and rosemary dressing over filets.



Osso Bucco – Braised Beef Shanks

Our cross cut beef shanks contain a marrow bone and are an ideal cut of meat for braising and later utilizing the remaining marrow bones as part of the next batch of broth. Cooking meat on the bone yields a richer, denser, more nutritious meal. A traditional Italian dish, this recipe is similar to a pot roast and is best when planned in advance. I imagine it can be done in a slow cooker or instant pot a little differently, but I’ve always braised these in my dutch oven for many hours on a cool or rainy day.


1 Beef Shank per person

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

3-4 cups beef stock

4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 large can of tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed

several springs thyme, tied together

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, crushed

sea salt and pepper


Thaw beef shanks completely overnight in the fridge. Dry well with paper towels. In a heavy, flameproof casserole, sauté half the onions and carrots until soft in butter and olive oil. Remove with a slotted spoon. In the same casserole, brown the shanks two at a time, transferring to a plate. Pour out browning oil. Add wine and stock, then bring to a boil and skim. Add tomatoes, garlic and seasoning. Return beef shanks, sautéed carrots and onions to the casserole, cover and bake at 300 degrees F for several hours or until tender. Remove shanks to a platter, remove thyme and reduce the sauce by boiling, skimming occasionally. Spoon sauce over beef shanks and serve. Excellent with polenta, rice or mashed potatoes.



Slow Roasted Salmon with Turnips & Swiss Chard

It’s a great time to come visit us at the Roadrunner Park or Ahwatukee Farmers Markets. Nearly all of these ingredients are in season and currently available at the markets. Most of us need more ways to eat leafy greens and I’ve always been a big fan of small salad turnips. This low heat method, yields a deliciously juicy salmon dish.


1.5 pounds salmon filet

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Sea salt

4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed

1.5 pounds small turnips, scrubbed, halved, quartered if large

Freshly ground black pepper

2 bunches Swiss chard

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Toasted sesame seeds (for serving)


1) Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Pat salmon filet completely dry with paper towel and place in a large baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with lemon zest, and gently rub into fish. Season with salt and scatter garlic around. Bake until salmon is medium rare (mostly opaque but still slightly translucent in the center) 20-30 minutes depending on thickness of filet.

2) Meanwhile, combine turnips, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 cup water in a large skillet; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until turnips are fork tender, 15-20 minutes. Uncover and cook, tossing occasionally, until liquid is evaporated and turnips are golden, 5 minutes.

3) While turnips are cooking, remove ribs and stems from Swiss chard leaves. Thinly slice ribs, stems and leaves crosswise. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in another large skillet over medium high heat. Cook shallot and Swiss chard ribs and stems, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add Swiss chard leaves and cook, tossing often, until leaves are wilted, about 2 minutes. Toss in cilantro, parsley, and lime juice. Season with salt.

4) Drizzle salmon with sesame oil. Serve salmon with Swiss chard and turnips, topped with sesame seeds.