As every Valentine’s Day since 2016, I recapitulated the very first meal I ever cooked for Jackie. I made minor changes, including baking a flourless chocolate cake and serving it with whipped cream.
I nipped into Harvest Market this morning to pick up a couple of fillets of fjord trout, while Jackie baked a pie with the Zestar apples we bought a few days ago.
Fillets seasoned with just salt and pepper, and cooked in a cast iron skillet with a little coconut oil. Delicious!
Tilapia from the farmers market, in a spicy cornmeal batter, fried in coconut oil. Served with onion and peppers sauteed in olive oil and some Mexican rice left over from Thursday’s takeout meal. @jackieLbrewer seemed to like it.
Continuing a Valentine’s Day feast tradition since 2016, I once again prepared and served a brace of Rock Cornish game hens with Uncle Phil’s wild rice, this time paired with Left Hand Brewing milk stout nitro.
Wild-caught salmon from Sitka
Shortly before the solstice we happened upon a woman at the farmers market selling CSA-style shares in the output a collective of small Alaskan fishing boats, and bought their package that will give us salmon (and other Alaskan fish) in May, June, July, and August.
Part of the deal was getting their “holiday gift box” for free. That box, with two kinds of salmon, a generous amount of cod, some spice mixtures, and some recipes, arrived (frozen and packed with dry ice) in time for a solstice feast, but we had our various feasts for the solstice period already planned, so we initially just put our salmon in the freezer.
Now that our planned solstice and related holiday feasting is done, yesterday I decided to go ahead and cook one of the big pieces of salmon from our holiday box.
More or less at random, I pulled a piece of coho salmon from the freezer. (I wanted salmon, since that’s what the whole thing is all about. We’ll eat the cod in due course.) The holiday box came with some spice mixtures, but today I used a recipe from Mark Bittman called 4-spice salmon that Jackie found a while ago.
It turned out really well. I served it with some Uncle Phil’s long-grain and wild rice (easy to make, as long as you remember to start the wild rice an hour before time to start the long-grain rice).
I neglected to take a picture until I was half done eating, but you can still see how it came out in the photo above. We actually only ate 4/5ths of what I cooked. We saved the biggest 5th to go on a chef’s salad today.
If you really like salmon, and can afford to invest a bit up-front to get a steady supply, and you live in the Midwest, you might want to seriously consider Sitka Salmon Shares. We’ve only had one meal so far, but it was yummy. I’m really looking forward to substantially upping the amount of wild-caught salmon in our diet this coming year.
Observed on the drive to Allerton
Observed on the drive to Allerton yesterday: Flooded fields with 4-inch high corn plants look like a lot like rice paddies.
Valentine’s day feast
When I thought about what Jackie and I might do for Valentine’s day, the idea of going out to a restaurant didn’t appeal. Fixing her something special seemed like a better idea. After pondering for a while, I came up with a plan for a collaborative feast, which seemed even better.
A bit of history: Just a few days after we started dating, Jackie said that she was tired and thought she’d go home early and spend an evening resting. I didn’t want risk letting her get away, so I proposed that she could come home with me and take a nap, and that I’d prepare dinner while she slept.
She was dubious but agreeable, and that’s what we did.
I don’t really remember what I fixed. Mainly what I remember is that Jackie was astonished—and remarked on it more than once to other women—that I actually succeeded in producing a meal entirely on my own: “I just slept!” she said. Which always seemed odd to me, because I’d been a bachelor for close to ten years at that point; it didn’t seem so remarkable to me that I could manage to cook a meal.
As best I’ve been able to reconstruct what I must have served, I think it would have been Rock Cornish game hens with Uncle Ben’s wild rice on the side. They were both staple items that I kept in my kitchen. The hens were purchased frozen, and could be quickly thawed in the microwave. Uncle Ben’s was also something I often had a box of on hand.
So, for Valentine’s day, I thought we’d recreate that meal, with some adjustments for the way our eating has evolved over the years.
I searched on the web for some recipes that were supposed to be like Uncle Ben’s, then used them as a model to create a recipe that I thought would be as much like the original as I’d actually want to eat. (I call it Uncle Phil’s long grain and wild rice.) We went to the grocery store and bought a rock Cornish game hen. (We got a fresh one, rather than frozen; because it was larger, we just ate one rather than two.)
Jackie made us salads. (I don’t remember, but I probably served salads that first time as well. I was eating a lot of salads right then.) She also made stuffing for the bird. (I’m pretty sure I didn’t stuff the birds that first time. I didn’t know how to make my own stuffing, and not having store-bought stuffing on hand is probably why I served Uncle Ben’s as the starch course.)
I stuffed the bird and roasted it, prepared the rice, and made gravy.
It was a wonderful feast.
After we’d eaten our fill, we finished butchering the hen, then boiled up the carcass for soup.
Uncle Phil’s long grain and wild rice
(Inspired by Uncle Ben’s, but more to my taste, using ingredients we tend to have on hand.)
⅛ cup wild rice
½ cup water
Bring water to a boil, add wild rice, cover, reduce heat to simmer.
Cook on low heat for 50 minutes. Set aside, along with any remaining liquid.
1 cup water
1 T butter
1½ tsp Better than Bouillon (or any bouillon you use)
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp basil
½ tsp sage
½ stalk finely chopped celery
⅛ tsp turmeric
⅛ tsp paprika
½ cup long grain white rice
Combine water, butter, bouillon, and spices in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add white rice, stir in wild rice (along with any remaining liquid), cover, reduce to a simmer.
Simmer until the white rice has absorbed the liquid, about 20 minutes.
Turmeric and paprika are for color, and this amount seems just right.
(Posted here because I’m going to link to it from another post; this is not going to turn into a recipe site.)