Saturday, August 04, 2007

R.I.P. Tommy Makem

Tommy, one of the most distinctive voices in Irish music died on August 1st after a long battle with lung cancer.

He was also one of those very rare performers whose manner and personality offstage was the same as his charm and wit won many a night onstage. I learned how to play the harp to accompany the telling of stories from Tommy. This is my own favorite of his songs.

I will miss me "Uncle Tommy."


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Grilled Albacore

Well, tomorrow morning means it's time for us to leave this beautiful beach. That's pretty much of a good thing. As much as I enjoy it here there is no way I could manage to live here and stay sane. I am already starting to chafe at the traffic, the crowds of people everywhere, the constant noise all of that.

It's high time for this old country boy to get some different sand between his toes.

Our fishing trip Sunday was beautiful. There were five of us on a 28 foot cabin cruiser. It had some kind of ferocious seagoing name which I promptly forgot, but it is a sleek and stable cruising and fishing platform. I spent most of my time up on the flying bridge, taking my turn at the helm and being an extra pair of eyes for the skipper. Spray in my face and an open sea horizon will still get this old salt's blood running a little hotter and thinner. Put a hunt for tuna into that and it begins to take on the aspects of perfection for me.

We went out of Bonita cove and up the coast to the kelp beds of La Jolla and then cut hard westerly for the open sea. The owner/skipper of the boat knew some likely spots where the albacore might school and hunt. We found them after about 3 hours.

We had our limits of 2 each pretty quickly after finding them. All good looking 35 to 48 pound fish. Since we still had a lot of time left and plenty of live bait still swimming we decided to haul into the kelp and see about getting some calico bass and other kelp goodies. On the way in we rigged a couple of trolling lines and hit 4 dorado in pretty rapid succession.

Being the planner and forwarding thinking type of guy that I am as soon as the first dorado hit the deck I was bringing out the filet knife and the sushi tools. That first dorado was down to chum in a matter of minutes and we arrived on station at the kelp beds reinvigorated.

There is a totally different technique for fishing the coastal kelp. I usually take a live anchovy or squid, try and hook it without doing much damage, either through the jaw and lips or right behind the gills so that it will swim in a fairly natural way. That's all rigged without any wieghts or other stuff. Then I flip that light rig out into the clear little holes in the kelp and just let the baitfish swim around for a little while.

To keep my presentation active and tempting I swap my bait out often.

The stand on the kelp brought us in 4 yellowtail, 12 calico bass, 2 stripers, a sheepshead and 3 sculpin (which were steamed whole on the way in).

When we reached our mooring bouy (a short swim from the porch and the BBQ) we brought the catch ashore and had ourselves a cleaning party right at the water's edge. We finished up just as the gulls were starting to become overbold and began acting like they were at a Hitchcock casting call.

Since an albacore is a glorious tasting fish to begin with, I don't do much stuff in the kitchen that would detract from that. I simply scale the skin well and then use a sharp heavy cleaver to cut it into steaks. The bones are pretty big and fileting would cost us a lot in the consumable meat end, although were I staying here longer and had a bigger kitchen the fish frames resulting from that would have certainly been made into rich stocks.

Then I take the steaks and lay them into a series of large baking pans in a single layer. These are given a quick dusting of fresh ground sea salt and pepper on both sides. Now for the touch that will set these apart (beyond being the freshest albacore steaks possible) I take some high end (like Bernstein's or Newman's Own) bottled Italian salad dressing and pour it liberally over the fish. A splash or two of any decent dry white wine won't hurt anything but if you don't have a half bottle or so sitting in the fridge waiting to turn into crappy vinegar don't sweat it. Cover the fish closely and refrigerate overnight. Remember to turn the fish two or three times to ensure an even bath in the dressing.

To serve, take the steaks out of the dressing, pat off the excess, give them a quick sprinkle with Minstrel's Magic Stuff or any other favorite seasoning and grill at a high temp. Not long! About five to six minutes per side is the most you want these to be on the heat. We're looking for the moral equivilence of a medium rare steak here. The middle should be hot, but not cooked.

As a side dish I had sourdough baguettes, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, and the legendary Indin Corn. My friend, beach neighbor and boat skipper Pat brought a beautiful bottle of a Rhone valley white for the wine drinkers. I was drinking ice tea made with half Earl Grey and half Irish Breakfast bags (both Twining's brand).

I should be back on the ranch sometime Monday.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fish Tacos

This is a legendary Southern California Beach thing. They probably originated somewhere in Baja around Ensenada or Rosarito.

Take a good meaty deep water fish. I'm using yellowtail and dorado from yesterday's fishing trip and cut into boneless chunks. Soak the chunks in buttermilk overnight.

Before you begin with the fish, take your large, 5 or 6" corn tortillas (now there are some gringo heathens that use flour tortillas for this, they also fry the shells crunchy like they were chips or something, but I gots me zero fucking time for bastards like that) and get them over by a stove burner, or, if you're making them for a grip of folks, get a griddle heated.

Dice some tomato, crumble up some queso fresca, and shred up some cabbage. (there are also some heartless bastards who will use coleslaw from the deli section here, but they are probably putting it into crisped flour tortillas so that's all you need to know about their character). Have some good ranch dressing on the side.

Minstrel's quick and easy Ranch dressing

1 packet Good Seasons® instant Zesty Italian Mix
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 cup Buttermilk

Mix and serve

To assemble your tacos, take the fish chunks out of the buttermilk, roll in a good fry coating (I'm using Mrs. Green's legendary stuff from Point Loma Seafood) and deep fry in 360° oil to a golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Heat the tortillas on the griddle to make them pliable and then hold a tortilla in your hand folded in half but open enough to pile in the fish chunks. Put that back on the griddle until it is deep brown and semicrisped enough to just hold its shape, flip. When the second side is done crumble the queso over the hot fish, put on a layer of shredded cabbage and tomato, hose that down with dressing.

This is where I would serve with rice and beans if people didn't keep snatching them out of my hands.