Friday, August 18, 2006

The Authentic Wisconsin Fish Boil

Greetings from Appleton, Wisconsin. (If you've never heard of it, it's about 30 miles southwest of Green Bay.) Now, I love fish. But boiled fish? That just sounds heinous. But when in Rome, you know? So T. and I headed north up the peninsula and after visiting some antique shops, a winery, and a dairy, hit the Old Mill Supper Club for an authentic Door County Fish Boil. Basically, it's a huge pot of salt water heated over a kerosene burner. They lower a big basket of red potatoes, white onions, and carrots into the water for about a half an hour, then put another basket of white fish down on top of that one for 7-8 minutes. The fish was caught just a few hours previously in the Sturgeon Bay. They add a bottle of lemon juice toward the end and then carry the baskets full of steaming fish and veggies inside, where they serve you right out of the basket with sourdough bread and a vat of melted butter. Add some cold beer and homemade cherry pie and voila! dinner. And quite a tasty one at that.

The fish was light, flaky, buttery, and the freshest I think I've ever had. By the time we got done....

My only regret was that we were too full to try the "original hashbrown sandwich" when we passed the Countryside Restaurant on the way home.

Friday, August 11, 2006

the vodka gimlet

No one knows the exact origin of the gimlet. Many ascribe it to Naval Officer Thomas Gimlette, but no written credit has actually been given to him. Rumor has it that while at sea, the sailors added lime juice to their liquor to ward off scurvy. In 1928 D.B. Wesson said a gimlet was "gin, a spot of lime, and soda." In 1953 Raymond Chandler gave the description: "a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else" in his novel The Long Goodbye. Today most bartenders mix it more to a 4 parts gin (or vodka, if specified~ the early 90's led to an influx of vodka over gin preferences) to 1 part lime. Some use fresh lime juice and simple syrup, some use sweetened lime juice, some add a splash of soda.

However you make it, a gimlet is one of those perfect cocktails that transcends time, fashion, and mood. Although shaken and strained into a martini glass, a gimlet makes a simply beautiful cocktail, here at Chalet J it is most often just 2 shots vodka and 1/2 shot Rose's over ice, in a classic rocks glass. It's a slick drink, almost oily (with vodka, anyway; I know nothing the properties of gin except that it tastes like pine needles *shudder*), clear with a hint of chartreuse... it just tastes classy. You can close your eyes, and almost see the a dark wood bar, almost smell the faint aroma of cigar smoke, almost hear the piano softly tinkling.


making do with what you have

I am a huge fan of comfort food. Sometimes you just need it. I don't know why, but for the last couple of days, I've been thinking nonstop about fried chicken. Now, I have never in my life made fried chicken. But I've been up since 7 and running around all day, and I've been so damn healthy for the last 3 weeks, by the time I got home at 6pm, all I could think about was fried chicken! Anyway, earlier this week, I mostly finished a container of black pepper cashews from Whole Foods. There were a lot of little cashew bits left among the salt and pepper in the bottom, and I had set them aside thinking I could use them in something later on. I had briefly thought about breading a chicken breast in them, but by the time I finished trimming all the skin and fat off the piece I had thawed, there were only three little strip-sized pieces. Struck with a brilliant notion, I chopped the peppered cashews finely with my Ulu, and added a couple of tablespoons of flour, a tablespoon of cornmeal, and salt. I brushed the chicken strips with egg, tossed them in the mixture, and pan fried them in olive oil. Seriously... what's better than chicken strips?? They were hot, crispy, crunchy, savory, and just PERFECT for a Friday night on the couch. I gobbled them up with broccoli and lemon, a vodka gimlet, and The March of the Penguins.

Ohmigah, these penguins are soooooo cute I kinda feel bad for just devouring one of their fellow fowls. But... I guess it's a good thing chickens aren't as cute as penguins, because my belly is really happy right now.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

asian soup

I've decided to veer my blog in another direction. I'd love to be able to write like Molly or take photographs like Chanelle, but truthfully, my talents lie in creative, nutritious meals for the foodie on a budget. I don't actually make all that many fancy or gourment meals - but I cook a lot and I use food that people keep in their pantries, and I think there's a definite niche of (somewhat lazy) foodies out there interested in learning more about losing a few lbs (or maintaining a healthy weight). Although I definitely indulge, and frequently, there's absolutely no reason one should have to sacrifice taste for health. So I'll be adding nutritional information to my recipes whenever I can.

(PS> I've lost almost 5 lbs this month and I feel great!)

You guys know how much I love soup. Soup is also one of the best ways to fill your tummy without using up a lot of your daily caloric intake, and one of the easiest things to throw together. I always keep Pacific broth on hand - usually chicken and onion. I devised this particular soup out of necessity- one of those "making do with what you have" sort of meals, but now it's one of my favorites.

2 C chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yam or sweet potato
1/2 C mushrooms (preferable shiitake)
1/2 C white onion, cut into crescents
1/2 C frozen, shelled soybeans
1 tsp sesame oil
1 green onion stalk, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Wash & puncture your yam, wrap it in foil, and bake. By the way, a yam and a sweet potato are not the same vegetable - in fact, they are not even in the same family of vegetables. They come from different continents and have very different nutritional components. Generally speaking, a yam will have about 30-50% more calories than a sweet potato of comparable size, but the vitamins and minerals also far outweigh the sweet potato. Both are great sources of Vitamins A & C, beta carotene, and dietary fiber (what makes you feel full). Take out the potato when it is done but before it gets too soft. While it is cooling, sautee mushrooms and white onions in garlic and sesame oil. Cube the sweet potato (you can peel it for looks but discarding ths skin will lose about half of its beneficial fiber and many vitamins). Once the mushrooms and onions are done, add your chicken broth, sweet potato, and frozen soy beans, and heat to serving temperature. You will need to salt to taste during this step. Garnish with green onion, sesame seeds, and black pepper. Serves 1 person (2 bowls - that's just how I roll).

Calories: 450, fat: 10g (less than 2g saturated), protein: 21g, fiber: 14g. This dish contains 4 of your 5-7 FDA-recommended daily servings of vegetables.

Monday, August 07, 2006

at long last....

I promised Molly over at Orangette that I would make these weeks ago. Many, many people turn their noses up at the thought of pickled green beans, but I think they're wonderful - fresh, crunchy, summery, vinegar-y, and the perfect garnish for a homemade bloody mary.

First of all, you have to have the old fashioned Mason jars. They just don't look right in anything else. I used a big one today because that's all I had unused, but I prefer the smaller size so you can stand the beans upright before they start curling. Regardless, you have to trim your beans so they fit exactly in the jar, just to the bottom of the threaded part. I know some people prefer to flash boil the beans first, but I like mine super-crunchy, so I start with them raw. Pack trimmed beans in the jar tightly with a few crescents of white onion, 10-12 fresh dill sprigs, a couple of garlic cloves (either sliced or minced, depending on your visual preference,) and some very coarsely ground black pepper.

On the stove, heat regular white vinegar (about 5-6% acidity) to a rolling boil. Pour boiling vinegar over beans to top and cap immediately. You'll have to use a towel or oven mitt to tighten the lid, but the heat should seal the ring. It will pop back open when you re-open the jar for the first time.

Let cool on the counter, then transfer to refrigerator for a couple of days for maximum flavor. Serve on their own or as a garnish. Enjoy!!