Fall Odyssey 2018 - The Last Leg
September 29, 2018
Dateline Sheridan, WY
Since my last installment, I completed the final leg of the 2018 Fall Odyssey and made it back to Sheridan a couple of weeks ago. The final portion of the journey was made a bit more challenging by some tough road conditions brought about by an early season snow storm in the area around Jasper, BC. Conditions were perfect for ice to build up on Gypsy and when she started to get kind of squirrely behind the truck, I finally realized that she had built up hundreds (maybe more than a thousand?) pounds of ice as we traveled down the road. With most of that weight being added right up front and dramatically increasing the tongue weight of the trailer, it was no surprise that Gypsy was getting awfully hard to control back there. When I finally figured out what was going on, I had to pull over and literally chop ice off various parts of the trailer with an ax.
Continuing south we eventually got out of the snow and into warmer temps. Next stop was Whitefish to check in with Rebecca and Luke and spend a couple of days not driving after pushing hard to cover ground for the past several days. And while my main reason for going through Whitefish was to see my favorite daughter (of course!) a worthwhile side-benefit was to pick up a cooler-full of salmon and halibut – the spoils of our fishing adventures in August. Of course, we needed to do a quality check, so we decided to try out a recipe for halibut cakes with garlic-dill aioli out of Salmon Patties & Rosehip Pie Cookbook, authored by Marian T. Beck of the Saltry Restaurant https://www.thesaltry.com/in-the-press/. Saltry, you may recall, was the restaurant we visited in Halibut Cove during our Kenai stay. The halibut cakes themselves were truly great, incorporating fresh scallions, parsley, red onion, and citrus in the form of lemon juice and orange zest. Now when I eat fish cakes of any kind (crab, salmon, etc.), I want the taste and the texture to reflect the fish – not the breadcrumbs. I think a key to this recipe is that it includes minimal breadcrumbs, relying instead on egg and pureed halibut to bind the chopped halibut and other ingredients together. Really fantastic! Paired with a side salad and an unoaked chardonnay, these cakes make a wonderful light summer dish. One word of caution is to apply the aioli sparingly to your cakes – Rebecca and I both love garlic but we found it a bit overpowering. For future batches I’ll reduce the garlic by a third (to 4 cloves), being sure to remove the germ and blanch it first to tame the bitterness.
Upon arriving back in Sheridan, I faced the chore of unpacking and cleaning clothes, gear, and of course Gypsy. Fortunately, I had the flexibility to spread the work over a few days while settling back in, and catching up with Ann. And, since it is September and sharptail grouse season is open, I couldn’t help but check out a couple of local covers to see what we might find. And just in case you think it a bit compulsive of me to feel the need to get right out and chase birds as soon as I got home after having recently hunted ptarmigan and spruce grouse in AK, let’s not forget that I was also frustrated by the bureaucrats in British Columbia and effectively shut out of hunting grouse on my way south. And besides, there’s really no such thing as too much bird hunting… is there?
So it was that soon after making it back to Sheridan, the boys and I headed out to some promising sharptail ground where we’d had good luck last season. And the birds were there. We got into a few groups and collected three- two young of the year and one adult – over nice points by both Timber and Dory. Back at the house I cleaned the birds, fileting the breasts and saving the legs for a confit sometime later this winter. I separated the tenderloins from the breasts which I prepared sous vide at 134o for 30 minutes in a bag with butter and some chopped onions. While the breasts were in the water bath, I pan-seared the tenderloins in avocado oil in a smoking hot carbon steel skillet and served them on toast as appetizers. Simple and awesome! The breasts were dried and seared in the same pan after the 30 minutes in the water bath. Served with a side of wild rice they were equally great!