Summer is here, and its definitely my favorite time of year. I am trying to be outside as much as possible, taking in the long slow sunsets and lengthy twilight, watching all the boats and planes passing, paddling and swimming, and camping and fishing. In essence, to savor this time, to store up the memory of sun on my skin, to prepare for the upcoming winter, which, my northern magazine “Up Here” reminds me is only 7 weeks away. So, I haven’t been blogging much, although there are many interesting things to write about.
The one I want to tell you about today is the recent “You Don’t Know Jack Fish Fry Competition”. Our friend Greg runs Bluefish Services, a fabulous local business which takes people out on the lake for a day of sightseeing, or fishing, followed by a fish fry of the day’s catch on a local island. Apparently he used to have an annual fish fry contest, but it hasn’t happened for a few years. This year it was on again, and memorably was called “You Don’t Know Jack”. Jackfish is the colloquial name for the Northern Pike fish who are ubiquitous, so easy to catch, and so tasty to eat.
Friend Jenn made this poster, and APPARENTLY this is the 23 pound jackfish she caught a few weeks ago, (and then let go – Greg only keeps a few medium sized fish to eat, most of them are thrown back, especially the big ones). You can never be sure with Jenn, as she is at times, a BFC – big fat cheater.
In this case husband Martin, fishing guide Mike “The Pike Slayer” and Jenn were the invited cooks. I was conscripted as the cooks helper, and official event blogger. The judges were the clients, a group of about 6 or 8 visitors and locals. We boated out to Horseshoe Island, some 8 km away in the main lake, at the edge of Yellowknife Bay. We had a lovely secluded cove with a beautifully smooth granite rock as our base. In fact 4 of us, with 3 dogs, stayed on and camped overnight. Even thought its practically the first island you come to as you enter the main lake leaving Yellowknife, we had the place to ourselves, and only saw some boats going past in the distance. Such is the vastness of this place, with its hundreds of unnamed islands.
Contestant One – Jenn “I Love To Cheat” Stranart. Now don’t get me wrong – Jenn doesn’t need to cheat to win, she is a fabulous cook. Its more that she just loves to cheat, if she can. She can’t really help herself. Her first opportunity to sway the judges in her favor was the cocktails she started off with. Excuse me, where on the invite does it say that cocktails are included? Nowhere. See what I mean about how she cheats? However, her rhubarb syrup and gin cocktails were wonderful, and added a touch of class to the event.
Jenn’s dish was a pasta, with fried fish pieces, and a delectable sauce with olives, caper berries, and fresh lemon thyme, which even included the delicate little pink thyme flowers as garnish. And topped with fresh shavings of parmesan cheese. It was truly wonderful.
Contestant Two – Mike “The Pike Slayer” Jennings, with his assistant Matt.
Mike works for Greg as a fishing guide, and has probably cooked hundreds of traditional fish fry shore lunches. He has it down to a fine art. The traditional shore lunch includes fresh bread, lightly battered and fried fish, usually cooked over a camp fire, baked beans, in this case topped with bacon bites, and a side of chips, with a dill pickle. The fish was perfection – crispy, flavorful and not at all oily. I love jackfish because they have a very simple, light yet flavorful taste, which is wonderful with just a bit of lemon and salt.
Contestant 3 – Martin “The Spaniard” Garcia.
Now not only is Martin a Spaniard, he is from the Basque region, probably the culinary capital of Spain, and certainly a culture that knows fish. For his meal, Martin chose to start with ceviche, which is a raw and then marinated fish. (In this case we used frozen fish so as not to give the judges any chance of acquiring a Great Slave Lake fish tapeworm as a souvenir of their visit.) His main dish were fish cakes of his own recipe. Now I’m not really a fan of these usually tepid items, but these ones were amazing. Light and flavorful, letting the delicate pike taste shine, yet complementing that taste with lemon and a just a hint of cilantro.
His plate included the fish cake, on a bed of mixed greens, and topped with a sweet red pepper sauce, (homemade, of course), the side of ceviche, served with a lemon wedge and green onion spears.
Jenn however, had a few other tricks up her sleeve. Not content with bribing the judges with cocktails, and trying to get them drunk, she also made dessert. She baked brownies inside of hollowed out oranges. These were wrapped in foil and cooked briefly in the fire. The taste was of wonderful chocolate brownies, with the addition of an orange flavor. They were fantastic, I have to admit!
The judges deliberated at length. The decision was understandably difficult. And the view was a distraction.
The award was then presented to:
Martin has now won the Golden Pan. This is a beautifully engraved pan with the 1.50$ flea market price tag still on it. We can display it for the next year, but there is already hot competition and serious planning going into trying to get this away from him in 2014.