Manila Clam Pasta on the Grill!

DeerAgainstOceanWebsize“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.” ~ Christopher Reeve

One thing learning how to hunt and fish has given me is a real sense of pride in providing for myself. I know I still buy a large majority of my groceries from the super market, and I am not trying to say I go out and cut all my own wood to heat my home. I am not suddenly “living off the grid.” But I do know I am developing into someone who appreciates knowing where my food is coming from. This year, I opted to grow a larger garden, and have learned how to process and can much of what I harvest. I rarely buy beef from the super market because I have my own supply of elk, deer and pronghorn. It is very satisfying!

When I visited my sister in Washington this past month, I was excited to see what new things I could catch, prepare, and make a fantastic meal from. My sister lives along a bay in the Puget Sound. She essentially has the ocean at her backdoor and access to an abundance of amazing seafood, such as oysters, crabs, salmon, mussels, and clams. We spent a morning while the tide was out digging for creatures in the mud flats. Our catch was plentiful. We prepared Kumamoto oyster shooters one night and a manila clam pasta another. Seafood, in my opinion, is always a treat, but nothing can compare to fresh caught seafood.

Manila clams are actually an imposter to the Washington ocean ecosystem. They are native to Japan and were accidentally introduced to the salty seas of the Washington coast line in oyster shipments. They can be found all along the Pacific coast line of the United States, and are actually a welcome addition to the waters because they are delicious! The clams are identified by their oval shaped shells with heavy ridge lines running the horizontal length of the shell.

ClamsSauceinPanThe worst part about eating clams is the sand! Nothing, and I mean nothing, is worse than biting into the tender meat of a clam and feeling that sand grind between the surfaces of your teeth. I can’t count the bowls of clam chowder I have had ruined by sand. So awful! On that note, you can see why it is very important to properly clean the clams. Clams are siphon eaters. Through their little bi-valve systems, they filter in sand and separate out tiny micro-organisms. To clean out this sand, place the clams in a bucket and cover it with salt water. You can use freshwater, but the clams can only be in freshwater for a certain amount of time before they die, usually no more than a couple of hours. Let the clams sit in the bucket for at least an hour. I let mine hang out overnight. During this time, the clams will continue to filter feed, but since there is not any sand in the bucket, they will only filter in water and will push out the sand still hanging out in their system. This works great! After you have let the clams filter for a while, be sure to scrub off the outside shells too.

ClamsonGrillYou also want the clams to be alive before you cook them. Dead clams can make you sick. So, after cleaning the clams, look for open shells. If you tap the clam gently against a hard surface it should close. Any shells that do not close should be discarded.

Preheat the barbecue with a large mound of coals. You want the grill hot and the heat in the center.

In a large aluminum pan, pour in a cup of white wine, half a cup of extra virgin olive oil (go for the good stuff!), five cloves of minced garlic, and a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.  Add the cleaned clams to the pan and cover with aluminum foil. Let the pan cook on the grill for ten minutes.

While the clams are roasting away, start a pot of water for the linguine. You could actually use whatever type of pasta you fancy: spaghetti, angel hair, fettuccini.  I went with linguini because it is a bit thicker than spaghetti and that seemed like a good idea with an oil based pasta sauce. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, which just means that the pasta is still firm when you bite into it, and not overly mushy.

After ten minutes, pull the foil from the clams and give everything a quick stir. Return the foil cover and allow the clams to cook an additional ten minutes. By this time, the clams should mostly be ready. Pull out all the clams that have opened. If there are any remaining closed clams, allow them to continue cooking a few more minutes. If they still do not open, discard them. They are bad clams! Reserve all the liquid from the pan, as this will be your pasta sauce.

Place the pasta into a large bowl and top it with the clams. Pour the juices from the aluminum pan over the pasta and clams. Sprinkle chopped basil leaves over the entire dish. Finally, squeeze the juice of half a lemon and you are ready to eat!

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I have to say it: this dish was so amazing! I was really, really impressed with how delicious it was. Manila clams are very sweet in flavor and have a wonderful texture. But for me, the best part was the broth that was created from steaming the clams over the grill. The salty seawater from the clams mingled with the dry white wine and the olive oil creating a beautiful sauce. The best way I can describe it is it tastes like the ocean. It is fantastic!

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Happy Hunting!

Manila Clam Pasta on the Grill!

Cook Time: 20 minutes

4-5 servings

Manila Clam Pasta on the Grill!

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 dozen manila clams
  • 1 pound linguini pasta
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 a lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat outdoor grill to high heat.
  2. In a disposable aluminum pan, add white wine, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Stir until wine and olive oil have combined.
  3. Drop in clams. If there are any clams that do not close when lightly tapped, discard them.
  4. Cover pan with foil and grill for ten minutes.
  5. While clams are grilling, start a large pot of water boiling. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
  6. Uncover clams and stir. Return foil cover and cook additional ten minutes.
  7. Uncover clams and pull out all clams that have opened. Any clams still closed should be covered and cooked an additional few minutes. If at this point, the clams have still not opened discard these clams.
  8. Reserve the cooking liquid from the clams.
  9. Place linguini in a large bowl and top with clams. Pour all the reserved liquid from the aluminum pan. Give the pasta and clams a light toss.
  10. Sprinkle over chopped basil and squeeze lemon juice over the top.
  11. Enjoy!
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Kumamoto Oyster Shots!

KumamotoOyster

“The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster.” ~ David Hume

I just finished what is quickly becoming a yearly trip to Washington state. Last year, I visited the San Juan Islands and fished Haro Straight, located along the western border of San Juan Island. This time, I stayed with my sister who just purchased a house along the shorelines of south Puget Sound. And like my last excursion to the Pacific Northwest, the fishing did not disappoint.

Being from the desert, Washington is like visiting a foreign country. There are monstrous trees towering over salty blue water. The weather can only be described as refreshing, and it is a much appreciated break from the arid 100 degree days of the southeastern Utah desert. Heading outdoors is an unfamiliar experience: all the animals and plants are basically strangers.

While at my sister’s, we caught salt water fish, a far cry from the lake trout I am accustomed to. The first fish pulled onto the boat was a dogfish. The dogfish is definitely an inappropriately named creature, as it is actually a shark. This “fish” definitely has the teeth of a shark, so it is not a hard animal to identify. But like I said, pulling that onto the boat was a very different experience from reeling in a rainbow trout.

As with visiting any foreign place, not only were the animals and plants different, but the food was also a completely different experience. I don’t often get to experience seafood, much less fresh seafood. Sure, I have had my share of shrimp, most of which are farm raised. Our super market also carries a variety of fish, such as salmon, tilapia, and cod. As with the salmon, most of these are farm raised and have been frozen for a significant amount of time. I still partake if a sale is happening, but not often. And those frozen, farm-raised fish can not compare to the fresh, catch of the day fish I experienced while visiting Washington.

One of the more unique dishes I tried was the Kumamoto oyster. The Kumamoto oyster originated in Japan, but somehow my sister has them growing right in bay in her backyard. When the tide was low, we ventured out into the muddy bottoms and dug clams and oysters. Kumamotos, known for their surprising sweet flavor and beautifully sculpted shells, are one of the most popular oysters for eating. I have tried oysters in restaurants before, and I was very hesitant to give them another chance. I would best describe them as, well, for lack of a better word, snot. I was not a fan of the taste, texture, or even sight of the oysters from my past dining experiences.

As I am the first to admit I am not a fan of oysters, I will also be the first to admit that I have misjudged the Kumamoto based on my prior experiences. I have stereotyped all oysters to be disgusting and that was not fair of me. Kumamoto oysters are simply fantastic.

Before shucking the oysters, allow them to sit covered in salt water. You can do fresh water, but you should not soak the oyster for more than 20 minutes since the fresh water will kill them. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, as you are going to be eating the oyster so why do you care if it dies, right? In order to preserve the flavor of the oyster and to keep them from drying out, you don’t want them to be dead before consuming them. So, back to cleaning the oysters! Cover them with salt water and allow to soak. I let mine soak for a couple of hours. During this time, the oysters will filter water through their bivalve system. This filtration process is how the oyster eats. He pulls in lots of sand and filters out microorganisms for dining on. This process is also why oysters and clams are very sandy. Nothing is worse than biting down on a gritty, sandy oyster!  By placing the oyster in a bucket of water, the creature will filter like it normally does but without the ocean bottom to take in, it will eventually filter all of the sand out. It works amazing and is a step worth taking when preparing clams and oysters.

KumamotoOysterSauceSince this was my first time preparing fresh caught oysters, I had to learn how to shuck them properly. It isn’t too difficult, but practice definitely makes it easier, so does a shucking knife. Having only shucked two oysters at this point in time, I think this link provides a better tutorial on how to get your oyster on the half shell for eating: How to Shuck an Oyster!

While the Kumamoto is a fantastic tasting oyster, this slightly spicy sauce was what took the culinary experience from fantastic to phenomenal! In a small bowl, mix together a tablespoon of each of the following ingredients: sriracha, lime juice, minced garlic, minced shallot, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce. This will dress a dozen or so oysters, but you can make as much or as little of the sauce as you need, just follow the simple rule of equal proportions for each ingredient.

KumamotoOysterFinalPlate

Drizzle the sauce over the oysters on their half shell, add a few thin slices of green onion, and slurp that baby down! The combination of the slightly spicy vinegar sauce and the sweet piece of oyster is perfection. They texture of the kumamoto is tender, but not chewy. The sauce creates this beautiful balance of spicy and sweet, but there is also a salty element created by the ocean water in the oyster. It is one delicious bite. And I followed it with just a few more!

Happy Hunting! (And Oyster Harvesting)

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Foil Wrapped Trout Packs!

FoilPacketsSunset “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ~ Julia Child

I am a planner. I like to know what lies ahead and how I am going to get there. I employ this attitude in almost everything I do in life. Stepping outside the plan is difficult for me, especially if I am not prepared for stepping outside the plan (somehow that doesn’t even make sense, but if you are planner then you know what I am talking about!).

Camping is a planner’s dream, or nightmare depending on how you look at it. I make lots of lists, trying to think of the unexpected popping up and how I will be prepared to tackle it. I try to cover everything I would could possibly need. Everything is broken down into lists, which have sub-lists, and then the lists are checked through, usually twice. For cooking, there is the master list of each meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. Then each meal is broken into two sub-lists: ingredients and tools. And then there is another list entirely for stocked items that I try to take everywhere. Things like cutting boards, knives that actually cut things (as opposed to most camping knives that tend to just tear things! I hate that!), extra bowls for mixing and such, spatulas, aluminum foil and Ziploc bags. The list is an ever evolving task that is added to each time a new hunting or camping trip happens.

With all that said, this past camping trip presented an unexpected. I never plan on catching fish. I consider myself a bad luck fisherman actually. Everyone around me can be reeling them in, and I will sit idly watching happy faces pull in beautiful fish. I would say it makes me sad, or jealous, or angry, or something, but I actually am used to it by now. So, you can imagine my surprise when this past weekend I limited out on rainbow trout two days in a row.

Since I never plan on catching fish, I never plan on cooking fish while at camp. This time was different. As I was cleaning the trout, I had this overwhelming urge to have fresh lake caught fish that night. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, or if I had anything to prepare the fish with, but I knew it needed to happen. I needed to ditch the planned dinner and make a fish dinner.

Since supplies were limited, I decided to try and cook this fish in foil packets in the actual fire pit. I have done other meals this way before, usually ones filled with meat, potatoes, vegetables, and a gravy base. It is a quick way to make a fantastic tasting meal. It requires little preparation, little clean-up, and amazing results. I had never done fish this way before though.

Besides having no set way to cook this fish, I also had no recipe. So, this impromptu meal was going to have to be a “clean out the cupboard” type effort. I searched through bins for whatever spices and ingredients I could find. This recipe is what I came up with, and I have to say it was superb. I felt like I was eating at a five-star restaurant.

To start, you have to build a fire. This is usually a given at a campsite, but I thought I better mention it. If you aren’t much a fire chef, which I can’t say that I am one, you can also heat up some coals and just place the packets on top of the coals. I used my charcoal chimney for my dutch oven to heat up about ten coals and cooked over those. It worked great.

FoilPacketsFish For this recipe, I left the fish on the bones. It makes for each fish cleaning, cooking, and the meat literally flakes off the bones once it is finished cooking.

To start, cut two pieces of aluminum foil about twice the size of fish. There needs to be enough foil to fold over the entire fish and other ingredients and then wrap the edges closed. The fish should be centered in the piece of foil with at least an inch of room around it. You want to use two pieces of foil to create a really good barrier between the heat of the fire and the fish. I have single layered the aluminum foil before and things tend to burn rather than steam.

Salt and pepper the fish. If you have some lemon pepper, which is a common seasoning used for fish, that would be great. You could also do my go-to favorite, Montreal Steak Seasoning. I put that on everything because I appreciate the balance of salt and pepper it has. Once the fish is seasoned, add thin slices of onion. Since this is an impromptu menu item, you might not have onions. You could also do minced garlic. Even dried onions or garlic would work, which is something many people leave stocked in their camping supplies. I tend to always take onions with me when camping because they can be added to many different dishes.

On top of the onion, places thin pats of butter. My slices were cut about a 1/16 of an inch thick. You could cut the pats thicker and just not place as many on top of the fish too. I ended up with about five mirco-thinly sliced pieces per fish. It was a good amount of butter. Oh, just a quick note. The butter I had was unsalted. If you used salted butter remember to not add more salt to packet or you could end up with a very salty dish.

Gently pour a good drizzle of Worcestershire sauce over the fish. It is okay if it just pools up below the fish. Once sealed, the packet will steam everything and the sauce will infiltrate the fish beautifully!

My fish packet helper!
My fish packet helper!

To create the packet, fold the foil over the top of the fish. Gently start rolling the edges of the foil towards the fish, taking care not to puncture or rip the foil. The foil has to be completely sealed or the juices will run out and things won’t cook right. If you tear a whole, grab another piece of foil and add another layer to the packet. The best way to think about making packets is to just try and keep things pretty. The prettier the packet, the better things seem to hold together.

FoilPacketsFishCoals

FoilPacketsFishCooked

Cook the fish about five to seven minutes per side. This will ensure the fish is flaky and pink, the onions are soft and sweet, and the butter and Worcestershire have melted into a delicate sauce. When I was cooking, the packets actually puffed up when they were finished, which was also a good indicator that things were done. However, if there are any leaks in the packets, this won’t happen so I would keep an eye on the timer.

FoilPacketsPotatoes

For a quick side dish, I cooked up some cheesy dutch oven potatoes. Cube the potatoes into bite size pieces, season with salt and pepper (or as I did, because like I said I am crazy, you can add Montreal Steak Seasoning. I have a problem.), and cover with cheese. You could also throw in some onion if you have left-overs from the fish packets. Cook over coals, about ten to twelve on the bottom and eight to ten on the top, for twenty to thirty minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

Happy Hunting!

FoilPacketsFinalPlate

Foil Wrapped Trout Packs!

Foil Wrapped Trout Packs!

Ingredients

  • 4 full trout, skinned and on the bone
  • 1 onion, cut into thin slices
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 stick butter
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  1. Light your campfire or charcoal coals.
  2. For each fish, cut two pieces of aluminum foil. Foil should be twice the size of the fish.
  3. Place fish in center of foil.
  4. Salt and pepper each fish.
  5. Place slices of onion along the fish.
  6. Cut butter into thin slices and lay atop the onion.
  7. Pour a tablespoon of Worcestershire over fish. Repeat with other three fish.
  8. Cook packets over the fire or coals and cook for five to seven minutes per side, flipping half way through the cook time, until fish are flakey and red. Onions should be soft and sweet. Enjoy!
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Smoked Salmon Dip: Perfect for Any Occasion!

SmokedSalmonDipLandscape
“My life is what a salmon must feel like. They are always going upstream, against the current.” ~ Laura Schlessinger

I am guilty, just as everyone else, of forgetting the simple things in life. We all get so wrapped up in work, and kids, and chores, and well, just life. Things get crazy, and we forget to appreciate the little things. We also complicate everything by making things more difficult than they have to be. It’s a wicked cycle, and difficult to kick. I fall in to this deadly spiral even with writing this blog. I will start thinking about recipes to try or tips to research, and I get so wrapped up in the idea that everything has to be complex and difficult that I forget to include the simple things! The simple things are just as important as the big things. So, in honor of the simple life, I am sharing my favorite throw together in a pinch smoked salmon dip.

Last fall, my family ventured to the San Juan Islands in Washington. The trip was amazing, and resulted in a plentiful harvest of Dungeness crabs and pink, or humpback, salmon. We also even caught a king salmon. It was a trip I will always remember. The weather there is starkly different from the deserts of Utah, with the mornings usually hosting a blanket of light fog resting over the calm, Pacific waters and the afternoons filled with a light, salty breeze and beautiful sunshine. The temperature is perfect for t-shirts and jeans with a light jacket, and sitting out all day is easy.

SmokedSalmonDipWhalebyRock SmokedSalmonDipFish

The animals, of course, are drastically different from my home turf. The sounds of the San Juan Islands are home to several pods of orcas, harbor seals, minke whales, and Dall’s porpoises. The islands themselves house Columbia black tail deer, red fox, bald eagles, and over 23 species of butterflies. Needless to say, it is an amazing place and I recommend visiting whenever you get the chance. While we were there, I posted a quick blog about how to travel to the islands and find lodging. You can find that information here: A Desert Girl Heads to the Pacific Northwest.

SmokedSalmonDipPole We were fortunate to have a freezer in our lodging accommodations, and we certainly utilized it. We were able to clean and store our humpback salmon catch in order to transport it back to Utah. I have made a lot of different recipes with the salmon we caught, and I also made a batch of smoked salmon. Smoked salmon is one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon. The salmon takes on this sweet but smoky flavor and it also stores well. I like to flake it over salads for a quick lunch, stir it in with some asparagus or leeks for a fine omelet, add it to dips such as this one, and of course just pull a chunk out and eat it plain. It is so good!

Okay, so on to this simple recipe. This works easiest with a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you could use a hand mixer or stir it by hand. Those two methods just take a bit more time, but are completely doable. Before you start, set out an eight ounce block of cream cheese and allow it to come to room temperature, about fifteen minutes or so. Using cold cream cheese will result in chunks in the dip, which aren’t so great. Room temperature cream cheese will create a smooth, well mixed dip. So, into the food processor drop the entire block of cream cheese. Scoop in half a cup of sour cream. Pulse the machine once or twice to mix together the cheese and sour cream. Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and run the food processor until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

How much smoked salmon you add is entirely your choice. I like my dip to be full of bigger chunks of salmon, so I add in between six and seven ounces of salmon and I pulse it very minimally. If six ounces of fish is too intense for your liking, go with only four ounces of salmon and run the food processor until the salmon is broken down. I wait until after I have my salmon added to add in the dill, salt, and pepper. All of these should be based on tasting. Some smoked salmons are more salty than others, so be sure to taste as you add these ingredients in order to get a good balance of the dill with the sweet and salty flavors. I am a pretty big dill fan, so I tend to add at least a tablespoon of fresh minced dill, sometimes a little more. If you like a little kick in your dip, add a teaspoon or two of fresh prepared horseradish. You could also do a couple drops of Tabasco sauce.

SmokedSalmonDip

Once the ingredients are all mixed together, spoon the dip into a bowl and surround it with crackers, vegetables, and breads. For vegetables, I will pretty much dip anything in smoked salmon. I have done the traditional basics of carrots, celery, and cucumber slices. I have also gotten a little fancier and included radishes, endives, cauliflower, bell peppers, and slices of hot peppers like jalapenos. This dip would also make a great sandwich spread. Maybe a couple slices of whole grain bread with smoked salmon spread and cucumber slices? Mmmm…sounds good to me!

Happy Hunting!

Smoked Salmon Dip: Perfect for Any Occasion!

Smoked Salmon Dip: Perfect for Any Occasion!

Ingredients

  • Four to Six Ounces Smoked Salmon
  • Eight Ounces Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Dill, Minced
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
    Optional Ingredients:
  • 1 Teaspoon Fresh Prepared Horseradish
  • Tabasco Sauce

Instructions

  1. Allow the cream cheese to come to room temperature, about fifteen minutes.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the cream cheese and sour cream.
  3. Add in the lemon juice, and combine until smooth and creamy.
  4. Drop in chunks of smoked salmon and pulse until desired texture.
  5. Add dill, salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Horseradish or tabasco can be added for a bit of heat.
  7. Serve with vegetables such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, endives, radishes, peppers. Also serve with crackers or breads, such as bagel chips.
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Fish Cakes from Striped Bass!!!

FishCake“I only make movies to finance my fishing.” ~ Lee Marvin

Growing up, fish was never my favorite food. I think it was because most of my experience with fish revolved around either the fish stick or frozen cod. Sometimes after a summer camping trip with my parents, my mom would bake the trout we caught. I don’t remember eating much of the trout, and instead see myself using my fork to push flakes of fish around the plate until my mom said I could leave the table. My how times have changed.

Since I really started fishing, I have learned I love fish! I love all kinds of fish too: salmon, trout, large and small mouth bass, walleye, striped bass, yellow fin tuna…the list could go on and on. I even find myself ordering fish at restaurants, which is something I used to consider as a waste of a good meal. What has caused this change of heart? Preparing my fresh catches at home. The more I experiment, the more I am becoming a fish addict.

I have blogged about striped bass in the past. The striped bass, which are abundant in Lake Powell, I usually prepare as fish tacos. The sweet and flaky meat of the bass makes for great tacos. So, after a successful weekend fishing trip to Lake Powell that resulted in a dozen beautiful striped bass, I was craving those fish tacos and I was determined to have them.

Once I started cooking, I realized I was limiting myself. Here on my counter lay more fillets than I can eat in one sitting. Why not spice things up a bit and try something new? So, I did: fish cakes.

Fish cakes are basically what you are imagining: little crunchy pancake-sized patties of fish. You know, just like a crab cake, but with fish. So, yeah, a fish cake!

I had not planned on making something other than the fish tacos for dinner, so I made these cakes with supplies from my cupboard and fridge. The recipe is a bit improvised, but I think that is a very convenient thing about something like fish cakes. You can make them to suit your personal tastes all while emptying out leftovers from the fridge. Perfect!

So, let’s get started on this quick and easy fish cake before I start drooling talking on my keyboard about them.

First, throw a sweet potato in the microwave, and don’t forget to pierce it with a fork! I let my potato go for about five minutes, or until it was soft to the touch. I know a sweet potato sounds weird for a fish cake, but it will bring a little substance to the cake so it doesn’t completely fall apart when you go to fry them up.

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While the potato is cooking, remove the fish from the skin and cut it into chunks. I used about four fillets, which were all pretty decent sized and came from fish that weighed around 3 to 4 pounds. Place a few chunks of fish at a time into a steam basket. I don’t actually own a steam basket, so filled a large pot with about two inches of water and placed a metal colander inside it. I dropped several chunks of fish in the colander and placed a lid over the top. This worked great! And the fish were thoroughly steamed in about five minutes. You can tell the fish is ready because it will turn this beautiful pearl white color and the pieces will start to look flaky

IMG_2539So, now that the fish and sweet potatoes are cooked, it is time to start building the cakes. Flake the fish into a large bowl. Add the flesh of the sweet potato in there as well. Now, this is where things can get fancy to your own liking. I diced up some red bell pepper because I love the sweetness of the pepper and the pop of color that it adds. I also dropped in minced ginger, which adds a surprising little kick to each bite, and diced celery and green onions. You could get real creative here and add all different kinds of stuff, like bacon, corn, peas, jalapeno, carrots, and the list goes on!

With all the flavors layered in the bowl, it is time to add some glue to help hold it all together. I added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, because I love the tang and slight sweetness of Dijon, but you could also add plain yellow mustard or a spicy mustard. Also, add a tablespoon of mayonnaise or miracle whip. You could even do plain Green yogurt, if that is what you have on hand, as all you are looking for is some type of binding agent. Now, you can mix this all together with a spoon, but I found it easier to just get my hands in there are really incorporate everything together.

It is now time to batter and fry! I set up a battering station, just to help keep things organized. So, in a shallow dish add about a half cup of flour. This will help the egg to bind to the cakes. In the next shallow dish, whip an egg with a splash of water. Finally, in the last dish add a cup of panko crumbs. Panko crumbs are an Asian version of bread crumbs. They are crunchier than traditional Italian style bread crumbs and are a great alternative if you are wanting some extra crunch. In a deep sided pan, add about an inch of oil. You want an oil that can handle a higher temperature so it won’t burn the oil but where you will get a good fry on your cakes. I used canola oil, because it was all I had at home at the time, but the more common oil choice would be vegetable.

Form your fish cakes to a disc about the size of your palm. They will be delicate, so you have to handle them gentle while battering. Dust the cake in flour, dip it in the egg mixture, and finally coat the cake with the panko. Drop the cake immediately in the oil and allow to fry for three to four minutes per side. You can fit about four cakes, depending on the size of your pan, but you don’t want to overcrowd the pan or you oil temperature will drop too much and the cakes won’t get quite as crunchy and golden brown.IMG_2547

For my cakes, I created a tarragon dipping sauce to serve along side. The mixed a tablespoon of fresh minced tarragon, a half cup of Greek yogurt, a half cup of mayonnaise, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The tarragon flavor pairs wonderfully with light, fresh striped bass. These cakes are crunchy, satisfying, and just a bit sweet! So good and easy to whip up any night of the week and a great way to prepare fresh caught fish!

Fish Cakes from Striped Bass!!!

Fish Cakes from Striped Bass!!!

Ingredients

    For Cakes:
  • Four Striped Bass Fish Filets (About a pound and a half to two pounds)
  • Medium sized Sweet Potato
  • Two Scallions, diced
  • One Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • Two inch piece Ginger, grated
  • Two Stalks Celery, diced
  • One Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • One Tablespoon Mayonnaise
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
    For Batter:
  • One Cup Flour
  • One Egg
  • One Cup Panko
  • Vegetable or Canola Oil
    For Sauce:
  • One Tablespoon Minced Tarragon
  • Half Cup Mayonnaise
  • Half Cup Greek Yogurt
  • Teaspoon Lemon Juice

Instructions

  1. Microwave Sweet Potato on High for about five minutes, be sure to pierce the potatoes with a fork.
  2. Place fish filets in steam basket and cook until fish is white and flaky, about five minutes.
  3. Flake fish into medium size bowl. Add mashed sweet potato, diced red bell pepper, celery, ginger, and scallion. Mix in mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Incorporate all ingredients together.
  4. Create battering and frying station by placing flour, egg, and panko bread crumbs in shallow dishes.
  5. Press fish cakes into palm sized discs. Dip cake in flour, egg, and panko. Drop into pre-heated deep sided pan with oil. Cook for four to five minutes per side, until golden brown and crusty!
  6. For sauce, mix all ingredients together. Serve on top of cake!
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Dungeness Crab Alfredo Fettuccine Recipe: Rich and Creamy!!!

The players needed for putting together a delicious Dungeness crab dinner!
The players needed for putting together a delicious Dungeness crab dinner!

“Sweet, delicious Dungeness crab is always a treat.” ~ Tom Douglas

My first meal after a day out crabbing is always surf and turf. I immediately head to the supermarket and collect the finest rib eye or New York strip steaks I can find, risotto, crusty bread, a few pounds of butter, and a fine bottle of white wine. It is a grand affair. And I stayed true to form after the first day of crabbing on my San Juan Islands trip

On the second night of our trip, we still had a handful of crabs to prepare, and while surf and turf is great it is also extremely expensive. One can only afford steak so many times before their wallet is full of nothing more than moths. I started thinking about how sweet the Dungeness crab meat is and what would pair well with its flavor and texture. Pasta always comes to my mind when I think about food. I love pasta. Alfredo was also running around in there as well. So, I decided to prepare a Dungeness crab alfredo dinner, and my diners were not disappointed!

Making a thick, creamy, rich Alfredo sauce is not an easy task. Many times, right as you think the sauce is looking beautiful and you are ready to pour it all over your noodles, it will break. The butter and cream will separate and you end up with a greasy, gritty ball of something that looks remotely like a cheesy sauce. I hate when that happens!

Since we were on vacation, and I was away from my stove, I felt that making an alfredo sauce was going to be very difficult. Alfredo sauce is very sensitive to the temperatures you cook it at, and being on a strange stove can make holding the right temperature very difficult. I was nervous, but really wanted alfredo! I was searching the internet for sauce ideas, and when I came across this recipe using cream cheese as a base for the sauce I knew it would be a great alternative to a traditional sauce.

Before starting anything else, prepare the crab meat. If your crabs are still alive, they need to be boiled for 15 minutes in a pot of hot water. I have tips for cleaning the crabs up before meat removal at this link: Cleaning Up Those Dungies! If the crab has already been boiled and is frozen, you can warm it up in the microwave or oven. I personally prefer the microwave. The legs need to be cracked and meat pulled out and don’t forget the meat at the base of the legs where they attach to the body.

CrabAlfredoSauceFor the sauce, in a medium-sized pot melt a stick of butter over medium heat. Add shallots and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.  When the butter is melted and the shallots have sweated, add the entire 8oz of cream cheese and start whisking. At first, the cream cheese will break into chunks, and it is SCARY! You will start questioning if this is going to work and want to abandon the pot and start over. Keep stirring! Just keep stirring! And stirring. The cream cheese will continue to melt and start to smooth out, I promise. But you have to keep stirring! And not freak out!

Once the cream cheese is smooth and creamy, slowly add the milk. I said slowly! Keep whisking as you pour the half and half to maintain that creamy texture. The beautiful thing about this recipe is you can substitute the dairy for whatever you have on hand: cream, 1% or 2% milk, or whole milk. If you are using milk, I would suggest the whole milk because it is just adds to the creaminess of the sauce, but when in a pinch anything will work fine.

CrabAlfredoSaucewithCheeseAfter incorporating the milk, add the parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Mix until the sauce reaches your desired thickness and then remove it from the heat. If you find that it is getting too thick, add more milk until it thins out.

Like I said in the beginning, this sauce is easy to pull together and tastes amazing. There are two keys to making this sauce a success. First, add everything in the order listed. The order is important for creating a creamy, well developed sauce. Second, just keep stirring!

CrabAlfredoFinalPotFor the noodles, there is a lot of flexibility. The long, ribbon-like fettuccine noodles are probably the most traditional accompaniment for cream sauces such as alfredo. Other great alternatives would be the classic spaghetti noodles, the thicker linguine noodle, or an angel hair pasta. Cook the noodles to al dente, where they have just a bit of bite left. You know, that moment between chewy and mushy.

Once the sauce and noodles are ready, put the crab, noodles, and sauce into a large bowl and toss, coating everything. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the top, and serve with a crisp glass of chardonnay.

This meal is delicious. The sweet meat of the Dungeness crab is aptly complemented by the tangy cream cheese in the alfredo sauce.CrabAlfredoFinalPlate

Dungeness Crab Alfredo Fettuccine Recipe: Rich and Creamy!!!

4 servings

Dungeness Crab Alfredo Fettuccine Recipe: Rich and Creamy!!!

Ingredients

  • 3 Dungeness Crab (1 1/2 to 2 pound crabs)
  • 1 pound fettuccine noodles
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 8oz package cream cheese
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 6oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Remove crab meat from the legs of pre-cooked crab. Set aside.
  2. Cook fettuccine noodles to al dente, according to the instructions on the package.
  3. In a medium sized sauce pan, melt the butter and add the minced shallots to sweat for two to three minutes. Add the cream cheese to the melted butter and stir until the sauce is creamy and smooth.
  4. Slowly pour in the half and half, continuously whisking as you pour.
  5. Once the sauce is smooth and the lumps are out, add the parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Mix until the sauce reaches your desired thickness. If the sauce is too thick, add more half and half to thin out. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Toss the noodles, crab, and sauce together in a large bowl.
  7. Enjoy!!!!!
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Grilled Orange and Herb Trout!

GrillingFish“In the hands of an able cook, fish can become an inexhaustible source of perpetual delight.” ~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Trout has never been my favorite food. Growing up, when people said something was “fishy” and they didn’t like it, my mind immediately would picture trout. I have tried trout in restaurants a few times, and usually the end results are my sides are gone but three-quarters of the fish is still on the plate. I feel like a stubborn toddler who refuses to eat, and everyone around me keeps pressing for me to “try your fish.”

I thoroughly enjoy trout fishing, whether it be for rainbows, cutthroats, or browns. Trout fishing is an activity that can be enjoyed by any age group, can be done from the shore or a boat, requires patience, and also tests your critical thinking abilities. With trout fishing, there doesn’t seem to be a one-size fits all solution for catching fish. Sometimes lures work, sometimes worms, other times the fish are craving cheese. Every time is different. A day spent trout fishing is a good day.

So, as much as I loved trout fishing, I didn’t really enjoy eating trout all that much. I knew a lot of people who said they loved trout, so I figured there had to be something that I was doing wrong. As I started fishing more and experimenting with fish recipes, I realized I don’t dislike trout. I dislike farm-raised, probably been frozen for a few months trout. Trout prepared at home is amazing!

TroutIngredients

The last few months, I have tried simple, but delicious, fish recipes and I have made over-the-top recipes combining ingredients that I never thought would be a good match for trout. This recipe is definitely a simple and quick recipe. I made it at home this time, but I think it is one that would be amazing over the fire pit after a long day of catching fish at the lake. While I call this a simple and quick recipe, the flavors are rich and very developed. Even with only a handful of ingredients, I think the taste is very complex and each bite highlights a different aspect of the fish.

FishFilets I used filets with the skin on for this recipe, but you could also leave the fish whole and stuff the cavity of with ingredients. If I were preparing this while camping, I would definitely do it that way since it would require much less preparation, which isn’t always easy to do when outside. But since I was at home, I used the filets so I didn’t have to pick around bones. These particular fish were cutbows we caught lake fishing in Colorado, and the meat was red, almost like salmon, and very substantial. I used to think people were weird when they would talk about how beautiful cuts of meat were, but these filets can only be described as beautiful!

This recipe requires very few ingredients, but it does have a couple of extra “tools” needed. First, you will need a grill basket. I actually went out and bought a grill basket just for this recipe, but I am really excited to own it now. I can’t wait to try it out over the fire the next time I am camping. It also is handy for the grill at home. It could be used for not just fish, but anything you layer together that needs a little extra support while on the grill. Second, you will need to grab a roll of kitchen twine to help tie the filets together.

So, let’s talk ingredients. I used oranges, dill, tarragon, and parsley for my fish, but this is the type of recipe you can afford to be flexible with. Experimenting with different flavors will result in meals that taste entirely different and new, but are still just as simple and quick as the original idea. I really love recipes like that. I don’t have to learn a whole bunch of different techniques to have unique flavors on my plate. You could easily replace the oranges with tangerines, lemons, or maybe even grapefruit (I haven’t tried that, but it sounds delicious to me!). I would even dare to try a lime! The herbs could also be switched out for rosemary, thyme, oregano, or whatever else your mind can come up with!

I decided to use tarragon this time around for two reasons: it is a great accompaniment for oranges and it is, by far, my favorite herb. I love the licorice flavor, which is weird because I despise licorice the candy. Anyway, besides the tarragon, I also added dill, which is always great with fish, and parsley, which adds a fresh taste I think.

CloseupTrout Before layering the stuffing ingredients, I cleaned all the bones out of the filets. Even though the majority of the bones were removed when the fish was fileted, there are still some that run along the middle of the filet for about half the length of each filet. You can easily feel them with your fingers and pull them out with pliers. Removing them makes for a much more enjoyable eating experience, as no one likes fishing bones out of their mouth. (No pun intended!) I also rinsed each filet.

Once the fish were clean, I salted and peppered each filet. You could also add more flavors at this step if you were interested, such as a sprinkle of garlic or onion salt. I wanted to keep things simple this time, so I just stuck with salt and pepper. Next, lay down a layer of thinly sliced oranges that run the length of the filet. The herbs are added next, and part of what makes this recipe so quick is the herbs do not needed cut or minced or anything other than just placed atop the orange slices. I used about two sprigs of each type of herb. The only thing left to do is tie the filets together in a fish sandwich and place them in the grill basket.

TiedTrout The grill should be pre-heated to medium high. To help prevent the fish from sticking, a little vegetable oil can be rubbed on the grate. I also rubbed the inside of the grill basket with a little oil before enclosing the fish. Once the grill is up to temperature, place the basket directly on the heat and close the lid. Set a timer for seven minutes. After seven minutes, flip the basket, close the lid, and let it cook for another seven minutes.

I could actually smell the dill and tarragon mixed with the oranges before I pulled the fish off the grill. It was heavenly! To serve, cut the kitchen twine and remove the herbs and orange slices. The filets will be flakey, fragrant, tender, and full of flavor. I served with extra orange slices for squeezing over the fish and a simple side salad. Now that is one delicious meal!

Happy Fishing!
FinalPlateTrout

Grilled Orange and Herb Trout!

Grilled Orange and Herb Trout!

Ingredients

  • 8 trout filets
  • 2 oranges
  • 8 springs tarragon
  • 8 springs dill
  • 8 springs parsley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. After cleaning trout filets, salt and pepper to taste
  2. Thinly slice oranges and place in single layer on one fish filet
  3. Top orange slices with sprigs of parsley, tarragon, and dill
  4. Top with second fish filet and tie with kitchen twine
  5. Place filets in grill basket and set on pre-heated medium high grill
  6. Close grill lid and allow fish to cook for seven minutes
  7. Flip basket and let fish cook additional seven minutes
  8. Serve with extra slices of orange and enjoy!
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