The Unsolved Murder Will Wait; First, Crawfish Bisque

Who killed John Sturgus?

Sturgus was the first police chief in Anchorage. He worked as a policeman in Montana and Washington before coming to Alaska in 1913 to search for gold. Like so many others before him, he didn’t find it.

In 1916, Anchorage already showed promise of becoming the city it now is when it was selected as the headquarters for construction of the Alaska Railroad. Sturgus made his way to what was then a tent city to find a job.

Thanks to his previous background in law enforcement, he was appointed a deputy U.S. marshal. On January 1, 1921, Anchorage became a home rule city and Sturgus became its first police chief. His tenure in office would last less than two months.

Anchorage had a sizable lawless element in those days. Organized crime controlled a section of what is now downtown. Though the city had voted to outlaw alcohol, bars operated openly. There was no attempt to hide the prostitution and gambling. Young girls who wandered through the area were often harassed and threatened.

Around nine o’clock on the evening of February 20th, Anchorage resident Oscar Anderson met Sturgus on the street. They exchanged greetings and each went his own way. Anderson was the last person to see Sturgus alive.

At 9:15 a shot was heard. Those arriving on the scene found Sturgus lying in a stairwell next to a drug store. He had been shot once. Though he was still breathing when he was found and was taken to a hospital, he died shortly before eleven o’clock. He died with speaking.

And that’s when the mystery began.

He was shot with his own gun. Though only one shot had been heard, there were two expended bullets in the gun.

While Sturgus was known to carry two hand guns, only one was found on him.

Most curious of all was the lack of any sign that anyone else had been on the scene. That was mysterious as the area was covered with snow.

It had been impossible to solve the murder in 1921. It was more so a hundred years later. It was even difficult to get to know exactly who Sturgus was. While he and his family were accepted by the young community’s socially elite, there was some evidence that he had a darker side.

He had recently been heard making light of the criminal elements in the town. He joked about being “…hot on the trail of the despised thief who steals milk from babies, groceries from the storeroom and laundry from the hallways.” There were also rumors that Sturgus frequented the gambling halls himself and had a fondness for faro, known in those days as “bucking the tiger.”

Sabine Parish Sheriff Jack Blake laid the story aside and sat thinking. As an experienced lawman himself, an unsolved crime was frustrating. Especially when it involved the killing of a fellow cop even if it occurred a century earlier.

He wasn’t going to solve the mystery this evening. Perhaps it was one he should pass on to his friend Trent Marshall. It was just the sort of adventure that would interest Trent.

But for now, he detected the deliciously delicate aroma of his wife’s crawfish bisque. The mystery of John Sturgus’ murder had remained unsolved for a century. It would wait until Blake had his fill of Jennifer’s crawfish bisque.

Sheriff Jack Blake’s Favorite Crawfish Bisque

1 cup peanut oil

1 cup flour

1/2 onion, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

1/4 cup white wine

1 pound crawfish tails

Sheriff Jack Blake’s Favorite Crawfish Bisque

2 green onions, chopped

salt & pepper to taste

water sufficient to cover

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

First, in a large stock pot, make a dark roux with the oil and flour.

Saute the onions, celery, and roasted red pepper in the roux until the vegetables have softened.

Deglaze the pot with the white wine.

Add the crawfish, green onions, and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour in enough water to cover. Simmer for an hour.

Sprinkle chopped parsley over the bisque as garnish.

Wilderness Danger & Darcey’s Oyster Casserole

Three people sat in the long station wagon.

It was 1959. The father, mother, and young son were on the Alaska Highway. Somewhere in the wilderness of British Columbia. Or maybe the Yukon. It was hard to tell. They were in that section that wove in and out of the two provinces.

The Alaska Highway was all wilderness in 1959. A long gravel road that wound through the woods and mountains of western Canada.

A trailer, built by the father, was attached to their vehicle. Everything they owned had been loaded into it.

Up until a few minutes earlier, they were proceeding north to Alaska. Proceeding slowly. But proceeding. Then came the frightening screech and their vehicle came to a sudden stop. The father crawled under the car. When he emerged minutes later, he didn’t have good news. It looked, he said, as though the damage was serious.

Now they sat in the stalled vehicle wondering what to do. They knew there were no facilities for either people or vehicles within miles. Even if there was they had no way to get there. To strike out walking through the wilderness could have serious consequences.

Then came the noise. A rumbling, rattling, rustling noise.

The father and mother looked at each other. They tried to keep their son from seeing the concern in their eyes. What could it be? Could this day get any worse?

A grader came around a bend in the road. A crew leveling the gravel highway. The same grader that threw up the rock which damaged the young family’s vehicle.

One man was in the cab of the grader followed by two others in a pick up truck. They rolled to a stop near the young family’s stalled car. The highway crew was appalled when they realized they were the cause of the damage to the vehicle.

All the men worked together to unhitch the trailer. They used a chain to connect the car to the grader. The young family crowded into the cab of the pick up truck with one of the highway crew. The other members of the crew followed, slowly pulling the car along.

The young family soon found themselves in the highway crew’s camp, consisting of several Quonset huts. The crew lived in the uniquely rounded structures with their families. One of them invited them in for dinner and gave them beds in which to spend the night.

Darcey’s Oyster Casserole

When they awoke the next morning, they discovered the camp mechanics had worked all night. Their vehicle was repaired. The crew had driven back to reattach the family’s trailer. All was in place for them to be on their way.

The Canadians refused payment of any kind. Except for four relatively fresh tomatoes the father’s aunt had given them when they stopped by her house four days earlier. Fresh vegetables were hard to come by in the wilderness.

“And that’s why Robert likes Canadians,” Darcey said. “Did he ever tell you that story?”

It was a warm but stormy December evening in New Orleans. Trent and Darcey sat in the parlor of their home on Governor Nicholls Street in the Veuix Carre sipping flutes of Prosecco as they watched the rain pour down and the lightening flash.

“No, he never told me that one,” Trent replied.

Darcey smiled as she drained her glass.

“Let’s have dinner,” she said.

Darcey’s Oyster Casserole

1/2 cup butter

1 cup green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons Worcestershire

1 quart oysters, (reserve juice)

1/2 cup parsley

2 tablespoons pickled jalapenos

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

bread crumbs (Darcey favors Panko)

In a heavy skillet, saute the green onion in the butter. When soft, add the Worcestershire and oysters. Cook until the oysters begin to curl.

Add the parsley, pickled jalapenos, and cheese. Continue to cook until the cheese is melted. If the mixture gets too thick, thin it with some of the reserved oyster liquid.

Spoon the mixture into a buttered, oven-proof baking dish. Cover with bread crumbs.

Cook in a 350 oven until the casserole is bubbly . It should take about fifteen minutes. If the bread crumbs aren’t brown, zap the dish under the broiler for a minute or two.

As they say in New Orleans, “Bon temps!”




Crawfish Beignets on A Winter’s Day


It was December but you couldn’t tell it by the New Orleans weather. Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson sat on the gallery of their home on Governor Nicholls Street sipping peach martinis. Both were wearing short sleeved shirts and jeans. Trent had made crawfish beignets that awaited the call to dinner.

Crawfish Fritters

He had also talked to their friend retired Alaska State Trooper Colonel Robert Monk earlier in the day. Robert reported Alaska was far different. Very cold and a lot of snow in most of the state. It reminded Trent of the story Robert told him about when he and his parents first arrived in Alaska.

“It was a long time ago,” Trent told Darcey. “Robert was just a boy. He said that first winter was the most beautiful he ever saw. Relatively mild temperatures, lots of snow. Those huge, fluffy flakes that are so beautiful.

“His dad came home one day and said, ‘I’m told this is a most unusual winter.’

“Robert said the second winter was the worst he’s ever seen,” Trent continued, laughing. “Very cold. Hardly any snow. What snow fell was quickly blown away by the heavy winds leaving nothing but ice. Travel was miserable and dangerous.

“His dad came home one day and again said, ‘I’m told this is a most unusual winter.’

Trent took a dramatic sip of martini before continuing.

“When the third winter rolled around, Robert’s dad came home one day and said, ‘I’m not buying this unusual winter stuff any more.’ “

Darcey laughed. Trent flashed his biggest smile.

“Let’s go have some crawfish,” he said.

Trent Marshall’s Crawfish Fritters

peanut oil

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

salt to taste

1 cup buttermilk

3 eggs

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 cup tarragon, chopped

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1 cup corn kernels cut fresh from the cob

2 tablespoons mild green chilis (cans can be found in the Hispanic foods section of most grocery stores)

1 pound cooked crawfish tails

Mix dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Don’t overmix. The batter should be slightly lumpy.

Drop balls of batter into hot peanut oil and fry. They should cook in about four minutes. When done, set the fritters on a plate covered with paper towels to allow them to drain.

As Trent would say, “Bon Temps!”

Chiang Kai Shek’s Gold Served with Trent Marshall’s Lasagna

The sweet aroma of lasagna in the oven filled Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson’s Anchorage penthouse. It was the week before Christmas and it was cold. Trent and Darcey had brought their family to Alaska to enjoy a white Christmas. It was cold but not cold enough to keep the girls of the family from their holiday shopping, though Ivy was heard grumbling about ice and snow as they left.

After he got the lasagna in the oven, Trent lost himself in a tome from the book shelf that included a section on the removal of Chinese gold reserves from the mainland to Taiwan when Chiang Kai Shek led his army and several hundred thousand civilians fleeing the victorious communists at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

When Chiang realized he had lost the war, he secretly began moving his forces to Taiwan. He flew almost five hundred military aircraft to the island along with twenty six naval vessels. He also used several dozen ships to smuggle China’s complete gold reserves from the mainland. Before Mao Zedong realized what was happening, Chiang successfully moved some 135 tons of gold plus several national artistic treasures to Taiwan. It was that huge cache of gold that would serve as the basis of Taiwan’s future commercial success.

Trent was vaguely familiar with the story. His interest was stirred the previous weekend while on a family trip. As it was unseasonably warm then, Trent took Darcey, their daughter Kelli, Darcey’s mother Betty, and Ivy, Trent’s surrogate mother, on a drive through the mountains south to Seward.

While the women explored the shops along the water front, Trent strolled along the dock looking at boats. One in particular attracted his attention. It was an old boat. He thought it came from the first half of the twentieth century. The name, written in faded paint on the bow, said “Chuan.” it seemed somehow familiar to him.

He learned in his research that day that Chiang used many ships and aircraft to spirit the gold away from the mainland. Eighty or ninety of those ships eventually defected back to the communist government. One sank. And one simply disappeared. The Chuan.

It wasn’t known if the Chuan was carrying gold when it vanished. With 135 tons of gold moving to Taiwan there would certainly be a temptation.

Trent closed the book and looked thoughtfully out the window, his gaze following Cook Inlet. Perhaps another adventure was shaping up.

But first…lasagna!

Trent Marshall’s Lasagna

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup onion, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground beef

2 pounds canned tomatoes

8 ounces tomato sauce

6 ounces tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

2 tablespoons Worcestershire

1 teaspoon oregano

Lasagna

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon sugar

Creole seasoning & pepper to taste

1 cup ricotta

1/2 cup parmesan, grated

1 pound mozzarella, grated

lasagna noodles

Saute the onion in olive oil until it is soft and beginning to color. Add the garlic and cook a minute longer. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add the ground beef. Stir to mix well and continue cooking until the meat is browned.

Add all the remaining ingredients except for the cheeses and noodles. Gently simmer the sauce for at least an hour and up to four hours.

Create layers in an oven proof pan beginning with a thin layer of sauce. A glass dish is best.

Next cover the pan with noodles. Trent uses pre-cooked noodles. Then make layers as follows: a thicker layer of sauce; crumbles of ricotta; sprinkles of parmesan; a layer of mozzarella. Repeat the layers, ending with sauce and then mozzarella.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Terrific when snow is on the ground!

Collards & Corn Bread Are Great But What Does 7:48 Mean?

Jacques Houston snapped awake.

7:48.

He could see 7:48 in his mind. He could see it clearly. What did it mean? 7:48. Was it a time? A significant time? Was something pivotal in his life going to occur at 7:48?

The numbers stayed with him through the following days as he went about his routine in New Orleans’ French Quarter. 7:48.

Jacques wasn’t smart. He didn’t have to be smart. He worked for a man who was and who was invested in numerous businesses that operated well outside the law. Jacques didn’t have to think. He only had to do as he was told.

Jacques was also not involved in the 21st century. He had neither mobile phone nor computer. He had a television but received only over the air channels. He watched old movies and sitcoms. He wore a cheap, old-fashioned wrist watch. His most prized possession was a Thompson submachine gun, the last of which was made in 1945. It was still a vicious, effective weapon.

He went to the restaurant his boss used as his office at mid day seven days a week. He stayed there usually until about ten o’clock in the evening. If the boss had something for him to do he received his orders verbally. Otherwise he waited.

On Sunday he was given a package and told to place it in a particular place in a particular manner in the home of homicide detective Jordan Baron. The cop, Jacques was told, would be gone on from 4:30 until 6:30 that evening. It was vital that Jacques get into Baron’s home during that period. He must be gone by 6:30.

Jacques thought he knew what was in the package. He wasn’t especially interested. Baron had been causing problems for the boss recently. Jacques assumed the boss decided to get the cop out of the way.

Collard greens & corn bread.

It was easy to bypass the security system at Baron’s apartment and pick the lock. It took a few minutes longer than Jacques had planned but he thought time remained plentiful.

Once inside, Jacques placed the duffel bag he carried on a table. He first removed his precious Thompson and laid it carefully aside. Then the package.

As he went about placing the package and preparing it as he had been instructed, he didn’t worry about time. He had plenty.

He thought that until he heard the click of a revolver being cocked. Then he heard the voice.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Detective Baron said. “You’re thinking you can reach that antiquated weapon on the table and lace me up with twenty rounds.”

“But I know I can get off one round from this antiquated weapon,” Baron continued, waving the Webley revolver Trent Marshall had given him, “that will rip through your brain at least two seconds before you can touch the Thompson.”

Jacques wasn’t smart. He was smart enough not to test Baron’s theory.

The detective called for the bomb squad. Then he maliciously made Jacques sit on the package on the bathroom floor, his hands cuffed to the piping under the sink. He left Jacques there with the door closed. If the bomb exploded before the squad arrived they would lose Jacques and part of Baron’s bathroom. Neither would be a great loss.

“But you were supposed to be gone until 6:30,” Jacques protested as he was led away by two uniformed officers.

“Yes, and I was forty-five minutes late,” Baron said.

Jacques looked puzzled. Baron suddenly realized why. He laughed.

“Today is Sunday, March 9th, Jacques,” Baron said, “the first day of Daylight Savings Time. We set our clocks an hour forward last night.”

“Nobody told me,” Jacques mumbled.

As he passed the large clock on Baron’s wall, he didn’t notice the hands pointed to 7:48.

With his home returned to normal and no damage done, Baron took the collard greens and corn bread, leftovers from dinner at Trent and Darcey’s that evening, to the kitchen. They knew it was one of his favorite meals. They made it especially for him.

He especially liked the way they made their collards because they use tasso, that delicious, spiced Louisiana ham. If tasso isn’t available, any good quality ham will do or, in a real emergency, even bacon.

Jordan Baron’s Collard Greens

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

8 ounces tasso, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

5 cloves garlic, minced

3 – 4 pounds collard greens (about four bunches) with the thick stems removed and the leaves torn into pieces

salt & pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil. When it is hot but not smoking, add the onion and tasso. Saute until the onion is softened and beginning to show color, and the tasso has begun to brown. Toss in the garlic and continue cooking for no more than a minute or two. Be careful to avoid burning the garlic.

Add the collards and enough water to comfortably cover them. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about an hour, or until the greens are cooked through.

If you’re really smart, you’ll serve the greens with corn bread.

As Jordan Baron would say, “Bon temps!”

All’s Well That Ends Well; And Even Better When It Ends With Corn Chowder (Part Three)

New Orleans Police Captain Jordan Booth held the vicious Bullpup shotgun behind his leg as he rapped on Mr. Candy’s door. With its triple magazines capable of twelve to fifteen shells, it was an effective weapon. Its appearance alone was sufficient to end most fights.

“Open up. Police.”

Jordan heard scuffling inside. The noise wasn’t coming toward Jordan. It was moving away from him. Toward the back door. Jordan didn’t hesitate to kick in the front door. He did so just in time to see the old man not in a wheel chair but walking, albeit it slowly.

The man known as Mr. Candy in New Orleans was surprised to be greeted by Lieutenant Nancy Patrick of the Richmond, California, police department. He was even more surprised with the Mossberg precision rifle she held trained directly on his chest.

“Hello, Smoky,” she said. “Surprise!”

Sheriff Jack Blake called Nancy after his conversation with Darcey regarding Mr. Candy and his daughter a few days earlier. Nancy had notified him recently asking him to be on the look out for a family that sounded like the Candy family. They were wanted in California for kidnapping wealthy women with young daughters. The old man was far too friendly toward little young girls. His daughter used the fear he caused the mothers to extort money from them.

Nancy was closing in on them when they suddenly disappeared. Now, thanks to Darcey and Sheriff Blake, she had them. Jordan accompanied her to serve an out of state warrant, which had been approved by the governors of both states.

She held out her hand.

“Hand it over, Smoky,” she said.

The old man didn’t argue with Nancy’s rifle. He pulled the snub nosed Chief’s Special revolver from his pocket and meekly passed it to the no nonsense cop.

The old man’s daughter rushed into the room but immediately dropped the Glock she carried when she caught sight of Baron’s threatening shotgun.

“Jordan, meet Smoky Denton and his daughter, Diana,” Nancy said.

“That’s what these out of state warrants say, even though they’ve been calling themselves Candy down here,” Jordon replied. Then he spoke directly to the old man and his daughter.

“Smoky and Diana Denton, you are both under arrest. You will be our guests in New Orleans until the court approves your extradition. I think I can guarantee that won’t be long, given the nature of the charges against you.”

The atmosphere in the old house on Governor Nicholls Street in the Vieux Carre’ was considerably lighter that evening. With Darcey’s mother, Betty, and Trent Marshall’s surrogate mother, Ivy, together in the kitchen, everyone else knew it was wise to let the two older women rule their domain without interference. Only young Kelli was in the kitchen with them. Betty and Ivy found small chores for her so she could say she helped make dinner.

Nancy was staying with Darcey while she was in New Orleans. Jordan joined them after he got off work. The three of them were in Trent’s library enjoying refreshing rum and cokes. Trent had already flown to Anchorage. Darcey, Betty, Ivy, and Kelli would join him in a few days.

In the kitchen, Betty and Ivy had a pot of corn chowder bubbling on the stove.

It had been a day of tense moments.

The relief of the evening was enough to warm the huge house.

Corn Chowder by Betty, Ivy, & Kelli

3 slices bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium potatoes, unpeeled, diced

4 ears corn, with kernels cut from the cobbs

3 cups milk

salt & pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, saute’ the bacon.

Add the onion and potatoes to the bacon and its grease. Cook until the vegetables have softened and begun to brown, about fifteen minutes.

Toss the corn into the vegetables and add the milk.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Let the chowder simmer for another fifteen minutes. The fresh corn will cook quickly. Don’t over cook.

As they say on Governor Nicholls Street in New Orleans, Bon Temps!

Always a Lot of Good in Oyster Artichoke Soup But Can the Same Be Said for People? (Part Two)

Sabine Parish Sheriff Jack Blake was enjoying a Saints game on a Sunday afternoon. There were pleasant sounds coming from the kitchen. Sounds of food being prepared by people who knew what they were doing. Jack’s wife, Jennifer, was making oyster artichoke soup under the guidance of their friend, Sasha. The sheriff had been friends with Sasha’s parents when they were in college. A generation later, Sasha had befriended Jack and Jennifer’s son when they attended the same university as had their parents.

After living in New Orleans for several years, Sasha now spent most of her time in Europe. But whenever she came home to visit her family, she always made time for a day or two in Sabine Parish with the Blakes.

Now, while he waited for the soup like a Percheron after a hard day’s work, he thought about his recent conversation with Darcey Anderson. She had expressed concern about a Mr. Candy and his daughter, Lottie. They concerned her, she said, because they seemed overly friendly, especially toward Kelli.

He hadn’t mentioned the report he had received only that week regarding the disappearance of three children and their mothers. In all three instances the mothers were single parents and wealthy.He didn’t want to alarm Darcey unnecessarily. He decided to make a phone call and see if he could find a connection. But first, as the two women came out of the kitchen to place a large stock pot and three bowls on the dining table, he would enjoy Sasha’s oyster artichoke soup.

Sasha’s Oyster Artichoke Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Creole mustard

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 14 1/2 oz can artichoke hearts

1 14 1/2 oz can artichoke bottoms, chopped

2 pints oysters with liquor

2 cups heavy cream

salt & pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a stock pot. Saute’ the shallot in the hot oil. Add the garlic and cook for only a minute or two before stirring in the Creole mustard. Mix well.

Pour in the wine. Let it simmer until reduced by about three-quarters.

Add the chicken broth, artichoke hearts and bottoms along with the oysters and their liquor.

Sasha’s Oyster Artichoke Soup

Finish with the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Simmer until the edges of the oysters begin to curl. Don’t over cook.

As Sasha would say, Bon Temps!

There Can Never Be Too Much Good in a Ribeye with Sauteed Zucchini But Can There Be Too Much in People? (Part One)

“Good morning, Mr. Candy,” Darcey said as she walked past the large, colorful house three blocks from her own home in New Orleans’ Vieux Carre.

“Good morning, Darcey,” the old man replied. Mr. Candy sat in his wheel chair on the front porch each day. He always seemed glad to see them. He seemed especially fond of Kelli, Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson’s three year old daughter and she of him. Even now she went running up to the old man to give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, a gesture that always seemed to delight him.

Kelli looked anxiously at the front door. Sure enough the old man’s daughter, Lottie, appeared. She had inculcated in Kelli an expectation of a warm plate of freshly-baked cookies to show up about this time. The child wasn’t disappointed.

“Hello, Darcey,” Lottie said, brightly. “And I know what you want, young lady!” She held out the tray of cookies to Kelli.

“You can have two cookies, Kelli,” Darcey said.

“Looks like you’ve been doing some shopping, Darcey,” Lottie said.

“Yes. We’re headed to Alaska next week. There were a few things we needed for our trip.”

“Can I help you with those packages?” Lottie asked.

“No, thanks. I can handle’em. We don’t have far to go.”

“Well, anytime you need someone to look after Kelli, don’t hesitate to call on us,” Lottie continued. “You know we just love her to pieces.”

Lottie was always so friendly, so helpful, Darcey thought later as she chopped zucchini and onion in the kitchen of their home on Governor Nicholls street. Sometimes she wondered if the woman was too sweet. There were strange things going on in New Orleans. Things that made one suspicious of what at other times would be ordinary common courtesy.

Darcey was preparing sautéed zucchini and onions to accompany the ribeyes she had bought for dinner. Her mother, Betty, and Ivy Ford, Trent’s surrogate mother, would be there for dinner. The three women and Kelli would fly out of New Orleans for Anchorage.

Darcey Anderson’s Sauteed Zucchini and Onions

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 ounce zucchini (about half a pound), sliced lengthwise & then crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 onion, chopped

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed

2 tablespoons dry white wine

2 tablespoons soy sauce

salt & white pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet, heat the butter and olive oil.

Saute the zucchini, onion, and mushrooms in the hot oil and butter until they soften and begin to brown. It should probably take three to five minutes.

A ribeye resting on a bed of sautéed zucchini, onion, & mushrooms.

Add the wine and soy sauce along with salt and white pepper to taste. Stir to combine.

Continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are well browned, two or three minutes longer.

Serve as a bed for your favorite steak.

As we say in New Orleans, Bon Temps!


Alleyway Grille

Trent Marshall was still in New Orleans when Tom Brennan called.

They had become friends when Trent and Darcey began spending part of the year in Anchorage after A Shooting at Auke Bay. Like Trent, Tom and his wife, Marnie, had been newspaper reporters. While Trent followed his career as an investigative reporter by seeking adventure, Tom became a best-selling author, penning a series of books on true crime in Alaska.

“Hey, Trent,” Tom began the call. “There’s a new restaurant we have to try when you guys get back to Anchorage.”

“Sounds good to me, Tom,” Trent replied. “I’ll be there next week. Darcey will be flying up with her mother and Ivy the following week. Kelli travels better when Betty and Ivy are with her.” Betty was Darcey’s mother. Ivy was the older black woman who became Trent’s surrogate mother when his own parent died suddenly. Trent and Darcey’s daughter Kelli considered both women to be her “Mamaws.”

The Alleyway Grille is in a small building in midtown Anchorage that is a food legend in the city. Dick Sanchis opened the first Arctic Roadrunner in 1964. It soon became the premier local fast food restaurant with Sanchis known as “Your Local Burgerman.” A second, larger Roadrunner on the Old Seward Highway followed and continues as a popular Anchorage eatery.

When Sanchis passed away, his will specified that the original Roadrunner be closed. Fortunately, along came Alan Hammond, a veteran of the kitchen at Chilkoot Charlie’s. Hammond opened the Alleyway Grille in the original Roadrunner building. It was a good day for Anchorage foodies.

Hammond’s years managing ‘Koot’s kitchen might explain the 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 a.m. hours of operation. The Alleyway’s menu has been described as “upscale bar food.” The hours would indicate the restaurant welcomes the crowd hungry after the bars close.

Trent met Tom and Marnie for lunch at the Alleyway. If it was good, he’d come back with Darcey later.

He ordered the Cubano, a hearty sandwich of smoked pork belly, corned beef, onion, and Swiss cheese with Dijon mustard on a Hoagie roll. The combination of taste sensations created a synaptic event on his tongue.

“This,” Trent proclaimed, “is a good sandwich.”

Tom said his club sandwich also was very good. A more traditional offering with ham, bacon, chicken, lettuce, tomato, and pickles, it was brightened by the inclusion of AWG sauce. The house-made sauce, the diners were told, is a southern-inspired spicy aioli with a noticeable hint of cayenne.

Marnie proclaimed her simple BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado) satisfyingly tasty.

The Alleyway Grille

All three sandwiches were accompanied by hand-cut fries, perfectly browned. Trent and his real life friends agreed the fries were the perfect sides for sandwiches that would bring them back for more.

Noting the children’s menu, Trent vowed to bring his whole family when he came back. As he looked over the extensive menu, the decision to be made was breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

The answer, he thought, was “Yes!”



Lobster, Chicken, and Clean Justice

Something was bothering homicide detective Christopher Booth. Something he saw at the hospital. There was reason to believe a serial killer was at work. Four patients had died under mysterious circumstances. Circumstances suggesting foul play.

Murder.

It was true that one of the victims was a government bureaucrat charged with taking bribes to issue permits for questionable projects. The other three were just people who were having a rough time of it.

Whatever it was that Christopher saw lingered tantalizingly at the outer edge of his memory. He decided to drop it. It would, he knew from experience, likely bounce up again in perhaps a more recognizable form.

Christopher and his wife, Nancy Patrick, also a homicide detective, were escaping the Bay area to join their friends Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson in Anchorage. They were packed and ready. While their luggage held clothing that allowed them to dress in layers responsive to the unpredictable Alaska weather, Christopher was wearing huaraches, the comfortable old shoes he liked to wear when flying.

He called Trent from the airport.

“Hey, buddy,” Trent said. “I was just washing up before going to help Darcey in the kitchen. We plan to do you justice for dinner and justice starts with clean hands.”

Trent said he had a very fine Jamaican rum waiting on his bar to whet their appetites before dinner.

As the wheels were retracted after take off, Christopher settled back in his seat with the thought of a pleasant nap in mind. Suddenly his eyes popped open. Trent’s innocent comments raised the image Christopher had seen in the hospital. He knew who the hospital murderer was.

Christopher rushed off the airplane as soon as it landed in Anchorage to call his colleague.

“Roger, the killer is the maintenance man,” he said.

“Are you sure?” Roger questioned. “How do you know?”

“The way he washes his hands,” Christopher said.

Roger laughed.

“You call that evidence?” he asked.

“No,” Christopher said. “I call it probable cause to look into the man’s background. I saw him washing his hands while you and I were talking. Your back was to him so you couldn’t see what he was doing. He spent a good five minutes washing his hands. He paid particular attention to his nails.”

“So what?” Roger exclaimed, sounding a big exasperated. “So he’s a clean maintenance man. Good for him.”

“Roger, maintenance men don’t wash their hands like that. But doctors do,” Christopher said. “Trust me on this. See what you can find out about the man. I’ll bet you will find he has a medical background. He’s not who he pretends to be.

The weather was turning cool in Anchorage. The four friends sat inside with a gentle blaze in the fireplace sipping the Jamaican rum Trent provided. There was still enough evening light to allow them to enjoy the magnificent view of Cook Inlet, Mount Susitna, and the distant Alaska Range from the penthouse windows.

Chicken-Lobster Emince in an Orange-Cream Sauce


Trent and Darcey had prepared a chicken and lobster emince in an orange- cream sauce. An emince is cooked meat, poutry, or even seafood, thinly sliced and served in a sauce. It is sometimes made with leftovers, turning them into elegant meals. Christopher thought he had found a new favorite meal.

Christopher Booth’s Chicken and Lobster Emince in an Orange-Cream Sauce

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup fresh tarragon, or to taste

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons Triple Sec (or other orange flavored liqueur)

1 chicken breast, cooked & thinly sliced

12 ounces lobster tail meat, shelled, cooked, & thinly sliced

salt & white pepper to taste

rice

Heat the butter and olive oil together.

Saute the shallot until it is soft.

Pour in the white wine. Simmer until it is reduced to about a quarter of a cup. It will take ten to fifteen minutes.

Toss in the tarragon and add the heavy cream. Simmer the sauce until it is reduced by half. Add the Triple Sec. Let the sauce simmer for a minute or two longer to allow the liqueur to permeate the sauce.

Stir in the chicken and lobster.

Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Serve over rice.

“Good morning, Roger,” Christopher answered the call.

“I don’t know how you did it,” Christopher’s colleague said, “but you were right. The maintenance man is our guy.”

“What did you find out?”

“He’s been working here for almost a year under the name Dylan Burns. His real name is Franco Liston. And you were right. He was a doctor in Arizona. The hospital there began having a similar series of murders. Liston was suspected but he disappeared before he could be arrested,” Roger explained.

“It’s a bit weird,” Christopher said.

“Yeah, he’s set himself up as judge, jury, and executioner,” Roger said. “The biggest problem, however, is that some of the people who have died are perfectly innocent. Liston gets it in his mind that they’re not good people and decides to deliver his own brand of justice.”

“Well, he’s out of business now,” Christopher observed.

“Thanks for your help,” Roger said. “Now go enjoy your vacation.”

Christopher thought that was good advice. He dragged himself out of bed and set out for the kitchen. The memory of the delicious chicken and lobster emince from the night before lingered on his tongue. He was anxious to see what breakfast delights awaited.

Bon temps!