Slay to Gourmet: Alaskan Game Dinner

Moose, halibut, rockfish, cod, and salmon with vegetables and an herb vinaigrette


“Slay” photo by Mark Wipfli, “Gourmet” photo by Jon Wipfli, edited by Matt Lien

My father’s side of my family has a long tradition of hunting. When my uncle Mark suggested having a game dinner at the cabin with animals he’d harvested in Alaska, I was in. After all, a family who slays together, stays together.

This was a rare culinary opportunity for me. I had the chance to cook large amounts of moose, halibut, rockfish, cod, and salmon, all wild-caught or harvested by Mark in Alaska. With that in mind, and also the fact that this was going to be served family-style, I starting thinking of ideas to make this feast feel both homey and wild.

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A shot from Mark Wipfli’s Alaskan hunting trip // Photo by Mark Wipfli

I’ve grown increasingly fond of cooking in ashes or directly on top of burning logs, so I decided to go that route for the majority of this meal. The traces of burnt ash on vegetables adds a nice depth of flavor, while the high temperatures are well-suited for searing proteins. We had the grill running, too, but everything besides the salmon would be coming off the campfire.

All it takes to build a campfire suitable for cooking is a fire pit large enough to spread smoldering logs over a four-foot area. I like to separate the fire into two sections, one with lots of hot ashes to cook vegetables and the other with relatively even rows of logs on which to cook meats in cast-iron pans. Lastly, I needed one sauce that would be able to support all the food. An herb vinaigrette, which can be made up to an hour ahead of time, fit the bill.

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Using this cooking method, vegetables cook in hot ashes and embers, while meat goes in iron skillets set atop burning logs  // Photo by Jon Wipfli, edited by Matt Lien

The vegetables take the longest to cook, so once your fire is ready you’ll want to get them in first. Find areas of the campfire that still have glowing embers and place your whole veggies directly on them. I used rutabaga, spaghetti squash, and Yukon gold potatoes, but any vegetable that you can easily peel or cut open to serve works. Root vegetables are especially good for this technique. The squash and large potatoes took roughly 40 minutes to cook through; the rutabaga took a little longer, around 50 minutes.

You’ll want to get the meats going when the vegetables have about 10 minutes left to cook. Peel the veggies while the meats are resting and everything will be ready at the same time. And don’t be shy with the herb vinaigrette—it lifts everything at the table!

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