Friday, August 28, 2009

Why I like living in Alaska

Salmon
Berries (blue, thimble, salmon, cran, and huckle)
Bears
Saltwater
Shellfish
Temperate rainforests
Solitude
Cedar Trees
The weather (mostly)
Long summer days
Karst
Terrain
Clean water

Thursday, August 27, 2009

That sound you hear

is angels singing. That light is the clouds parting and a single ray of heavenly light falling on

He done been deputized.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bacon and Stilton

I read cookbooks like the delicious novels that they are. Lusting after certain recipes. Staring at photos of extremely complicated confectionery. Some are never far from my mind (or my gullet). I don't often indulge my more extravagant foodie whims. Partly due to cost and partly due to my the fact I don't think the two of us need to eat an entire Orange Dessert (Larousse Gastronomique). 

I indulged today. To a recipe that has haunted me since I first read about it in 2005. That's a long time to wait to make something, I know. Why did I wait so long? Well, because the primary ingredient is something that I always managed to inhale before realizing I could make something with it: Stilton. One of the stores finally stocked Stilton (WITHOUT the cursed mango and ginger). I bought my precious wedge yesterday morning, not caring that it was $22.50 per pound. This recipe is a bacon and Stilton cheesecake. 

My two favorite foods in the whole world are Bacon and Cheese. In that order. When I was a vegetarian, I couldn't resist the siren song of the crispy, fatty, salty meat. Bacon is a miracle worker: larding lean meat, curing hangovers, or dressing up a salad. As far as cheese goes, I haven't met a cheese that I didn't like. The stinkier the better. To combine these? Well, I can't believe it took me this long.

The recipe is from an old Saveur. The issue is about Bacon, "The best food in the World." This was my very first issue of Saveur I ever got (from a gift subscription) and it hooked me. 

It's an amazingly simple recipe. Graham cracker crust. Cream cheese, Stilton, bacon, and walnut filling. You don't even bake it, just chill it until set up. Doesn't that sound like the perfect little brunch item? It's dessert to me, though. I'll probably dress it up with a peach-rhubarb relish/compote/chutney. Haven't figured that out yet. 

I didn't have the appropriate hardware (2x2 inch ring molds) to make the pictured version of the little beauties, so I used a mini-cupcake pan. I can see these little molds may be useful in the future for little tarts, or more cheesecakes. I'll figure that out if I manage to find them.

I'm not sure how they'll turn out. They are chilling in the fridge right now. Waiting. Waiting.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My awesome tomorrow

Know what I get to do tomorrow? I get to crawl under the house and spray the mold that's growing on our floor joists with Bleach! So. Fun.

Also, did you know that several cats crapped under our house before it was sealed up? They did!

So no matter what you are doing it is better than: Using a vacation day for something that is decidedly not a vacation, waking up early, crawling around in the damp dark, laying on your back on pointy rocks, spraying chemicals upward, touching fossilized cat poo, or Rocking the Tongass.

Incidentally, rocking the Tongass means I sing. This is way worse for people other than me. I am really looking forward to the stadium rocking hits of the mid-80's that I've heard many times before.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our one and only claim to fame

The sign on our shrimp shack appeared in Saveur magazine.
That's it. Those are some painted shrimp up in the corner. Not cockroaches.
The shack was literally a shack. Not a "shack." It was a bucket as only Southeast Alaska would allow. It was in the back of the Napa auto parts store, next to the waste oil and old batteries. The drain pipes emptied under the neighboring coffee shop, owned by the most vile person in town. TDF gleefully dumped icky shrimp water under her building each evening as revenge for running over us out trolling. (We had a 12' skiff. She had a 35' trolling vessel that she regularly pushed us around with.) Anyway, there was a covered table, some sinks, and two propane boilers. The sink for customers was cut into a hollow core door.
Here he is, behind the counter. That tip jar always managed to buy us a 6 pack at the end of the day. Every morning, TDF and his boss, ShrimpBob, would go out at like 330 to trawl for shrimp in front of town. This is in Wrangell where the muddy bottoms near town were perfect drags for four delicious types of shrimp. Oh, and ShrimpBob was what everybody called the guy because there were like 18 Bobs in town.
This is a tote full of fresh shrimp. They are mostly side stripes, pinks and a few coons. The side stripes are the best shrimp on the planet. Large enough to make them worth your time but sweet. They are "vegetarian" shrimp so they eat mostly algae and plankton. (this may or may not be true, it's just what I've been told.) I must have peeled 100 pounds of shrimp per summer there. The work isn't bad if you have beer. Your cuticles suffer a bit. This is a coon. They are larger and a bit more rubbery because the have a more meat-based diet, I think. As you can see, a shrimp is about half meaty tail and half organy head. Southeast Alaska shrimp don't have that vein that runs along the tail quite like the tiger prawns or gulf shrimp do, so they look a bit cleaner when you pull them out of their shell.That is a tub of cocktail sauce. When I showed up, that's usually what I did. Making cocktail sauce in that volume is pretty gross. Whenever you have to use the giant cans of ketchup you reach a different level heeby-jeebys.
Here is a sink full of cooked shrimp. All we would do is scoop out a generous portion out from the cooked batches and dump them on a paper plate. I like their beady eyes.
That, my friends, is a $5 plate of shrimp. It's a generous pound of fresh, sweet-salty shrimp. Gosh, I miss Wrangell shrimp. And Crab. The same muddy bottom the shrimp love is the same muddy habitat that grow great crabs.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

my garden

No, not my actual garden, just some stuff I picked. I think root vegetables are the prettiest things in the world.

These beets are the thinnings. I picked them in order to let the other beets grow bigger. These became a wilted salad with mint dressing. We had them with some Salmon roasted with gremolata. Since I have an absolute butt load of beets, mint, and salmon I'm trying new things.
Here's some of the salmon. I'm not sold on the lemon/orange citrus + mint. I think lime would be better--Mojito salmon! Yesss. Will try tonight.

And I just thought these were cute. I called them my huggy carrots. I may or may not have sung a song about them. It may or may not have been really annoying.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summers end

The weather round these parts changes abruptly. Last week was sunny in the 70's. Last weekend was a moderate 62 and rainy. Yesterday, it rained 2 inches in 24 hours. This is defined as pissing down rain. (Forgive the swears, but there really isn't any other way to describe this phenomenon.

All of my greens have become quite bitter. I don't know how much longer I can eat on them. It makes me sad. I love having a yard full of eats. My carrots, however, are the awesome. I may try putting some up, but they are just so darn good right out of the ground. There were more beet-related shenanigans but I won't bore you with that. Let's just say it's red beets vs. golden beets and him vs. me.

We spent the weekend debating the merits of purchasing 1200 board feet of Mahogany. Do we or don't we? We shall see. It would be a lot of money but then we would have Mahogany doors in our house. (Oh, and it's not Mahogany around here it Rich Maaahawwwghaneeee). I know my husband and so we'll probably buy this.

My last little brain dropping is about shortbread. I'm working on an herbed shortbread without much success. I started with a sage recipe from Bon Appetite. It was pretty salty from the 1 T of kosher salt. I switched to regular salt and reduces to 1/2 t and used lavender and lemon zest. It was like eating soap. I would never admit this to tDF, but they were kind of gross. I guess I can spend the winter playing with butter-based recipes.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Beets me!

I grew several beets this year. Mostly for their greens because beet greens are yummy. Unfortunately, when you grow beet greens you end up with beets. A. Lot. Of. Beets. What to do with all the beets? There are the traditional stand by's of Pickling them, making borscht, throwing them at little brothers. (Hey K, remember that one time we played baseball in the back yard with all those rotten tomatoes and the dillweed neighbors got all mad at us? Good times!)

I want to do something different with them. My first attempt was a roasted beet and carrot salad over arugula. I liked it but my old man reminded me, "how he feels about cooked orange foods." I can't believe I married someone who doesn't like pumpkin pie, the king of pie. Sigh. He does have other redeeming qualities.

I read about a beet, mint and citrus salad that sounded good. Maybe I'll try that because my mint has begun to bully my rhubarb. I don't know. Beets taste fine but I really don't like turning pink. Beets manage to turn everything to such an aggressive shade of pink. Like Barbie's revenge pink.

To take my mind off it, I'll make mini cupcakes. To take your mind off beets, here are some turkeys from Kosciusko Island.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hole in my soul for pastry with holes

I spleen quite a bit about the things SEAK lacks. You all hear my whining and wish I would just. Shut. It. Sure, right after I crab about the lack of decent baked goods or deep fried bread products. My hippie-dink town boasts neither bakery nor decent doughnut joint. There are coffee shops with baked goods and the grocery stores provide academic doughnuts (they are round, with holes). What I wouldn't do for real honest-to-goodness pastry or maple bar. It borders on psychotic.

Every Saturday we have a ritual: get up, drink coffee, read the weekend edition of the Sentinel to scout for garage sales, get in our crap car, buy a doughnut, garage sale. The cliche of crazy is to do the same thing and expect different results. It's like that with the doughnuts here. I think they are flown in, pre-cooked from some hole in the lower 48, reconstituted here and smeared with some Pillsbury canned frosting. After eating them, I get sort of hungover from the awfulness. I swear if my body will just process this abomination, I won't ever eat one again (until next week when I begin the shame-cycle over).

We do have a solution to this problem, a cheap/easy/somewhat nasty work around. I learned this from my F-I-L after an unsuccessful bout with beignets. Here are the steps:
  1. Buy the cheapest cans of pop-n-fresh biscuits you can find at your local store (really, the off brand is best. We buy Western Family).
  2. Fix a pot of coffee (fortification)
  3. Open the cans of biscuits
  4. Shape the dough globules into a reasonable approximation of a doughnut (i.e. stick a hole in them)
  5. Heat veggie/corn/canola oil in a stock pot to 350 degrees (you are gonna deep fry some dough just like the Joads!)
  6. Put sugar and cinnamon into a lunch bag sized paper bag
  7. Fry your "doughnuts"
  8. Take them out of the oil and let them drain
  9. Place doughnuts in the bag and give them a good shake to coat
  10. Eat (but not too many because I think each biscuit has like 230 calories--not a joke)
Yes, these are super trashy. They are better than what I get in the store because they are crispy and warm, unlike the stale ones from the store. We don't eat these too often because deep frying leaves the house feeling greasy. And they are a serious gut bomb.

In learning to bake things by my own self because I have to, I have learned that I don't like Rose Levy Beranbaum. I. Can't. Stand. Her. She comes across as an insufferable twit with her stories about how great and accomplished she is. SO ANGRY. Like, irrationally angry about her books and the presumption they are important enough to be titled I am so great at things bible. This is why I don't use her book (except for the one recipe for Monkey Bread because admittedly that's a great recipe). MAJOR aside: I saw her smug face on a bag of flour that she "endorses" and I got so angry I had to leave the baking aisle, complaining at how much she sucks to my embarrassed husband. Really, only complete jackholes endorse flour.

Uh, I was going to talk about my Bagel adventures, sorry. I like making bagels. Recently, I altered a recipe (Not Beranbaums bagels of smug) to make blueberry ones with my local berries. They were successful. For those of you who bake, you know that bread isn't always fool proof. Unfortunately, they were made with only white flour. I'd like to add more whole wheat or other whole grains so they are a wee bit healthier. Trouble is, whole grain bagels turn out like bricks. Thoughts?
See how nice a fluffy the blueberry ones are and how flat the wheat (everything) ones are? I even added gluten to help. It will be a long winter of bagelsperimentation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Things I want to name our new boat

le reve
le baliniere
la buchette

(How do you make accents here? how very frustrating.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mish Mash Paddy Wack

There is no theme today. It's sort of an whatever's clever Trevor sort of day.

First, let's discuss the best part of summer: Berries. I don't take many pictures of our berrystravaganza pick-fests because I'm too busy picking. I have to use my hands for berries rather than documenting the berry picking experience. Thanks to tDF and my conscripted in-laws we now have 2 gallons of blueberries and 2 gallons of red huckleberries put up. It's a good feeling, looking at those plump bags of berries in my freezer.
This is a highbush blueberry. It's actually a specie of black huckleberry, but whatever. Due to the sunny weather they're really sweet this year. I warn you, there are worms in these berries, and processing them a gallon at a time really sort of churns your stomach. All the berries are soaked in a huge bowl of water and all the debris floats to the top to be skinned off. Some of this debris are little clots of worms. The denial gymnastics I put myself through in order to eat these off the bush are many. I am convinced that there are never any worms in the berries that go in my mouth.

We picked red huckleberries too. No photo of them in the wild but here is a cobbler in my ramekins.
Aren't they pretty! They don't nearly have the worm problem of the blueberries. They are sweet-tart and lovely.

Now let's talk about all the awesome ways I get to work. Since I am a field going employee, I work in remote areas more often than in areas I can drive to. This requires flying. I love flying. Especially when you hit an air pocket and the plane drops like 300 feet. The way my guts flutter. I know some people hate it, but it makes me feel alive.

Let's talk Beavers. Not the chewing kind, the De Havilland kind.
They are incredibly stylish and beefy, with an atomic age/mid-century modern edge. The last Beaver was manufactured in 1967 so most of what I fly around in is at least 40 years old. Well, I'm sure some parts are that old. Pilots up here are meticulous about their aircraft. The engine has a distinct throaty growl that is amazingly reassuring.
Most pictures out the window of the aircraft look like this. Lots of pontoon or strut shots over scenery. This is Staney Creek on Prince of Wales Island.
We also fly in Cessna 185s quite often. They are smaller, lighter, and more agile than the Beaver so they are better suited for landing (and taking off) in remote alpine lakes with limited maneuverability. We're in Rust Lake here and notorious difficult spot for take offs due to an intense downdraft. (It is always easier to land than to take off so just because you get down to the water does not mean you're going to be taking off).

Last, but absolutely not least, is the widdle helicopter. Flying around in helicopters for work is a perk, no doubt. I still can't believe I actually get paid to do this.
This is our vehicle for a difficult day of beach ridge surveying. It sometimes gets called a blood clot, for obvious reasons. Depending on the pilot, these can be landed almost anywhere (that's flatish and unforested). They make you dress like a prisoner and all the jump suits are XXL, but it's a small price to pay for flying in a helicopter for work.

There are boats too, but I seldom ride in them. How do you guys get to work or do your job?

Monday, August 10, 2009

I netflixed a Claude

My netflix list is a constant source of strife in our otherwise peachy marital world. I am willing to take a risk on something that sounds appealing from the run-on netflix summary. My dear husband gets mighty peeved when one of our movies is only 22 minutes long. "That's not a value," he chides. (Granted this movie was a pilot for a show or something and it was called the Amazing Screw on Head. What about this doesn't sound awesome?)

Well, my brother told me about this one movie that I just had to see. It starred the Swaze, Ben Stiller, Bill Paxton, a Baldwin (Not that kind of Baldwin), a totally slumming Liam Neeson, and the one-armed man from the Fugitive. Also, a silver Camero. Ladies and Germs, I give you Next of Kin.


(I got off the plane from Ketchikan last Thursday evening and the first thing my dear, dear husband said to me was, "What kind of crap movie did you get?" I knew immediately it was Next of Kin. He then tells me that Liam Neeson plays some "yodel" or a logger or something.)

We begin in the sepia town of Aw-shucks, a happy town in "the hills" where coal mining is prominent. This fades to the deep blue mean streets of Chicago in Hillbillyville and two cops maligning some mutantbilly who beat the tar out of some people. They bring in Truman played by the mulleted man of 1989, Patrick Swaze. Swaze promises to bring mutantbilly out, and to justice. He threads his way upstairs the nasty flophouse, chatting up sterotypebillys. Swaze cosners about with his affected twang.

Mutantbilly lets Swaze into his terrible room, shotgun aimed at Swaze's moneymaker (chest). They chat about nackabilly ridge and "hollers" and other hillbillyisms. Two boys from the mountains decide to take a walk down to the station to talk. Swaze has mutantbilly's back going so far as to beat up a cop who beats up mutantbilly. So loyal is he to his mountainfolkfriends.

Bill Paxton, playing Gerald Gates younger brother of Truman (the Swaze) Gates, is stocking cigarettes into vending machines. He is kitted out in the hillbilly staple of sleeveless flannel shirt. Gerald hates Chicago so much. He just wants to buy a coal truck and go home and work with his other brother Briar. Briar, pronounced by these two, sounds like Braaauuur. They fight or whatever. Swaze peels out in his suh-weet silver camero. Complete with automatic transmission. Because a real man doesn't need to shift. (Or as my brother put it, at least he can do Neutral-Drops if he wanted to. I replied, but he never does. Brother said, yeah but he could.)

We're now in church where a 5 piece classical group is performing. Swaze sneaks into a row, his mullet tamed at the base of his neck. And he left his stupid hillbillyhat in his camero. The camera zooms in on Helen Hunt, all decked out in a polka-dot dress with 1989's shoulder pads of awesome. Oh, how cultured she is playing the Vi-oo-lynnne. She is married to the Swaze.

Now, at home, soft sax music oozing from the stereo, and Helen Hunt in her other outfit for this movie: nightgown. She spends this entire movie either in polka dot shoulder pads or in a nightgown. Costuming! In one of his several contractually-obligated shirtless scenes, Swaze serenades her with a fiddle. He flops after her with a fiddle crammed into his ribcage. "I love you," she whispers. "Know what that means to a Mountain Boy?" he smarms. "I wanna knock you up and take you to Walmart." I snob. They run upstairs.

At GeneraicChicagoItalianEatery we meet different Baldwin, one-armed man, and Ben Stiller. Ben stiller is one armed man's son and is supposed to be taught the family business by different Baldwin, Joey. Italian cliches ensue.

Bill Paxton and his friend are comparing music while driving around in a panel truck. Hilarity ensues when Bill Paxton calls the other guy's music "Rat" instead of Rap. Cultural understanding! Bill Paxton likes jazz fusion. (hahaha, that was a joke! he only likes both stereotypically allowable musics. Country or Western.)

They are chased by a Cadillac of Goons led by Joey (other Baldwin). They run the panel truck off the road and kill Bill Paxton in the back of it. Joey spits lots of racial slurs. Especially noting how the hillbillys are the dumbest. Seriously, the whole class warfare of Chicago Vs. Hillbillies is somewhat implausible. Swaze gets wind of it and is kind of mad.

Swaze and wife arrive in po'hilltown, Aw-Shucks in a driving rain. Be-overalled old men greet them and speak of sweet, sweet revenge. The code of the mountain people. They pull the coffin o' Paxton of under a blistering sun. Continuity! Location shots of trailers, clothes lines, shacks, and tobaccy let us know where we are. Poor Helen is stuck in the kitchen with all the sack-dressed women where she can't even set the table right. She's redeemed when she plays the violin on the porch in her nightgown. The mournful tune plays all through the holler while various poor folks do their poor folk things. At some point, contrivance child has Swaze shoot an arrow.

Swaze visits Briar, played by the illustrious Liam Neeson, in his natty trash trailer. They drink a beer at 9 am and talk about how times is tough. Swaze, it should be noted, is wearing city clothes in the country whereas he wears country clothes in the city. Briar is pissed because them big-city cops don' look our for our people no how. Swaze, however, wants due justice and to do right by the law. All the family swears on a big, old bible to take revenge. Swaze emotes and sez that's backwards.

Briar returns to the city, anyway, and stays in the billyville flop house. He befriends the wormy guy who owns/runs the establishment. Wormy guy promises to call Briar's family if something should happen to him.

Them Gates boys get to work! Briar shoots up Joey and Ben Stiller's pinball-ringed hang out. He throws their Chinese food on the ground. Swaze visits lead Italian stereotype, one-armed-man, at his club. Stereotype is making tomato sauce. Goons get upset at Briar's Chinese food-related shenanigans and chase him through the city. Briar jump from El (that's Elevated Train) to El slo-mobilly style. Briar and Swaze fight in a bar. Swaze interrogates Ben Stiller. Joey kills Ben Stiller. Briar extracts a shotgun from a bartender by shoving his fingers up the guys nose. Joey's gang kills Briar. Wormy man calls the Family back in Aw-shucks. Swaze goes outside the law.

At one point Helen, in her pj's, surprises Swaze by setting a place at dinner for a teddy bear. No, she's not crazy. She's pregnant!

They mount up. Various rednecky folks gather their snakes, bows, rifles, hatchets and hounds for a big ole vengefest. The women were very busy packing pickanick baskets and thermoses for their trip. You never know how hungry you get hunting people in Chicago!

Swaze agrees to meet Joey at the graveyard at on a dark and moonless night. All he has is his trusty crossbow. For Huntin. He kills some goons. Goons shoot automatic weapons at him.
Hark! is that an owl calling? No! it's a wolf baying. Close-up on the Swaze tucked behind a tombstone making a hillbillywhistle. Here comes the Gates family revenge tour! They throw a hatchet! The shoot an arrow! they release the hounds! They lock a guy up in the bus fulla snakes. Yee haw, that's some good revenge. Swaze's choking the life out of Joey when the one-armed man rolls up and says, "It's over now Truman." Swaze get's off Joey while Joey smirks away. One-armed man has his gun on Swaze but then quickturns it on Joey. Wow! Totally anticipated twist-revenge. Neat!

"Why?" Joey gasps. "Because you aren't a real Baldwin." Succincts the One-armed man.

fin

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lil

Lilies are the awesome. Especially when you're rooting around the dumpster and find 3 bags of new-in-the-package lily bulbs. Oh, hell yes. Dumpster lilies.

We first only took one bag of the discarded bulbs, took them home and planted them. Then, we returned to retrieve all bags of dumpster lilies because, why not?

Looka my dumpster day lilies:
This sunny, warm summer has been a boon to my garden.
This is my favorite flower of all time, pretty much due to Peter Pan, and the horrid racial stereotypes of native folks. I would make my friends play Peter Pan all the time as a kid and I would always get to be Princess Tiger lily (Wendy was not as cool as Tiger lily). There are 16 more buds on this stalk. Sigh. Love.

Bulbs are so awesome because they pretty much take care of themselves. I feel like I'm good at growing stuff when the plants to all the work.

2 boats+1 boat -1 boat = 2 boats!

I have so much to blog, you guys. I have been having the most wonderfullest time frolicking in the sunshine, drinking Scotch, admiring Lilies, and watching the unholy eyesore of a crappy fiberglass "boat" get cut up.

Why would we get rid of this fine vessel that we bought for the price of $200? It's red, after all, and it has a pointy end and a flat end. The bottom is even sort of vee-shaped. Look at those barnacles! Whee! Well, we got a better boat. One that's made of actual metal (aluminium) that will likely float. This boat was free. Yes, free as the wild buffalo. Voila:
I will now let the pictures say the words that I cannot. Begone foul boat.
Look at how happy he is to cut this thing apart.
My F-I-L was super stoked that he could demo this horror.

Dirty nasty awful ugly. Complete with a little black cesspool of virusbacteriaspawn that was discovered with a sawzall.

Because everything is a huge joke, it will actually cost more to dump this hacked apart pile of fiberglass 'n foam than we bought it for.

I do not care. I have scotch. The remedy for caring!
Cheers! (Yes, my fingernails have dirt under them and my cuticles are grody. I don't get manicures because I dig in the dirt for a living. But, I don't care because: Scotch.)