Pete’s Charcutes: Brown Trout Bottarga

Live from the Acela Boston to NYC route comes this installment of ADB, er, The Pete Is On!  I know I am continuing to struggle with regular posting but I have the meals documented to be doing more gooder.  The issue is mostly just getting old and not having the energy to write these things from 9-12 on a weeknight like I used to.  Plus a slight uptick in work travel lately.  My concern with this one is that the power outlet doesn’t work at my seat and my computer is on its’ last legs for both battery and memory.

A few weeks ago I posted about the hogs head cooked at blog character Dupee’s bachelor party on Webb Lake in Maine.  I also mentioned that some (read: parts) of the fish caught on the trip came home with me, though nothing that Kristi was excited to eat.  Not much logic behind that last point, since multiple whole fish were up for grabs when I left on Sunday, but I felt bad keeping them since I had no perceptible connection to the act of catching them.

A brown trout that was caught late in the day was one of the largest trout I had seen since they were few and far between at the places I’d fished most of my life; Ravine Lake and the Ausable River.  Whipping out the buck knife I carry with me on masculine weekends to offset my fear of bugs, snakes, and loud noises, I volunteered to clean this fish.  Upon opening the brownie, I was surprised by how large and pronounced all of the organs were, particularly the liver, roe sacks and the heart.

I can actually claim negative responsibility for this one since it was caught while trawling shortly after I loudly mocked the idea of trawling for trout.  In the process of cleaning I decided to eat the still wriggling heart raw which was questionable, show-offy, disgusting and any other adjective that can be used to describe this blog as a whole

I can actually claim negative responsibility for this one since it was caught while trawling shortly after I loudly mocked the idea of trawling for trout.  In the process of cleaning it, I decided to eat the still wriggling heart raw which was questionable, show-offy, disgusting and any other adjective that can be used to describe this blog as a whole

Quick sidenote on fish roe.  In my Fish Cakes and Spaghetti blog I discussed how I was introduced to caviar at a young age and have had a lifelong obsession with it.  As a kid my caviar obsession used to manifest itself by saving the roe sacks from trout in Michigan to be fried in bacon grease at the morning fish fry.  Cooked fish roe is mealy, dry, and not that pleasant to eat, but that never seemed to deter me.  More recently I’ve had a lot of trouble tracking down fish roe and yearn for the Italian Market in Philly where you can buy an anonymous mixed bag of roe sacks for a couple bucks.  But, I digress.

It hadn’t been in my original plans for the weekend, but one of the reasons I’d been looking for fish roe recently was to make bottarga, a salt cured version of fish roe.  Bottarga is one of those mystical Italian items that shows up in the ingredient listing for pastas in fine restaurants.  Most eaters don’t recognize and wouldn’t dare appear unknowledgable enough to ask about.  I’m not judgin’ since I am consistently guilty of this and am fully comfortable BSing when Kristi or others ask me to define and ingredient I am barely familiar with.  Let’s just think of bottarga as magical Italian pixie dust.

Taking a fish roe sack and curing it in salt at room temperature for a week or so is what yields bottagra, a dried, crumbly, and very salty stick of funky fish flavor.  The two large roe sacks joined a smaller pair in a heavy coating of salt on a couple plates in the house.

I think the pinkish color of these is so nice and should be appetizing to more people.  Just like the New Jersey Turnpike is a horrifying representation of the state, the Acela really is not kind to traveler’s impressions of New England.  I think I’ve passed four prisons and the back parking lots of seven strip clubs.  That said, high speed rail will give you a 1000x better impression of New England than the pit of humanity that is Logan Airport.  That place makes the accents in the Dish Hopper ads seem understated

I think the pinkish color of these is so nice and should be appetizing to more people.  Just like the New Jersey Turnpike is a horrifying representation of the state, the Acela really is not kind to traveler’s impressions of New England.  I think I’ve passed four prisons and the back parking lots of seven strip clubs.  That said, the high speed rail will give you a 1000x better impression of New England than the pit of humanity that is Logan Airport.  That place makes the accents in the Dish Hopper ads seem understated

My plan was to go the full bottarga route with the larger two roe sacks.  This would require keeping them fully covered in salt for seven days, rotating them and drying any excess moisture regularly.  It also required making sure none of my fellow bachelor party attendees threw them out by accident.  I didn’t help my cause on that front by pulling the smaller roe sacks out of the salt cure after a few hours of firming up, rinsed, and offered them around for a taste test.

These look substantially less appetizing than the raw version in my opinion, but so I was a little surprised that multiple people were willing to take a bite.  Can’t say it increased their faith that the hogs head cooking in the cabin would be edible

These look substantially less appetizing than the raw version in my opinion, so I was a little surprised that multiple people were willing to take a bite.  Can’t say it increased their faith that the hogs head cooking in the cabin would be edible

At this point in the curing process, the texture of the roe was gummy, fishy, and, obviously very salty.  Think of a salty and fishy Swedish fish, complete with the sticking to the teeth factor that allowed you to savor the flavor for up to an hour afterwards.  It wasn’t a treat for others but I enjoyed it much more than I should have and ate most of it.

The next morning the larger roe sacks were still leaching water and needed to be re-covered with salt before heading back to Boston.  Back at the homestead, I covered them with another layer of salt, placed on a paper towel, and moved to a cabinet above the sink in the kitchen.  The following 6-7 days were not smooth sailing because those roe sacks got a little stinky and it would sneak up on you while you were doing dishes.  That’s right folks, I discovered a scientific anomaly; fish organs left at room temperature for a week get a little smelly.  These were smellier than I expected, though, and I researched about once a day whether this was a bad thing and if I should throw them out.  I never found the answer, but assumed it was no.

After a little over a week, I had this:

Rock solid and stinky, but finally able to go inside a zip lock bag in the fridge where they would be less offensive.  I expected them to be more rock solid than the crumbly, bumpy sticks I had in front of me

Rock solid and stinky, but finally able to go inside a zip lock bag in the fridge where they would be less offensive.  I expected them to be more rock solid than the crumbly, bumpy sticks I had in front of me

When refrigerated, the bottarga will keep for up to a year, so I had some time to figure out what to do with it.  I’m sure bottarga has lots of uses, but I really only had one in mind which was pasta.  Apparently it is excellent in simple pasta dishes since it give the musty seafood flavor you get from anchovies but in a much more controllable distributed manner.

The opportunity to make said pasta came about a week later with a stay at brother Tim’s house in NJ and Mommy Ryan in attendance as well.  There was a fair amount of questions about what I planned to make, so I decided to make a second pasta as well in case this one turned out, you know, gross.  I got started by boiling a pound of fettuccine al dente, reserving the starchy water and shocking the pasta with cold water to stop the cooking.  Then grated a piece of the bottarga with a microplane.

I expected the product to be a lot more dry and crumbly but the texture was like damp breadcrumbs or sawdust.  I didn’t have the courage to sample it dry either.  Tim mocked me aggressively for bringing my own microplane but couldn’t produce a grater when asked if he had anything that could have done the job.  He probably would have given me a box planar or something.  Stupid anti-air conditioning and vegetable-garden-ignoring jerkface Tim, I’ll show him

I expected the product to be a lot more dry and crumbly, but the texture was like damp breadcrumbs or sawdust.  Tim mocked me aggressively for bringing my own microplane, but couldn’t produce a grater when asked if he had anything that could have done the job.  Stupid anti-air conditioning and vegetable-garden-ignoring jerkface Tim, I’ll show him

I ended up grating about 3/4 of the smaller bottarga piece, which seemed like it would be a good amount for 1/3 of the pound of cooked pasta.  Plus the grated zest of about half a lemon as well.

The guy next to me on the train is catching up on season 2 of Girls  on his iPad.  Every time a Lena Dunham nude scene comes on (spoiler alert: there are way too many) he does this weird cupping thing with his hands shielding the view of his iPad, almost like he is trying to look into a darkened room through an exterior window.  My advice would be to cover the screen with both hands and come back when the daring, soul-baring honesty is over.  That is, for 30-45 seconds before the next nude scene

The guy next to me on the train is catching up on season 2 of Girls on his iPad.  Every time a Lena Dunham nude scene comes on (spoiler alert: there are way too many) he does this weird cupping thing with his hands shielding the view of his iPad, almost like he is trying to look into a darkened room through an exterior window.  My advice would be to cover the screen with both hands and come back when the daring, soul-baring honesty is over.  That is, for 30-45 seconds before the next nude scene

Once the bottarga was grated, I seasoned a couple handfuls of kale along with some halved brown mushrooms and tossed them in oil.  The vegetables went onto a baking sheet with a couple Chester Meat Market Italian sausages and into a 450F oven to roast and get some color.

While those cooked, I sautéed garlic in olive oil in the pan for the bottarga pasta, and sautéed some additional chopped kale for the other pasta in a different pan.  Once the sausage and veggies finished roasting, they joined the kale pan along with 2/3s of the cooked pasta, a ladle of the starchy pasta water and a couple spoonfuls of Tims crappy pesto.

Big surprise, Tim and I almost came to blows over how he makes his pesto.  Luckily, he averted disaster by mentioning how Hub Hollow Jill makes her pesto leading me to considering driving to her home to berate her in person.  Balsamic vinegar in a pesto?!?!  What the hell is wrong with you, Jill???

Big surprise, Tim and I almost came to blows over how he makes his pesto.  Luckily, he averted disaster by mentioning how Hub Hollow Jill makes her pesto, leading me to considering driving to her home to berate her in person.  Balsamic vinegar in a pesto?!?!  What the hell is wrong with you, Jill???

In the bottarga pan, I added the remaining pasta and a ladle of the starchy pasta water along with the bottarga, zest, and about a cup of pan roasted corn.

Walkers farm stand in Little Compton consistently has the best corn I have ever had in my life, so I needed to make use of the extra from the night before.  Corn and seafood, even very fishy seafood flavors, always go excellently together.  The only thing worse than the lighting in Tim’s house is Tim’s house on a 90 degree day

Walkers farm stand in Little Compton consistently has the best corn I have ever had in my life, so I needed to make use of the extra from the night before.  Corn and seafood, even very fishy seafood, always go excellently together.  The only thing worse than the lighting in Tim’s house is Tim’s house on a 90 degree day

As the liquid cooked down, the sauce coating the pasta took on an almost creamy texture and the smell of the bottarga was noticeable but not that different from a standard shellfish pasta.  It also looked pretty innocuous, but appetizing.

Really been loading up the captions in this post.  I was trying to stay traditional which is why I went with olive oil over butter, but would likely make it with butter next time around

Really been loading up the captions in this post.  I was trying to stay traditional which is why I went with olive oil over butter, but would likely make it with butter next time around to make it rich and creamier

And with that, I plated up a little for everyone, though Kristi stuck with just the sausage/mushroom/kale combo.  After a bite or two I realized the bottarga pasta would be far better with a little lemon zest grated over the top along with a pinch of salt.

Dueling pasta is a wonderful plate of food in my opinion.  I could do four on one plate, I love having different textures and flavors

Dueling pasta is a wonderful plate of food in my opinion. I could do four on one plate, I love having different textures and flavors

The sausage, kale, mushroom, and pesto pasta was solid.  Lots of flavor, and the texture from the roasted kale added a nice texture and flavor contrast to the rich mushroom and sausage flavors.  Can’t go wrong with roasted vegetables, sausage, and pesto in a pasta.  The main event for me was the bottarga pasta which, when topped with the extra zest and salt, I found extremely enjoyable.  The flavor from the bottarga was definitely fishy, and slightly musty, though not overpowering and mostly noticeable only when you took a deep breath in while eating.  It reminded me of dishes I had with dried shrimp in them while I was in China.  The sweetness from the corn was a nice addition, as usual.  I can’t wait to cook with it again, possibly pushing the fishiness further with some shellfish as well.

Got some Sunday football meals coming up.  Promise.

Major Dags: Volume 2 (feat. Bean Hole Beans & Lamb Pinwheel Roast)

Welcome back to the segment on this blog that documents my “oopsie daisies”.  These are the meals that I thought would make great posts, and in the end they were either a complete failure or I forgot to take pictures.  You know, major dags.

I should quickly address my inconsistent blogging patterns lately.  Lotsa travel and not a lot of cooking recently.  In addition, I have a bit of a creativity block these days; when I am home for a weekend I stare into my freezer of crazy crap and cant think of anything to make.  So, once again, I will put out the call for requests.  If you read this blog regularly and you’ve wanted to see me attempt a difficult dish, please add the suggestion to the comments on this post.  I have a freezer full of all parts of cow, lamb, and pig along with some rabbit, pheasant, and venison.  Give me some ideas!  I don’t ask for much (aside from you patiently reading this crap and telling me how much you love it), so help me out please.

Anyhoo, this post will focus on two well intended failures: Bean Hole Beans and a Lamb Pinwheel Roast.

Bean Hole Beans

Last year on our camping trip in Maine I resumed my love affair with cooking things under the ground by attempting bean hole beans.  Relatively simple concept: mix all your baked bean ingredients in a big pot, stick the pot in a hole in the ground and build a fire on top.  In 18-24 hours, you should have baked beans.  Should have.

I started out by digging a small hole inside of our fire pit area and starting a small fire in the base of it that I intended to let burn down to a thick bed of embers.  The key adjective for the hole and the fire is “small”.

I know, I know, that's not a very deep hole.  But, I was missing both Mooman's shovel and Mooman so the digging was slow going and complaint-heavy.  Once I got to about the depth of the pot I gave it a good enough nod and walked away

I know, I know, that’s not a very deep hole.  But, I was missing both Mooman’s shovel and Mooman’s shoveling ability so the digging was slow going and complaint-heavy.  Once I got to about the depth of the pot I gave it a good-nuff nod and walked away

With the fire burning down, I started preparing the beans for cooking.  First step was to lay slices of salt pork in the bottom of a cast iron pot I stole from under my coworkers desk.

Dear Joe, when you asked me whether you could cook eggs in this freebie from a supplier, I knew that you weren't going to give it the life it deserved.  Not to mention that you still haven't noticed the it is gone and it has been 11 months

Dear Joe, when you asked me whether you could cook eggs in this freebie cast iron pot from a supplier, I knew that you weren’t going to give it the life it deserved.  Not to mention that 11 months have elapsed and you still haven’t noticed it is gone

On top of the pork I poured in a few pounds of pre-soaked beans and a mixture of onions, chopped salt pork, garlic, mustard, sugar, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.

Anyone who has read the Momere's Baked Beans post knows these ingredients anywhere.  However, this turned out so sh*tty that I didn't want her name attached to them, so lets just pretend this is some crappy allrecipes.com recipe

Anyone who has read the Momere’s Baked Beans post recognizes these signature ingredients.  However, this turned out so sh*tty that I didn’t want her name attached to the final product, so lets just pretend this is some crappy allrecipes.com recipe

I gently stirred in about 6 cups of water trying to mix everything together without disrupting the bottom layer of salt pork.  Not my strong point since I generally only know one method of stirring which is to scrape everything off the bottom and stir until it looks like a whirlpool.  But I was careful, and it looked relatively familiar at the end.

I think this is best done in a back yard since this contained about 7 more ingredients than should be featured in a camping dish.  Maple syrup and mosquito ridden campground definitely don't go well together

I think this is best done in a backyard since this contained about 7 more ingredients than should be featured in a camping dish.  Maple syrup and mosquito ridden campgrounds definitely don’t go well together, plus I complained about my sticky hands until people got sick of hearing about them and went to bed

I wrapped the top with two layers of tin foil, then nested the heavy lid on before doing another wrap of foil over the top.  I was planning to completely cover this thing with sandy dirt, and nothing would suck more than even a tiny bit getting inside and ruining the batch.  Once I felt it was well sealed, I nestled it into the hole on top of the glowing embers from the fire.

Steamers and butter cooking on the grate, 'course.  How great is Maine, right?

Steamers, vegetable butter ball, and drawn butter cooking on the grate, ‘course.  How great is Maine?!?!?

Once the pot was well situated, I covered it up with a couple shovel-fulls of dirt and ashg from the surrounding fire.

I was disturbingly anxious about whether these $8 worth of ingredients would be a success.  In hindsight I had to admit I need to start taking some of these cooking missions a little less serious

I was disturbingly anxious about whether these $8 worth of ingredients would be a success.  In hindsight I have to admit I need to start taking some of these cooking missions a little less seriously.  Also, that shovel is 7 years old, I have no idea why it still has a label on it

Once the pot was fully covered with earth/ash, we built another small fire on top and got a good bed of embers in place for the the cold night.  Followed that with another fire in the morning, more embers, off to the beach for a full day and back to the fire to uncover and remove the beans. Not nearly as difficult as the hogs head because it was buried shallower and had a handle.

This oven mitt had a real tough weekend but we still use it despite black burned marks from the fire.  I think that is mostly becuase I am incapable of throwing anything out that I still see a little life left in

This Le Creuset oven mitt had a real tough weekend but we still use it despite black burned marks from the fire.  I know that was a bit of a brand name drop, but I just wanted to reiterate/clarify/recognize that despite some steps in this process looking wilderness-y, I was just a suburbanite playing camping

With cameras ready and a nervous expression on my face, I peeled the foil away and removed the lid to discover… that it hadn’t cooked.  Maybe it cooked a little bit but not much, and certainly not enough to eat.  I was crushed.

Looked no different.  I was crushed and basically wouldn't speak to anyone for about fifteen minutes.  I am positive I made things uncomfortable and unpleasant for those around me, which is when Janet came in handy for a "Heyyyyy!!  Look at Janet! she is sitting and not doing anything and stuff! Awwww"  Forgot to mention Janet came camping

Looked no different.  I don’t think I spoke to anyone for about fifteen minutes.  I am positive I made things uncomfortable and unpleasant for those around me, which is when Janet came in handy for a distracting “Heyyyyy!! Look at Janet! she is sitting and not doing anything and stuff! Awwww”  Forgot to mention Janet came camping

I have a pretty good idea what I did wrong (of course I am a know it all even when I am wrong).  I am sure that there was supposed to be a consistent fire on top, but given that it was cooking for 18 hours+ I had some concerns on overdoing it and the same strategy worked fine for the hogs head three ears earlier.  I also think I needed a deeper hole with more embers that had burned for longer than the batch I used.  The hole itself wasn’t warm enough to start since it needed to almost preheat like an oven.

I need to take another crack at this and get my vengence.  On myself, I guess.  Sometime soon.  On to the next major dag.

Lamb Pinwheel Roast

I can’t remember the exact occasion for this one, mainly because I don’t date my photos well, but I think it might have been Mommy Ryan’s birthday.  I also think Tim was being bossy/cranky about what he wanted to eat because it was pre-ordained that we would be having a butterfly leg of lamb and deviled eggs.  Weirdo.

I thought a great idea with the leg of lamb would be to make a pinwheel roast, almost like a lamb porchetta.  Except this one would be stuffed with all of the awesome flavors Mommy Ryan used to pack into her lamb dishes.  Namely, Dijon mustard, rosemary, garlic, and lots of salt.  Decent idea in principle, but you know I will be bungling this somewhere along the way.  Lets start with the lamb.

Looks pretty identical to any deboned piece of meat shown on this blog previously.  Most similar to the duck from the turducken I think

Looks pretty identical to any deboned piece of meat shown on this blog previously.  Most similar to the duck from the turducken I think, but without the weird snorkel thing from that shot

My goal was to make some small slices in the meat so that it would be approximately the same thickness throughout and also spread out as flat as possible.  With that done, I started working on the filling.  Three key ingredients: rosemary, (green) onion, and garlic.

Yeah, it's been a while but that pile of raw garlic doesn't look any smaller.  Not sure exactly how I thought this was the appropriate balance.  Looks like a crap ton of rosemary too, actually

Yeah, it’s been a while but that pile of raw garlic doesn’t look any smaller.  Not sure exactly how I thought this was the appropriate balance.  Looks like a crap ton of rosemary too, actually

The onions, rosemary, and garlic went into a bowl with cubed staled bread, a couple tablespoons of Dijon mustard and mayonnaise and lots of salt and pepper.  The goal was to create a wet stuffing that would flavor the lamb from the inside out, but also mimic the lamb flavors we grew up with.

I have to admit that since it's been awhile, I totally had no idea what that green blob is in the center.  Upon further review, it is a blob of mint jelly which joined the party along with some additional brown sugar as well.  It's all coming back to me now

I have to admit that since it’s been awhile, I totally had no idea what that green blob was in the center.  Upon further review, it is a blob of mint jelly which joined the party along with some additional brown sugar as well.  It’s all coming back, coming back to me now.  Shout out to my girl Celine!

The stuffing was pungent, but I felt like I needed that to stand up to the strong flavor of lamb and there was a lot of meat.  Using the same process I used with the turducken, I pressed as much of the stuffing as I could into the lamb in an even layer.

Midday cooking in Tim's kitchen is actually great for fotos,  It's a hell hole at night though.  Lighting-wise.  I feel like I am writing a scathing Trip Advisor review or something, but it really is terrible for taking pitcures usually

Midday cooking in Tim’s kitchen is actually great for fotos, It’s a hell hole at night though.  Lighting-wise.  I feel like I am writing a scathing Trip Advisor review or something, but it really is terrible for taking pictures usually

I attempted to roll the lamb up porchetta style and was mildly successful, but the real feat was that I actually tied it up without the whole thing falling apart.  I am assuming Tim didn’t help but probably criticized my technique.  Friggin’ jerk, I’ll show him.

The bundled package headed into the fridge for a few hours.

Again, am I on Rhee Drummond's blog or something?  Why does it feel like this is a hipster, back to nature setting?  I swear this is the same place I took blurry photos of Yuengling and dental floss-stitched smoked hog stomach

Again, am I on Rhee Drummond’s blog or something?  Where did all of this natural light come from?  I swear this is the same place I took blurry photos of Yuengling and dental floss-stitched smoked hog stomach a few months earlier

And here’s where it went off the rails.  I was obsessed with having a crispy outside on the lamb and it was a beautiful day, so I thought I could cook it slow-ish on the grill at Brother John’s.  And when I get an idea in my head it’s tough to steer me away, so onto John’s grill it went.

I should have stopped when he told me there were hot and cold spot on the grill.  I should have swallowed my pride and preheated the oven.  I shoulda

I should have stopped when he told me there were hot and cold spot on the grill.  I should have swallowed my pride and preheated the oven.  I shoulda…

This one ended up as a bit of a debacle in the cooking process.  In the first five minutes on the grill, one part of the lamb had burned while the other end of it looked like no heat had been applied.  I rolled it around on the grill a bit to keep it from burning but that led to less trapped heat (due to opening the grill constantly) and less cooking through.  When it was finally in danger of charring too much for edibility, I had to put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes.  Which didn’t make a damned bit of difference.  The stuffing was barely warmed and the inside of the lamb was rare instead of lightly cooked all the way through.  A mess and a nightmare on the stomach due to raw lamb an garlic in the mix.  Happy birthday Mommy Ryan!

Send in your suggestions!  I desperately need them.

Shellfish in Harpswell, Maine

This past weekend we headed to Harpswell, Maine to celebrate Kristi’s 30th with her twin sister Kate at her husband’s family vacation home.  As usual, I was obnoxious about wanting to cook certain dishes and look for food as the weekend progressed.

For five months every year, Maine is the most beautiful place in America

In the morning I went looking for mussels at low tide.  Very different from my previous experiences since the mussels were buried in sand instead of mud.

Thousands of empty mussel, clam and scallop shells littered the beach, perfect for putting some fresh gashes in my feet

I looked for mussels the only way I know how: look for the biggest ones with as few barnacles as possible while dismissing any found by other people as “not what we’re looking for”.  Eventually I had a few pounds in my trusty Hannafords bag.

So far on this blog I have worn a Rolling Rock shirt, a "snoozy baby bear" shirt, and two absurd sleeveless tees. With that history in mind, I present my Le Tub Restaurant pocket tee. It has a huge hamburger on the back. I am 30.

I definitely had some concerns about how gritty these mussels would be so I soaked them in fresh saltwater for about 6 hours changing the water about every hour.

After two good experiences with wild mussels I was a little too optimistic about these

While the mussels soaked we played lawn games and waited for the main event to be delivered; a container of 16 lobsters from a friend of Reeves’ family.  Since, food is always better after you have had a few beers in the sun, we did just that.

Don't worry, she's cool, we hid her giant plastic keys before she started tipping them back. Plus, another outstanding tee shirt by me

After some giddy celebration when the lobsters showed up, they were all thrown in a giant steaming pot on the beach.  I would love to take credit for the setup, but the neighbors were also having a lobster bake and offered to cook ours with theirs.  While they cooked, I steamed up the mussels and put them out as an app.

Uneaten mussels on the left, empties on the right

The mussels had more pearls and were generally grittier than the mussels we found by Hermit Island.  They also were not as pretty, with very few having that nice orange color that you see in the header image on this blog.  The taste was solid, but all of the extracurriculars made it less enjoyable.  My brother in-law Chandler was undeterred by the grit and probably ate half of them.

Upon returning to the beach we saw this:

Its gonna take the birth of my first child to knock this out of the #2 spot on the "happiest moments of my life" list. Sad that a wedding and a kid would be the only two inedible items on that top ten list

After gorging ourselves on butter and lobster for the following hour we still had a few leftover so we decided to harvest the meat and save it for the next day.  As usual, this turned into one of the better meals of the weekend when we tossed the meat with diced red onion and celery, little mayo, little olive oil, and salt and pepper. Plop that on a hot dog bun and you have pure deliciousness.

I frowned when I saw Kristi had added salad to my plate before I noticed a handy bottle of ranch dressing to avert any chance of ingesting something healthy

The texture of the big chunks of lobster meat made the sandwich.

I hope the day never comes where looking at this doesn't make me painfully hungry

And that was it.  We headed back to the far less delicious mainland and I have been thinking about it ever since.  I can’t wait to go back, eat a ton more lobster, and get another shot at the mussels.  Thanks again Kate, Reeves and family!

Next week, an attempt to make a good meal out of some lesser used cuts of meat.

Foraging for Food: Mussels

One of my favorite things to do is cook and eat food that I have had some hand in finding/catching/growing/hunting.  However, I have the following things working against me:

1) I didn’t grow up shooting guns and have only done so in the past year.  At brightly colored pieces of clay.  Poorly.

2) I think if I ever shot and killed an animal I would likely cry about it for a few days.

3) I suck at fly fishing and somehow can’t even catch a fish with a spinner reel and a worm.

4) I over-water or under-water vegetable plants until they die.  There is no in between for me.

The one thing that I have figured out I have a talent for, meaning its extremely easy, is catching/gathering shellfish with the intention of eating them.  They are basically rocks with a sweet delicious inside: right up my alley.  The first installment of Foraging for Food focuses on the shellfish that surprised me most with its quality: mussels.

Here’s all that’s needed: running water, possibly a scrub brush, some salt, a steamer pot, and something to soak the mussels in.  Oh, and a bay that smells a little funky, preferably in picturesque Maine.

See that white house in the distance? Its a bar where I watched the U.S. lose to Ghana and got the liquid courage to walk out into the muck

According to the drunks at Pollys in Beach Haven, NJ, the best time for going after any mollusk is a couple hours before, or right at, low tide. Make sure you leave your douchey footwear on shore.

Artsy shot from Kristi. Also, the Nike factory store in Freeport is on the way to Phippsbugh, ME

Mussels basically grow on anything stationary in tidal areas.  I didn’t just make that up based on my experience.  As far as you know.  If you dig in the mud around rocks you can pull off clusters of mussels.

Glad I never got an ill advised tattoo on the small of my back in my teens

In about 5 minutes I was able to find 3-4 pounds of mussels and put them in my handy Hannaford’s shopping bag.

I either need to stop eating food drenched in drawn butter or get some sort of training bra

The biggest difference between mussels you find and what you will get in a restaurant is that they are a lot uglier. They are covered in mud, nicked up, have barnacles growing on them, and will be attached to empty shells and sticks.  They need to be rinsed and scrubbed thoroughly in fresh water and have all attached debris cleaned off.  The barnacles are fine; they fall off in cooking and are actually edible if you are feeling adventurous.

Once they are clean they should be placed in a container of salted freshwater for at least an hour to get some of the remaining sediment filtered out.  If you have time, change the water halfway through and soak them longer.

Forgot a bowl so I soaked in the steamer pot

Close up. Not as pretty with all the barnacles but just as delicious if not moreso

Once they have soaked, they are ready to be steamed in the same manner that you would steam any other shellfish.

About a half inch to an inch of water in the pot, then a steaming insert goes over that inside the pot

I have washed my hair four times in two days and I think I still smell like smoke

I personally like to overcook them a bit since its very hard to make mussels chewy and its better to be safe than sorry with something you pulled out of foul smelling mud a few hours earlier.  Also, given that history, its amazing how clean and fresh the mussels taste.

White wine, drawn butter, and mussels. Doesn't get more straightforward than that

This shot makes me so hungry. They were so good and tasted distinctly different than farmed mussels

As far as the barnacles go, they pop right off after cooking and if you find a large one that fell off, you can scoop out the meat from the back.  Very sweet meat, with an interesting texture.

Kristi loved the mussels too which is a good sign of whether its just my adventurous tastes. She didn't even mind the occasional mini pearl you find in wild mussels

And thats about it, easily the cleanest and freshest tasting mussels I have ever had and so good with simple drawn butter.  These mussels wouldn’t hold up as well if cooked in wine and served in a broth due to all the extras on the shell, but on their own they were definitely impressive.  As is Maine, what a place.

The crazy thing is this shot doesn't even come close to capturing how beautiful it was

Next week, New Jersey littleneck clams.  Definitely with an extra-large helping of sleeveless shirts and general DBishness.