I wasn’t planning on doing a two parter, but Lindz took a really cute picture of Ophelia and me.
For some people, it’s music. For others, it’s snow, or even the neighborhood lighting up. But for me, Christmas is finally here when I get my hands on some smoked fish.
This urge I can trace squarely back to my grandpa Nick. When I was little, he would always buy smoked fish around this time of year. It was usually smoked whitefish. Which I do try and pick up on a regular basis. The other one that he would buy (when he could find them) is blind robbins. Blind robbins are small herring fillets that are so salted and dried that they turn into a jerky version of a salt-lick. My saliva glands are going into overdrive just thinking about them.
While wandering around Cub Foods today, I ended up at the seafood counter. This is an area that I tend to avoid because I’m weak willed and usually end up buying something from there. In this case it was a surprise package for Lindz (post coming as soon as I make it) and a pack of whole smoked herring. I’ve had one already and it was quite good. A little heavy handed on the salt, but it had a nice strong smoke flavor.
So, I say to you, Happy Holidays and eat some fish!
I recently came into possession of some burger meat from a bear. My uncle Art went bear hunting this year and he managed to get one. For a man who usually doesn’t say a lot, he was sure talkative when the subject came up. In fact, he’s the one who brought it up. Also, it was his idea for me to take home a couple of packages of bear meat. He kept telling me that he was planning on turning all of it into summer sausage, but once he fried some up, he decided that it was too good to turn into sausage. Along with the meat came the warning that it was a very lean meat, so I should be careful when cooking it so it doesn’t burn. And that I needed to cook it all the way through because there is a risk of trichinosis. Between Art and Mom, I got this information about a dozen times. Of course I remembered all of this from the last time that I had bear, approximately 20 years ago (the last time Art shot one). Crap. I’m getting old.
I didn’t do anything fancy with the bear meat. I just formed patties and fried them up. The reasoning was that I wanted to try it again with no alterations. Also, we had a bunch of people over that wanted to try it for the first time, so I decided they should try it unadorned. The beef I did a la Karen Burger style.
Once both the bear and not-bear were fried up, they looked a lot alike:
Once I had everything ready for supper, I stepped into the living room to let everyone know that the food was ready. In an apparently futile attempt to streamline the process, I had the meat separated into two different (and distinct) bowls. I held one up and said “Bear,” and then held the other bowl up and said “Not-bear.” I then had to explain it again thirty seconds later when they stepped into the dining room.
Since you’ve read this far, I should actually tell you about the flavor of bear. The steak that I had twenty years ago was very sweet. I know that sounds odd, but that was the dominant flavor. It was by far the richest piece of meat that I had ever eaten, before or since. It was only about a 8 oz steak and I was a teenage farm boy, nevertheless I could barely finish the thing because of how intense the flavor was. The best way that I can describe the sweetness is to liken the taste to beef with a berry sauce. Not 100% accurate, but it should at least point you in the right direction. This is what I was expecting when I was frying up the burgers. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when I tried the burgers. It had a lovely game flavor (you definitely knew you weren’t eating beef), but it was lacking in the rich, intensity that I was searching for. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it immensely and I’m plotting to swipe another package over Christmas.
Lindz has been putting in a few hours at the Seminary kitchen for some extra cash. Gotta say, she looks good doing it.
Our friend Dave made this recipe for us when Lindz found out that she didn’t get into any of the Ph.D. programs she applied to. Which in hindsight was a good thing, but that is another story.
A handful of months go by and Lindz wants to make some soup because our friends Paul and Jill are coming over for the evening. Lindz decided to make chili and got the recipe from Dave. By some freak coincidence, this happened to be the day that Alice had passed away. Earlier in the day, Lindz got all the ingredients necessary, so I decided that we might as well make the chili since we still wanted Paul and Jill to come over.
Our track record with the chili is 2 crappy times out of 2 times eaten. I dubbed this recipe Condolence Chili because of this record and the fact that it’s good enough to distract you (even for a little bit) from your sorrows. It’s best eaten with some really good friends.
- 1-2 lbs of Ground Meat (we used Chorizo with the cases cut off)
- a 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
- 3 15 oz cans Beans (we used Black Beans, but feel free to mix them up a bit, i.e. black, pinto, navy, etc.)
- 2 Chipolte Chilis in Ancho Sauce
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 3/4 tsp Salt
- 2 Tbs Oil
- large Onion, medium dice
- Chili Powder
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
Put the tomatoes, beans (drained and rinsed), chipotle chilis, sugar, and 1/2 tsp of salt in a large stockpot and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until needed at the end. Heat 2 Tbs of oil in a large skillet over med high heat and add the onion, chili powder, cumin (both to taste, about a Tbs each), and the remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Mix well and cook until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Increase the heat to med high and add the ground meat. Break it up as it cooks and cook it until it is no longer pink.
Transfer the meat/onion mixture to the stockpot and bring back to a simmer. Let this cook for a minimum of 15 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and serve. Like any soup or stew, the longer you let it simmer, the better the flavors will blend.
As usual, I serve chili with grated cheese, diced onions, and sour cream on the side so people can add what they like. I personally add them all.
With cornbread as the obvious number one choice, what is the next best thing to go with chili? That’s right, garlic bread! Lindz talked me into making it the way I did when we lived back in Decorah. Not that it took any convincing to get me to do it.
- loaf of French Bread
- 2 sticks of Butter (yup, that’s a half of a pound), softened
- 2 4-4.5 oz jars of Minced Garlic
Slice the bread horizontally down the center (or into 1″ rounds). Spread a stick of butter on each half and then a jar of garlic on each half. Hey, I never said this was a healthy recipe.
Place the bread on a baking sheet and put into a preheated oven (at 375 degrees) for about 20 minutes. I’m not actually sure about the time, I just check it every five or so minutes. Pull it out of the oven when the bread is golden brown and toasted.
Jill is a master of lettuce salads. This time she brought over one that contained apples, raisins, feta cheese, and a mustard vinaigrette. It had a nice blend of flavors with the crisp apples, sharp feta, the sweetness of the raisins, and a nice tang of mustard and vinegar.