Friday, September 12, 2008

Fish Feast in 'the Door'

In Door County, Wisconsin, the whitefish has achieved nearly a cult status as the centerpiece of this area's 'fish boils;' and fish boils themselves have become centerpieces of many summer tourist experiences here. Scandinavian settlers began the tradition more than 100 years ago.

At Wagon Trail Resort, Restaurant and Conference Center, several dozen members of a family reunion party watched as a young man, wearing thick gloves and a long black apron, stoked the smoldering fire beneath an enormous cast iron cauldron. A hefty dose of kerosene turned the tame flame into a raging inferno, before staff quickly extinguished it and then served dinner.

Behind the White Gull Inn, dozens of would-be diners watched a similar scene in the early evening, where roaring flames cast ghostly shadows across the small courtyard. Within minutes after the fire died down, kitchen staff began preparing plates full of boiled fish and potatoes, and placed fresh bread and coleslaw on long tables. As they cleared our plates, fresh cherry pie arrived, capping off a memorable feast.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Savory Offerings

Many years ago I cooked for a small, nonprofit restaurant. The antique school building where it operated had been converted into a community center that primarily served the surrounding low-income, largely Hispanic neighborhood. Each morning, I shared the massive basement kitchen with Caroline, who cooked meals for the building's nonprofit childcare center.

One morning, as Caroline and I chatted over cut vegetables and freshly baked desserts, the building's quiet, elderly janitor, Eduardo, shyly presented us with still-warm, foil-wrapped burritos from his own kitchen. Every morsel of the handmade tortilla filled with savory shredded pork and small roasted potato chunks melted in my mouth. It was the first of many offerings from Eduardo, each one delivered quietly, and accepted with our heartfelt 'gracias.'

After this season's first cold spell, several days ago, I remembered Eduardo's food and decided to re-create the flavors. Here's my version of:

Eduardo's Burritos
makes 4-5 burritos

one large potato, skin on, cut in bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons butter
one small onion, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 pound Mexican ground chorizo*

4-5, 6-inch flour tortillas

Melt butter over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and onion slices and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 20-25 minutes until onions are translucent and potatoes are well-browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

Remove chorizo from plastic casing and cook on low for approximately 15 minutes, until meat turns dark red. Set aside.

Warm one tortilla at a time in a dry frying pan over medium heat, 2 minutes on each side, until pliable. Wrap warmed tortillas in a tea towel until ready to use. Lie one tortilla flat on a plate, cover with 1/3 cup potato mixture and then 1/4 cup chorizo. Fold base of tortilla inwards and then roll tortilla tightly over mixture. Enjoy!

Variations: Use shredded pork or eggs instead of chorizo. You also may add stewed/drained tomatoes.

*Chorizo is now available in many grocery stores as well as in Mexican markets

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wisconsin Cherry Country

Named one of the nation's 10 best vacation destinations, by Money Magazine, Door County, Wisconsin is a vacationers' paradise. If you also love cherries, then this is definitely your kind of place. From brilliant crimson to black-red, you'll find cherries on food and beverage menus throughout 'the Door.' Located between Lake Michigan and Green Bay, the county can produce up to 13 million pounds of cherries by mid-summer.

That's enough fruit for more than two-dozen pies from each and every fruit-bearing tree on the peninsula and adjacent islands. But inside pies isn't the only place you'll find cherries in Door County. At the Savory Spoon Cooking School, chef/owner Janice Thomas may pair pork loin with fresh cherry sauce or combine wine-soaked dried cherries with roasted apples, pecans and Wisconsin Blue cheese, in a dynamite salad.

Across the watery expanse known as Death's Door, chef and co-proprietor, Leah Caplan, may whip up a light-as-air crepe filled with creamy local goat cheese and topped with a fresh cherry sauce at The Washington Hotel, Restaurant & Culinary School. Or you can sip freshly pressed cherry juice and wine at Orchard Country Winery. Scrumptious doesn't do Door County cherries justice.