October 27, 2009

Gastronavigation Part 2

VERY WELL, THEN. Please pay attention now. Here, as promised, is the second column in the Gastronavigation series.

Ten years ago, when my wife June and I were exploring the wilderness of British Columbia in our 25-foot sailboat, we met a couple of cruising Oregonians called Burl and Abigail Romick. They were sailing a C&C 35-footer, a Landfall, called Wind Song.

We came across them near the northern end of Vancouver Island while we were sheltering from a northwesterly gale in Bull Harbor, an area described with some accuracy in the Sailing Directions as “remote.” And very windy, as it turned out, even in summer.

When the weather calmed down, we went our separate ways south, down the “outside” of Vancouver Island, but we linked up with Wind Song again in Barkley Sound. And there the Romicks treated us to a gourmet meal of quite unexpected delicacy. It was built around a delicious dish they called gravlox.

They made it from a salmon they had caught. It was soft, sweet, salty, peppery, and tangy with dill. After five weeks of canned food and cruising rations, it was a sensation. Our jaded tastebuds were clapping their little hands and yelling with delight. Here’s the recipe:

GRAVLOX, from Burl and Abigail Romick, Wind Song, Barkley Sound, 1999

Center cut of salmon, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds, cleaned and scaled.
Large bunch of dill. (Or dried dill, if you’re cruising.)
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons crushed peppercorns

Slice lengthwise and remove backbone and small bones.
Place half of fish skin-side-down in a glass or enamel baking dish or casserole. Sprinkle dill on top.
Combine salt, sugar, and peppercorns. Sprinkle over dill.
Place the other half of the fish on top, skin-side-up.
Cover with plastic, weighted down and place somewhere cool (refrigerate if possible) for 48 hours. Turn fish over every 12 hours or so and baste with the liquid marinade that forms.

You’ll need a sharp knife to take off horizontal slices, because the meat is quite soft, and you can serve it on crackers or bagels as an hors d’oeuvre, eat it with salad, or simply rip pieces off with your fingers and gobble them down if nobody’s watching.

If you’re at home, you can, of course, buy a ready-filleted center cut of salmon at your grocery store, delicatessen, or fishmonger. It’s not cheating. But if you can, catch your salmon yourself. It will never taste better.

Today’s Thought
The Americans are a funny lot: they drink whisky to keep them warm; then they put some ice in it to make it cool; they put some sugar in it to make it sweet, and then they put a slice of lemon in it to make it sour. Then they say “Here’s to you” and drink it themselves.
— B. N. Chakravarty, India Speaks to America

Two definitions for you today:
Diplomacy — the art of letting someone else have your own way.
Nonchalance — the ability to look like an owl when you have just behaved like an ass.

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