A nice piece about myself and the lodge where I have been working for the past seven summers.
July 7, 2015 at 10:30 am by Lis Korb
Adventure Cuisine at Kenai Riverside Lodge
Kenai Riverside Lodge is located on the banks of the Kenai River, about halfway between Anchorage and Homer, Alaska. It’s one of our favorite add-ons to our selection of Alaska small ship cruises as this lodge is both conveniently located and serene and remote feeling. Kenai Riverside Lodge takes great pride in the food that they serve. Onsite chefs return year after year, and they put time and love into every meal. The lodge is known to go to great lengths to accommodate specific dietary needs and food allergies. Food is an integral part of any vacation experience, and they work hard to ensure it’s a phenomenal one!
Each morning, a hot breakfast buffet is served before you head out for a guided activity, such as fishing or river rafting. You might walk in to the aroma of hot blueberry pancakes, bacon, fresh fruit, coffee and tea. A made-to-order lunch will be prepared to take with you on your guided activity. On a river rafting trip taken by one of AdventureSmith’s staff there was a spread of smoked Alaska salmon, fresh veggies and breads for a make-your-own sandwich station, with hot beverages to keep everyone warm.
In the evening, Kenai Riverside Lodge serves four-course meals family-style. Share stories about the day over a glass of wine or Alaskan micro-brew beer. After dinner, guests can spend time on the riverside deck over a campfire or have another glass at the lodge’s bar!
Chef Brandon McDearis
Brandon McDearis, head chef at Kenai Riverside Lodge, first came to work in Alaska in 2010. He has a BS in Foods and Nutrition from Radford University and a culinary degree from Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Before coming to Kenai Riverside Lodge, Brandon worked mostly in high-volume catering and cooking in upscale restaurants, as well as running his own personal chef business.
Brandon’s past couple of winters have included ventures such as cooking in Australia and Antarctica and running expeditions in Peru. When he is not working in the kitchen, he is often writing about food and nutrition, both in magazines and on his blog at yourwaycuisine.com.
Herb Gnocchi with Sautéed Spinach & Charred Cherry Tomatoes
Chef Brandon McDearis has prepared this gnocchi recipe a number of times over the years at the Kenai Riverside Lodge. It’s been featured as an appetizer, a vegetarian entrée and as a side item for halibut and rockfish.
They can be prepared ahead of time and frozen to cut down on the total prep time. The step with the ice bath can be skipped, but Brandon says he finds it to be failsafe when making them fresh, in order to not overcook them. Also, feel free to leave out the spinach and cherry tomatoes. The gnocchi can just be sautéed and browned in a little olive oil and butter, seasoned, tossed with Parmesan, and paired with another vegetable and/or protein. The recipe makes 8–12 servings.
2 pounds starchy potatoes
2 egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 bunch parsley (finely chopped)
1 sprig rosemary (finely chopped)
2 sprigs fresh thyme (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups spinach (packed tightly)
1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
¼ cup white wine
2 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- Boil the whole potatoes until soft (about 45 minutes). Peel while still warm and pass through a ricer or vegetable mill into a large bowl.
- Boil 1.5 gallons of water in a large stockpot. While water is coming to a boil, set up an ice bath of 6 cups of ice and 6 cups of water beside the stove.
- Make a well in the center of the potatoes and sprinkle all over with the flour. Place egg yolks, herbs and spices in the center of the well and mix egg mixture into potatoes and flour with a fork as if you were making regular pasta.
- Once everything is well blended and dough has formed a ball, roll it out onto a clean, floured surface and knead like bread dough for about 3–5 minutes until the dough is dry to the touch. Up to 1 more cup of flour may need to be used during this step, depending on how moist and starchy your potatoes were to begin with.
- Cut hunks of dough off and roll into ¾ inch diameter dowels that resembles snakes and cut into ¾–1 inch pieces. Drop the pieces in the boiling water and cook until they float (about 1 minute). As they rise to the top, scoop them out and put them in the ice bath. Let sit about a minute in the ice bath and then drain.
- Meanwhile, heat up a sauté pan with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil at medium-high heat. Drop tomatoes in the pan, and toss for about 20–30 seconds until you see a little color on them. Then, add about 2–3 cups of your gnocchi to the pan and continue to sauté for about 1 minute until they begin to lightly color and heat through. Feel free to add a little more olive oil if your pan looks too dry.
- Finally, add the white wine to the pan along with the spinach. Continue tossing until spinach is wilted and wine has cooked down. Remove from heat, toss with butter and Parmesan. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Note: If you are not going to serve the whole batch at once, then lay the gnocchi out on a greased pan and freeze. Once frozen, they can be stored in a Ziploc bag or plastic container in the freezer for a few months.
Keep tabs on the AdventureSmith blog’s Adventure Cuisine series for more recipes from our partner small ships and lodges.
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