For some reason I always crave soft pretzels when Fall comes around. I don’t know if it’s the pining for Oktoberfest or what but a soft pretzel and some kind of cheesy dip make my day when the cool weather starts blowing in.
October just crept up on me this year, finding myself with my subsistence set net lines still in the water and a yard full of net bags to put away. The recent nights of frost and a dusting of snow got me in gear over the last weekend with a few days off. Happily I can now report my lines are out and I only have one net bag left to haul into the locker.
This has been a very busy season for me and I feel behind in so many things. Bronwyn started Kindergarten, Ethan ran Cross Country as a Middle School-er, Gretchen is slowly potty training and I switched from days to working the nightshift back in September as an RN. I am not going to lie the night life is a tough one. Twelve and a half hours of patient care three to four nights a week, I love the work of the nightshift, the extra time it seems to allow for comfort but I am not a night owl by nature. I am an early to rise, early to bed sort of gal. So, I did loads of research on the best way to approach sleep schedules, exercise, balancing family with work and finally – 6 weeks into it – feel as if I have settled into a good routine for now.
October is also National Seafood Month and it is no secret we eat a lot of salmon and other seafood around here at Set the Net. This summer I went on a salmon smoking frenzy. I typically smoke my fair share of strips, kippered portions and jarred smoke, but this year I upped my game and nearly tripled my efforts desperate to have my subsistence harvest in by the time I began my first RN job in July.
While smoked salmon is a delicious stand alone, it is undeniably fantastic in rich Alfredo fettuccini, cream cheese spreads, chowders, omelets or in any number of other dishes. I am constantly adding it into and trying new dishes with it.
This Smoked Sockeye Salmon Queso en Salsa stems from my love of Queso Fundido yet here the cheese sauce is a bit thicker and the contents a bit chunkier than a true Fundido but the infusion of fresh salsa flavors, molten cheese, and smokey salmon is strong and on point. For the soft pretzels I turned to David Lebovitz and modified this Pretzel Bite recipe to make a dozen full size pretzels topped with sea flakes from the Alaska Pure Sea Salt Company based in Sitka, Alaska.
Smoked Sockeye Salmon Queso en Salsa (dip for a dozen soft pretzels)
- 6-8 oz smoked wild Alaska sockeye salmon, flaked
- 3 mini bell peppers, diced small
- 1-2 jalapeños, minced
- 1 small tomato, diced small
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- small bunch of cilantro, minced, My husband is among the counted who think cilantro tastes like soap, and so it’s not pictured here but I love cilantro in any salsa!
- pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 small onion, diced small
- 1-2 teaspoons canola oil
- 8 oz IPA beer
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons unbleached flour
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 4 oz mild cheddar cheese, shredded
In a medium bowl stir to combine your diced bell peppers, jalapeños, tomato, garlic, cilantro, and sea salt. Set aside allowing the flavors to meld while you prepare your queso.
Using a large bowl toss shredded cheese in flour to coat and set aside. In a wide saucepan or enameled cast iron skillet heat oil and onions over medium high heat. Sauté onions until soft and translucent. Slowly pour in IPA and reduce heat to medium low. Add one small handful of cheese at a time into the pan, whisking briskly to melt completely before adding the next handful until all cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Turn off heat and carefully stir in flaked smoked salmon pieces.
At this point you have a two options, you can top with salsa and serve immediately or you can take it one step further and pop the pan under a heated broiler and brown the top of your queso dip until dark and bubbly then top with salsa. Serve the queso molten hot with soft pretzels or a chip of your choosing.