Monday, September 1, 2014

Salmon a la Kansas

Apologies to those of you with better memories than mine; you might remember this from the July of the '09 series of Feeders.  It is a story about a salmon recipe which I have dubbed “Salmon a la Kansas”.  You might wonder why salmon and Kansas would be related in a recipe.  Salmon isn’t “local” to The Sunflower State… In this case, Kansas is a real person who (still) lives on a cattle ranch near Lillooet, British Columbia.  I somehow got to corresponding with her through our blogs, she published (and still does occasionally I find out!) one called “Canadian Crafter” and provides interesting recipes and glimpses of life on a real ranch.  We eventually traded a few emails, and found we shared a mutual dislike of “The Pioneer Woman” whom we pretty much figured was a fraud.

Recently she posted on her facebook page a story about catching salmon, which reminded me of the recipe.  I am not sure the recipe is original with her, but was intrigued by the combination of Mayonnaise and Miracle whip, and quite frankly associating it with salmon.  Anyway I thought I would revisit the dish five years later.  We had a piece of salmon in the freezer so the first step was to thaw it.   Here’s a little tip (no, I didn’t get it from Cook’s Illustrated) on speeding up the thawing process: the reason we use cookware is because it’s a great conductor of heat, and this property works both ways, so inverting a pan and putting the item on it helps it thaw much faster

Here’s the original Salmon recipe:

Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil and spray a touch of cooking spray (Pam) on it.
Combine salad dressing (Miracle Whip) with mayonnaise (Hellman's). Or one of them if you don't have both.
Spread mixture with a spatula over fillets.
Sprinkle lots of soy sauce over.
Shake dried dill weed over both fillets.
Cook for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

I modified it by using Dukes which I prefer, and didn't spray with Pam

Anyway got the ingredients together (with remnants of MFO’s Gimlet prep)

And I got a little surprise when I opened the Miracle Whip squeeze bottle, finding engineers had been thinking (always dangerous), but probably not a bad idea for the more viscous “salad dressing”.

So I got roughly equal parts Dukes’ and Dressing

Whisked them together

The clever Miracle Whip bottle seemed to make a comment

Anyway, placed the salmon on the sheet pan (we decided to do one with and one without)

Slathered the stuff on one, and just a little oil on the other and committed to the heat

And when the finger press test indicated done, pulled it out of the oven to firm a little

The finished dish pretty much matched my (fading) memory, it was moist and the Dukes/MW/Soy did add a little sauce feel to it.  Not exactly haute cuisine, but maybe a little something different for you once in a while.. Thanks Kansas, and yes we were


Bonus Bites:

I always enjoy Tom Sietsema’s reviews in the Sunday Post Magazine.  This week he did a little piece on questions he gets asked frequently, the most popular of which is “what’s your favorite Restaurant?” which he ignores.  Couple of interesting ones:

How often do you eat out?:  10 to 12 times a week

What do you look for in a restaurant:  food, service, and ambiance that make me want to come back for more

My favorite (included in the answer to) Is there anything you won’t eat?:  To my mind, zucchini is about exciting as reading the phone book

MFO and I will be leaving for MOMSTER III’s maiden cross country to Missouri this coming weekend.  If things go according to plan, there will be a major culinary event.

stay tuned and

Friday, August 29, 2014

Kind of Ranting...

Okay, since you’ve probably digested my trip to Abell’s, and I’ve been pretty good about sticking to food, maybe I deserve a little rant time.  By the way, thanks for the continued suggestions for the diner “just right” list.  Keep them coming.  I think I have the next visit lined up but I’ll keep you guessing.  And I have been told a couple of times that I need to go back to Abell’s for the “logger” breakfast.  Given my frail constitution especially in the morning, that may be a struggle, but we’ll see..  Okay, rant or at least crabby time

First one:
Lately I have noticed a trend in car commercials, especially with the so-called “luxury” lines of Mercedes, Acura, Lexus, etc. to highlight their electronic gee-whiz "safety" features. Maybe you’ve seen them. One shows an obviously new driver practicing driving with Dad in the right seat, and driving junior turns to stare at a comely young lady on the sidewalk. The “car” abruptly stops him from rear ending the auto in front of him.  Dad smiles, the kid looks sheepish and they move on.

In another, Mom at the wheel turns completely around to fiddle with junior in the back seat and is only brought back to reality when her windshield fills up with a Kenilworth grill.  A look of mild surprise, and then a self satisfied little grin takes over.  Or, how about that one where the guy is obviously driving  “too fast for conditions” which are almost zero visiblity and comes roaring into a construction zone until the car again saves him (or maybe the workers). 

Then there’s the one where the demure little lady is somehow in a demolition derby with cars twirling overhead, blind spot indicator letting her know a battered Chevy is about to hit her, or swerving away from the wall in the nick of time while a unequipped competitor smashes into it.  It finishes with smoking heaps of metal and the unscathed Mercedes SUV with the little smiling lady at the wheel and the announcer intoning “you almost couldn't crash this car if you wanted to”, or something close to that.

Well, this is just fine. I am so glad to hear this.  I think I may go buy one of these vehicles so that the next time I have one too many, instead of relying on a taxi or a designated, I can drive myself home with complete confidence that my car will prevent any untoward events.  Swerving? No matter the lane device will pull me back in.  Following too close?  Nope, no worries.  Texting while driving?  No problem.  Complete confidence.  I just wonder if this technology which is somewhere between none and complete control of the vehicle is good or bad.  Don’t think I like the implications. Are we spawning and encouraging a population of uncaring, idiot drivers?

Another one:
Speaking of idiot drivers, I have yakked about this before, but people just don’t seem to get it around here.  It’s a small word, only five letters: m – e – r – g – e.  Maybe the auto manufacturers will come up with combined software and GPS technology that you just select “merge” from the menu on the screen and it will regulate your vehicle’s speed and direction such that you will seamlessly flow into traffic in a safe manner.  Until then I am doomed to be behind said idiots who think that half mile of vacant asphalt on the right is only for turning at the (hardly visible) next intersection, and will wait however long it takes to have a completely vacant highway (caused by demon lights someplace) so they can pull directly across that merge lane into the right traffic lane and continue on.  Or if threatened by the evil man behind them (who sometimes honks), pull timidly into said lane, and go so slow that there is never a chance to get between (ample) spaces of cars in motion.  Argghhh..

Last one:
Does this happen to you?  That innocent little box of “saran wrap” or similar product is a menace to (at least my) sanity.  I am talking about the common grocery store “smaller” box type here, not the food service type which is maybe a couple of feet long.   When you need to wrap up say, a chop or steak for freezing, or after you have applied a rub, you need a piece maybe 18 by 18.  Many things happen: You can’t pull out the required length and the roll comes out of the box (at this point you might as well go get waxed paper), or the damn serrated edge won’t cut and it bunches along the box into a ball, or if it does actually come out of the box, and cut into your desired length you’re stuck with a flapping piece of saran held in one hand which immediately clings to itself in several places.  Okay, so you lay it on your counter and attempt to “straighten it out” which never happens, it only gets worse.  And don’t even talk to me about "cling plus”.

And actually, as odd as it sounds, those big commercial boxes are much easier to deal with.  Yes, you have to get it from the pantry and place it on the counter, but the lack of above problems pays big dividends.  The heft of the box and roll within keeps it in place allowing both hands to be of use.  You can pretty easily strip out the desired length with a hand on each end.  Then, depending on the brand, there is either a long serration or a slider with a knife on the edge of the box.   A good trick is to tuck the free edge of the sheet under your chin and then either slice it, or grab both sides near the serration and sort of bring your hands down and together cutting the sheet from both sides. You still have hold of both edges so you can straighten it out into a nice sheet Works pretty well..  See what a vast resource on kitchen technique your Bottom Feeder is?

Okay, the mental air is much clearer, and I can return to food matters.  Am re-trying a salmon recipe tonight, “Baked Salmon a la Kansas”.  Will have to be


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ready, Willing, and....

In my now gathering momentum to search out places that are “just right”, the same team that recently visited Captain Pat’s descended on Abell’s Diner down in Clements.  I had driven by it many times on the way to Colton’s Point or some destination deep within “the seventh”, but never stopped there.  So last Friday we made a visit about lunch time.

It is located in one end of a non-descript brick building near the intersection of Rtes. 234 and 242, or, if you prefer Budd’s Creek and Colton Point Roads.

(On far end)

It identifies itself with a simple banner over the door –

Upon entering, it was apparent that it was: a) lunch hour, and b) very popular with the local trades people (note truck).  Although there is a side room the space you come into has only about five small booths, plus a smallish horseshoe counter that may seat about ten more people on stools.  Almost everybody seemed to know everybody else, but nobody raised an eyebrow at our presence.   Only a couple of spaces were left at the counter, and they were right next to the exit from the kitchen, so until a customer left downstream of us, it was “’scuze me, pardon me” as dishes came out from the kitchen.  In such relatively crowded, cramped, close quarters I feel funny hauling out a camera. Although I did get a couple of shots (with the trusty point and shoot).  Here’s a peek toward the kitchen and the flat top where the food was prepared. 

Those green pitchers on the far side of the door are filled with Iced Tea (of both sweetness versions) which seemed to be the predominant drink.  Apparently beer is not served, although Anderson’s Bar occupies the opposite end of the building (and I don’t know if they serve food).

A very busy young lady greeted us with “what would you like to drink?”,  and handed us a couple of menus.  Exactly what you would expect: laminated plastic

With that same goofy chef caricature that appears on the banner.  Wonder who/what he is. The list of food choices also was exactly what you would expect, sandwiches, hamburgers, baskets of fried stuff, and platters, presumably for dinner.  She brought our (unsweetened) tea and water and the classic little green pad with which to take our order.  My benchmark sandwiches for a diner like this are a tuna melt, and hot ham and cheese.  My eye didn’t find the former so I ordered the latter, grilled, and the other order was for a bacon cheeseburger.  Both came with chips although fries were available for a slight surcharge.  We stuck with the chips.

Another Just Right criteria is what the d├ęcor is on the walls?  They passed

Although I am not quite sure of the function of the wire on the sign, it doesn't appear to be doing anything.  Anyway, we had a little time to contemplate the condiments and create the standard “diner still life’ shot with my iced tea in a plastic cup.  Hot sauce, catsup/ketchup in a squeeze bottle, check...Okay.  Fine.  Fits.

From my vantage point I could see what looked like my ham and cheese being grilled in the kitchen and soon enough was set before me

Somehow the fact that one of the ham slices didn’t yield to the knife (and NOT cut on a diagonal) was kind of fitting.  The cheese was gooey, the ham was NOT just luncheon meat, and on the whole was a pretty satisfying sandwich.
The bacon cheeseburger was also just fine

With equally gooey cheese and by golly real bacon, and a little piece of burger hanging off showing it wasn't a Sysco pre-processed patty.

By the time we left (shortly after one) the place was pretty empty as people had to get back to work.  We didn’t!! 

Anyway, I will add Abell’s Diner to the “just right” list, not at the top, but certainly on the list.   The quest will continue, suggestions welcome but must fit the criteria of being not in their first youth, or a (gulp) chain.   Not necessarily a requirement to


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Rock On!

Social media is amazing (remarkable talent for recognizing the obvious).  After publishing my little diatribe ("Rock the Grill") on the foibles of trying to use the Rockwood for the first time, a comment appeared from “Rockwood Charcoal”.   It was a very nice note, and I think I “published” it so you can scroll down and read it.  How in the world they found me is probably much beyond my comprehension.  At any rate it was much appreciated.  Will probably keep me using that brand (if you Rockwood folk are seeing this again!)

Anyway as with most things, the first step in solving a problem is to throw money at it.  In this case it was in the form of obtaining the suggested charcoal chimney.  I had failed to purchase same when we were in Annapolis and got the Rockwood fuel.  Well, I thought, I’ll just pop into Lowes and pick one up.  The new look Lowes with friendly employees helped me look and eventually we found an empty shelf where they should have been.  There was some knock off brand available (at a lower posted price) but of course not good enough for the Feeder, have to have a genuine Weber.  Okay, no real problem, I’ll stop by Wal-Mart on the way home - surely they'll have one. (Insert Shirley joke here) However, I had the same empty shelf experience there, sans any help from their employees who seemed to be enthralled with checking their shoes or condition of the floor.

Last ditch, I even went into the K-Mart (first time in YEARS) and found another knock off cheapy.  Crestfallen I returned home.  So next day I ventured out to Ace Hardware in Leonardtown and was asked if I needed help within steps of entering, and was guided to a very complete display of Weber products which included not one, but two sizes of the chimney.  The smaller one seemed to me to be too small so I got the same model I denied in Annapolis.  After that was my experience introducing the McKay's deli folk to Mortadella.

So the next day we decided to put it to the test with some Bruce Aidell’s famous Chicken and Apple Sausages (the history of which would make an interesting feeder column by itself).  So I assembled all the gear

Cubes, chimney, charcoal and newspaper (suggestion from FOJTY), and of course the trusty grill. So wadded up paper, set chimney on top, a little layer of charcoal, couple of the cubes, more charcoal, and we’re ready to go

So applied flame to the paper, and off we go

And unlike my previous experience (thank you “Rockwood Charcoal” note) we had a very nice fire in pretty short time

Only little hitch was dumping it out onto the grate, which resulted in kind of an untidy pile.

Room for improvement there.... Anyway, it produced a very nice grilled sausage.  Since this is about the heat source, I didn’t bother to take a picture of the finished product.  It is left to the imagination of the reader to envision a nicely brown sausage.  Plus, we were hungry.

One little concluding note however, as you might notice in the top picture the label is still on the chimney (for clarity).  Well, when I took it off and unwrapped it, the inside looked like below.  I don’t expect you to be able to read them, but what are all those paragraphs?  Recipes? Instructions?

  Nope! all twenty one of them are warnings in twenty one languages 

I'm sure the attorneys are involved in generating gems like: “do not use starter in high winds”, and “keep away from children and pets”.   Darn, i hoped to teach my parakeet to start the fire...

Anyway, with this new gear and knowledge I think we’re on our way to losing Mr. Briquette!  However we still will be


Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Very Docent Day

As some people might remember, I volunteer weekends at Historic St. Mary’s City, mostly sitting out at the (Reconstructed) Brick Chapel of 1667.  As a method of reporting our day to other “Chapvols” as we call ourselves, we sometimes publish a little thing called “Chapel Chatter”.  Last Saturday was quite a day for me and resulted in a rather lengthy and unique for me “chatter”…so I thought maybe others might enjoy a little break from food and have a pleasant diversion seeing what us Docents live with..
Editor’s (me) note:  this will be a repeat for some that see the Chatter…(and for them I have edited some from the original)

Well, yesterday was a day of “firsts” for me.

First “first”:   my usual practice of Chapvol Duty is to park on the road, unload the “gear” over the fence, drive over to the VC (Visitor Center), park the car, check in/chat with Laurel, hike out to the Chapel, set up camp and settle in.   For the first time ever (!) when I arrived outside “da fence” (about 10:50) there was a group of four guests just approaching the chapel and another bunch on the walkway by the signs.  So with gear and seat bags in hand(s) I hopped (well, struggled) over the fence and walked into the chapel shortly after the initial group entered.  They kind of gave me the “who the heck are you?” look, but after the standard “Hi, have you seen the chapel before?” we had a nice conversation about the chapel and its story.   Shortly after their arrival the second group arrived, and then another, then another..  I wasn’t able to get the car over to the VC until a little gap at almost 12:00.  I counted 17 folk between my arrival and close to noon.

The 12 to 1:00 slot featured 11 more people, including a group with 3 adults and 2 kids, a boy and a little girl.  I became aware of their presence when I heard screaming from out by the pavilion (near the chapel).  I peeked out to see the youngest girl (eight? I’m no judge) kicking her pink flip flops high into the air, yelling “NO!”.  This went on with mom cajoling her to calm down and resulted in a tantrum while the little kid sat on the Joe Poe bench screaming and crying, with a couple more field goals of the sandals.  Meantime Dad, Gramma, and the little boy came into the chapel.  The little lad was interested in the bricks.  Dad appeared unconcerned with the histrionics outside.  Eventually mom and Louise “the toe” came in also.  You forget about having kids..  been a long time.  During that time a couple more people just walked right by the chapel.  They did have tickets.

The second “First” occurred between 1:00 and 2:00.  Things had kind of quieted down and I was reading my book: “Winter King – A Biography of King Henry VII” and looked up and saw what appeared to be somebody riding a bike (not the “first”) on the path, turning into Mackall barn.  I quickly called the VC to get policy straight before I tackled the guy, and Aaron said while we don’t like it, it isn’t worth being nasty.  Eventually the person approached the chapel by the pavilion, and the bike was some little contraption, maybe it folded up or something I don’t know, just wasn’t a standard two wheeler.  Plus, I couldn’t see a ticket displayed by its rider.  I’m ready for him I thought.  He got off the bike at the head of the path, and walked it up to the chapel.  He had on an orange (maybe significant, read on) “pork pie” hat turned backwards, and it was apparent that he was not from this country.  When he got to me and the chapel he had a charming smile, and politely said “I know I don’t have a ticket, but can I look inside?”  Nobody else was there and so I said sure come on in.. [ed. Note:  people who “jump the fence” and get on the site without paying (tickets) are the bane of our existence]

What followed was one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had in the Chapel.  He was from Thailand, and language was still a bit of a barrier.  Turns out he “works” for Harry Lundeberg School, is an engineer, and is aboard ship for six months, and then travels the other six.  Somehow he lives in Alaska.  Eventually the “First” came when he said that while in Thailand he was a practicing Buddhist Monk!!  I’ll bet we’ve never had a Buddhist Monk in the Chapel! He was very interested in Baltimore’s “freedom of conscience”, and we discussed Catholics and Anglicans in England, William and Mary and their penal laws, how religion should be treated, how one should live one’s life (very simply – money was a problem), and many other subjects.  I would have paid HIM ten bucks for the experience.  As he left, he thanked me profusely, said he would come back next week and buy a ticket, but who knows.  Very pleasant, little (maybe five feet three), sweet guy.  The Calverts would have been proud.

The rest of the day (up until about three fifteen) saw 15 more people, the only wrinkle was a pair who had on “Sturgis” motorcycle garb, and since I was from Michigan, I could relate to that and we talked a bit.

I finally left about 3:30, and even then passed a couple of folk who were heading out.  Big day, which resulted in the last “first” (clever, eh?), that being that I had 53 visitors!!  A personal best.

Feeder’s note again:  A common day at the chapel during the summer would be about 20 to 25 guests

Question of the Day:  “How much of this is original?”  Polite answer (only the foundation Ma’am)

Mortal Situation:

Okay I can't help but including a concluding food note:  I was over in Leonardtown today tracking down that darned charcoal chimney (score! – more to come) and went into the McKay’s next to the Ace Hardware.  Lately when I am home for lunch I have gravitated to a sandwich of (Boars’ Head) Mortadella and baby swiss cheese.  Knowing McKay’s carried Boar’s Head at this location (Hollywood Road location carries Deitz and Watson) I went in to replenish the larder.  Got to the deli counter and the young lady said the usual “may I help you”?  Yes, I would like a half pound of BH Baby Swiss, and also Mortadella.   Excuse me, what was that?  Mortadella.  I have never heard of that!.   Well, it’s kind of like bologna (don’t tell the Italians that!) with little globs of white stuff (fat) in it.  Blank stare.  Eventually she reached into the case and brought out a little roll of Pancetta… This?  Nope.  So I prowled the case a bit and couldn’t see it.  She asked her fellow worker and received the same “Never heard of it”.. and sort of turned to me with that “look”.  At this point I spied a little glossy Boar’s Head brochure and mercifully thumbing through that I found it listed (and pictured).   Showed it to the young ladies… That!.   I’ll be darned.  We don’t carry it (statement of the obvious at this point).  They said they don’t carry every BH product, depending on demand.  They would have ordered it for me if I wished.  No thanks…  The Baby swiss was fine. (they do carry it at Giant)

So I came home and will now get