We are doing a classic All American cheeseburger on thin buns tonight. In the middle of winter.
Thin buns do not absorb juices well and are not as good at controlling unruly condiments. Also, winter tomatoes suck.
Start by seeding and dicing a Roma tomato. Thin shred some Romaine. Add salt, pepper, mustard, and dill relish to the lettuce and mix well.
Well I had a plan to be out in Missouri this week for some vacation, some business in Columbia, and definitely some fishing. My first concern was what the water levels were going to do with the snow melt. Apparently not much. But this trip really was cancelled (hopefully rescheduled) due to some issues that came up at work that needed to be addressed prior to EOB on Friday. some of which I could not deal with remotely. I have been watching a couple of party boats that have been going out this winter for tautog. Some have reported very successful trips. The local boat basically stopped going back in Jan. Only a couple were going out from marinas in NJ. On Monday I found that one was going to have a trip on Weds the 24th (aka yesterday). Already scheduled to be off I booked myself on the boat. Then decided to contact My Betterhalf to see if I should book all of us. Well we all got on the boat.
We were heading out of Belmar Marina in NJ. It's about a 3 hour drive and we decided an overnight stay was better than leaving the house at 3 am to get to the marina to check in before the boat left. Now tautog are a finicky fish and many trips have few fish boated or even none. So I warned Sue and Livie for that contingency. The was also going to be a small craft advisory for after 2pm due to increased winds and waves. We were prepared for the worse. At the boat if was a beautiful morning.
Lots of mergansers, buffleheads, scaup, mute swans, herring and black backed gulls, loons, and cormorants everywhere. The birds that got me excited were flocks of Brant geese which I have not seen since living in Ireland.
Waters looked calm as we headed out of the harbor to the ocean and pretty much stayed that way for most of the day.
Took almost two hours to get to the first spot. We were bottom fishing rock piles with single hook rigs and 6 to 8 oz of weight and using clams or live green crabs for bait. We were in 125 to 140 ft of water all day. Typically tog prefer the crabs, but I wanted to try for as many possible species and we all started with the clams.
I caught the first fish of our group, a bergall or cunner. This is a wrasse species related to the togs. The captain stated several times that these "perch" though small were go eats. We started a collection for the captain and even referred to these fish as Captain's specials . The bites were light but they were fairly aggressive. I even managed to hook two on a single hook .
Sue was the next in our group to catch a fish and it was a monster. Maybe not in size, but in everything else . You would not want to be smaller or even possibly the same size as this fish when you look at the size of it's mouth in proportion of its body.
Originally thought this fish was a conger eel, but was mistaken. Turns out that this is an ocean pout, Zoarces americanus. Definitely the coolest fish of the day from a multispecies angling bent. There were four others landed and even one guy caught two, but I did not land one myself. These guys weren't the only species that gets little regard that we caught that day. Livie was struggling with feeling these light bites, but got on the board with a bergall or two before she hooked and landed her first lifer of the trip, a Little skate (and no it was not just small, that is actually its common name ). She ended up catching two of these guys to my big fat 0.
Even Sue caught a Little skate (also a lifer for her), though her male skate did not want to be photographed (or handled).
I had caught quite a few bergall while Livie and Sue were catching their lifers. I did end up with another species to the list, a black sea bass, which are so common that it is inevitable that I would catch one this year.
We did move to a couple of new locations which gave us time to think contemplate our fishing thus far or check if we had cell service.
Well as fun as these multispecies catching was, this was a tog trip after all. So someone had to catch one. Well unbeknownst to Sue, she took that challenge when she switched over to fishing a half of a green crab. Tog have a tendency to pick at a bait at first then mouth it and dive into any gaps or holes in the rocks in a hard pull. Sue got here first experience with that bite and was able to wrangle out her first ever tautog and a keeper male (see the white chin) as well (qualified her for the largest fish pool).
I on the other hand got the worse end of a tog bite where I was over an over again hung in the rocks after getting bit . Sue followed that male tog with a female keeper tog. After the captain yelled that she got another one that got many folks headed up our way to the bow or fishing again with crabs (many switched over to clams because we were getting bites throughout the day). Livie moved over to Sue's side and she had some fishing luck and was able to pull one of her tog bites out to the rocks and onto the boat. That was Livie's first tog ever and it also was a keeper qualifying her for the pool.
We caught a few more bergall, but not many. Sue did get one more lifer for the day, a red hake (ling) (another one that I have not or did not catch on this trip; also Sue did catch her first ever bergall as well making it five lifers for the day).
In end of the day we only caught about 30 fish total, We didn't blank and had three out of the seven keeper togs boated on the trip. By 2:30 the winded picked up and so did the waves making the trip back to harbor one where many had to hold down their lunches.
For the group family photo going into the captain's fishing report for trip, Sue allowed me to hold one of her togs . Oh both Sue and Livie lost out to a fish that was just over an inch larger than the biggest togs that they caught. I did broker a deal with a guy to buy Sue's hake.
Don't have pictures but it was great. Guinness Meatloaf, Garlic Mash potatoes and fried cabbage. Here is what it did.
1 onion chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 diced celery
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup diced portabella mushrooms, about 2 oz.
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. ground venison
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 bottle Guinness Extra Stout, save the other have for gravy
salt and pepper to taste
2 1/2 cups of torn bread
1 cup milk
Cook onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic until tinder and then add half bottle of the beer and simmer until about half the liquid is gone. Sit aside and let it cool.
In a large bowl add bread and milk for a few minutes. Add eggs, meat, cheese, salt and pepper, worcestershire sauce and the veggies. Mix well and place into a sprayed pyrex dish and form into a loaf. Cover with bacon, over lapping to cover the whole thing. Bake at 350 degrees for and hour. If the bacon needs a little more, broil it for about 5 minutes.
1/2 cup diced onions
6 oz diced mushrooms
1/2 bottle Guinness Extra Stout
3 cups beef stock
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp Butter
Salt and Pepper
Cook onions, mushrooms and garlic until tender. Add Beer and cook until almost all liquid is gone. Add beef stock, heavy cream, and butter. Thicken with corn starch.
Served with Garlic Mashed potatoes and fried cabbage and some bread.
Today I gave a cooking demonstration for a socially spaced and masked group.
My demo was the cheesy corn chowder I have posted here before. Tonight we will have that for our dinner. The great news? The dinner rolls are rising as I type.
Thank you, sir. Braise covers a huge amount of ground. Coq au vin, chicken provencal, and pot roast are all braises. The rules are there are no rules. Cook what suits you, other than fish, with whatever you like, and keep the feet wet.
Sunday chili. Ground beef, kidney bean, chili Pinto beans, onions, shallots, green peppers, garlic, tomato paste, diced tomato and green chili sauce, chicken stock, light and dark chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, smoked paprika, and some time.
Tough challenge. Pun intended.
You face the classic trail boss/farm wife problem.
Braise/stew, ground beef, sausage, smoked/dried beef, corned beef, jerky, and quick sears are your friends. Want to roast?, then wrap in bacon.