Monday, January 30, 2012

Cider Glazed Salmon

Fish… not fishing this time.  Just fish…  Not just any fish mind you.  No my friend I am not talking about haddock.  I will not work to entice you with cod or flounder or scrod. (What exactly is scrod???  I digress) I came here to talk to you about the one, the only… beautiful, beautiful salmon.  If you are one of the poor souls that pronounces the “L” in the word salmon, please don’t.  Thank you.  Anyhow, you may think you know how to cook salmon.  You do not.  Sorry.  All the soy sauce, ginger and honey mustard you can muster will not help you.  This salmon dish is both tantalizing and comforting at the same time.  Like an autumn hug from your fat mamma is this salmon recipe.

My friend Christina passed this on to me a couple of years ago and people LOVE it. I love it!  YOU will love it.  My in-laws say it is the best salmon they have ever tasted.  (Keep in mind they are British and that my mother in law does her salmon in a zip loc bag, in the microwave.  No joke)   Seriously, this dish is ridiculously delicious.  I make extra sauce and I serve this fish with basmati rice and grilled asparagus.  Oh man is it good.  Let’s get one thing clear, if you are not going to use the heavy cream stay home.  Fat free half and half???  2%?????  Who are you people anyhow???? It’s a little tiny bit of heavy cream.  You will be fine. (maybe)  You will however NOT be fine using farm raised salmon.  You want that salmon to be as wild as this blogger.  
So here it is, Molly Wizenberg's Cider-Glazed Salmon and I believe it was first published in her book A Homemade Life.  For once in my life I have actually always made it exactly as the recipe says to.  I don’t see or taste any room for improvement.  Go nuts!

Cider-Glazed Salmon

For this recipe, you'll need a large 12-inch skillet with a lid. The pan should be large enough to hold the salmon without crowding and to provide plenty of surface area for boiling down and thickening the sauce.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 medium shallot, peeled and halved lengthwise

2 cups fresh unfiltered apple cider

4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets


1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large, heavy skillet, combine the butter, shallot, and cider. Place over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove and discard the shallot.

Place the fillets gently in the pan, adjusting the heat so that the liquid just trembles. Spoon a bit of the liquid over them, so that their tops begin to cook. Cover and simmer very gently. The fillets will cook for 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness. To test for doneness, make a small slit with a paring knife in the thickest part of the fillet: all but the very center of each piece should be opaque. (It will keep cooking after you pull it from the heat). Transfer the cooked salmon to a platter, and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.

To prepare the glaze, raise the heat under the pan to medium-high, add a pinch of salt, and simmer, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced by about two-thirds. It should be slightly thickened and should just cover the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the cream. Stir well to combine. Return the heat to medium-high and boil, stirring frequently, for a few minutes, until the mixture darkens to a pale golden caramel--like those Brach's Milk Maid caramel candies, if that helps--and is reduced by one-third to one-half.
Place the salmon fillets on 4 plates and top each with a spoonful of sauce. It should coat them like a thin, loose glaze. Serve immediately.

Note: If you'd like to make this for only 2 people, halve the amount of salmon, but not the sauce quantities.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Les Miserables and Jesus

The thing about modern Christianity is that so many people will only ever get to see the bad examples.  This may be true for historical Christianity as well. The nut jobs, the pushy, the obnoxious, the judgmental, you don’t have to look too far for them.  They are however not even a caricature of what Jesus intended his followers to be like.   Many of my readers are right wing evangelical, born again Christians.  Some are ardent atheists. For those two camps and everyone in between I offer this video clip from Les Miserables.   

For those who love Jesus I hope it will inspire us to be more accepting, compassionate and sacrificially generous.  For the other extreme my hope is that you will know that there are so many who believe the story of Jesus who do in fact want to avoid hypocrisy and spread love in a way that is meaningful.  Believers, let's long to be more like the one we claim to believe in.  Critics balance your criticism with the knowledge that all Christians are not sign carrying, megaphone screaming freaks. 

Out of curiosity which character in this video do you relate most to? 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Glasses!

This is what I am rocking as of three days ago.  Indeed I needed another set of black eyeglasses about as much as I need another chin.  That aside, this frame is made by Persol.  They have been around since 1917 and are still hand made in Italy.  Persol started out making glasses for pilots and racecar drivers.  I am neither of those things but they have also been worn by James Bond and if I had to choose between being a racecar driver, a pilot, or James Bond I would choose James Bond every time.  You?

My First Steelhead

I wrote this four years ago.  Still gets my heart pumping!

My First Steelhead

I had not seen my cousin Adam in 15 years.  The last time we were together he came up to about my shoulder.  When he found out that I was going to be visiting with his father / my uncle, this Fall, he immediately dropped what he was doing so that we could reconnect at my uncle’s camp in the Adirondack mountains of NY.  My uncle is an avid hunter and fly fisherman and he raised his sons to be the same.  In fact, it was Adam and his younger brother Richard who gave me my first fly casting lesson when I was about 22 years old.   Thus Adam would have been around 13 at the time.  I will be 37 next month.  In the 15 years that I did not see Adam he became a man.  A very large and very strong man, to boot!  When he and his best friend Todd rolled into camp I immediately jumped up and ran out to greet them.  Adam leapt from the truck and the bear hugs and wolf howls started instantly.

The conversation flowed from how many fish we were going to catch to how happy we were to be together after all these years.  Those two topics weaved continually into  the catching up conversation.  We laughed, sang, toasted and even shed a couple of tears.  This lasted into the wee hours of the morning.  Every time one of us threatened to go to bed the chat would take another inescapable turn.  Knowing that Adam (because he is insane when it comes to fly fishing) wanted to be up at 3:00AM Tod, Adam and I finally crawled into our beds at about 1:45AM.  My wife was happy to see me but unhappy about the hour!  Sure enough we were up at three.  We pulled our waders on in the camp dining room, Uncle Dick got up and made us a pot of hot coffee and sent us on our way. 

We were going to fish the salmon river in Pulaski, NY.  This river is known for its world class steelhead fishing.  It is interesting to note that in NY one must wait until first light to fish, otherwise it is illegal.  Adam had us at the river approximately one hour and forty-five minutes before first light.  We walked along a path that lead to a stretch of river that runs along route 81.  We hiked down a slate waterfall to a path that ran along the rivers edge.  Adam was so thrilled that we were the first ones there.  Tod and I just laughed.  No one, and I mean no one would show up on this river nearly two hours before they could start fishing.  But I’m so glad we did.

There had been a good dusting of snow and as we walked the path the sound of  our wading boots cracking the brittle crust of ice that had formed in the tiny inlets coupled with the crunch of snow were the only sound.  With head lamps in place and our rods rigged we found our way through the pitch dark until we reached the spot.  Each of us 25 feet apart sat in total silence.  Praying, nodding off, strategizing in our minds what approach we would each take to be the first to hook a fish and considering the utter peace and solitude of the moment turned our two hour wait for the sun into one of my best memories from this Fall.

The light arrived and the three of us stood in unison almost ceremonially.  We made our way into the current and began to cast.  This was only my second time steelhead fishing and the technique we started with is a little bit tricky.  I don’t particularly care for it but I was filing the “chuck and duck” tactic under the category of “when in Rome do as the Romans do”.  For those of you who don’t know what chuck and duck is, someone found that you could make your fly cast longer, deeper and with less likelihood of getting tangled on a rock if you rigged your leader with a small packet of split shot contained in a length of parachute chord.  The call it a “slinky” and it is a very controversial method amongst fly fishers.  It lacks any of the grace and beauty typically found in fly fishing.  My fly fishing mentor, Al Seavey does not use the slinky system but consistently takes large fish using a system of fixed weight about 3 feet up from his fly.  It still looks like the chuck n duck but gives the fisher more control over the amount of weight.  Then enters the philosophy of  the boys of Eldredge Bothers.  Young Tom, Old Tom and Jim run a fly shop in Cape Neddick, Maine.  Part of what makes their shop so great is that they offer premium gear and wisdom without any of the pretense often found at such shops. 

On my way from Massachusetts to New York I called Jim to have him re-explain their tactic for taking steelhead on the Salmon river.  It involves a float, a small piece of tube lead and a swivel.  It looks a lot more like fly fishing than the slinky approach and as Tod, Adam and I made our way to our second stretch of river I could hear Jim’s words like a mantra echoing in my brain.  “Chuck the chuck n duck….. chuck the chuck n duck…..” 

We hiked down into what is known as the Paper Mill Pool.  Gorgeous open water with an even gravel bottom and dotted with beautiful riffles, runs and pools.  As I waded out I  thought to myself that this water was just begging for a more classic approach.  It is difficult to break from the group.  Tod and Adam are master fly fishermen who have been doing this their entire lives and yet each of them were using very different approaches.  I am a beginner compared to these fellows.  Yet Jim’s words to chuck the chuck n duck were still ringing in my ears.  I removed my level line slinky rig spool from my reel and replaced it with the #7 weight forward spool I had tucked away in my vest.  I rigged as old Tom at the fly shop had instructed and began to cast.  It felt like fly fishing and if well timed I was even able to  false cast this system.  I began to dead drift my sparkle  egg pattern just like I would for rainbows and browns on my home rivers.  About ten casts in my indicator twitched, I raised my rod tip and was instantly reminded of one of the beautiful truths of fly fishing which is ; rocks do not take line.

 “There he is!”  I exclaimed joyfully.  “Hold on Jimmy!  Hold on!  I’m coming down” shouted Adam who was clearly as excited for me as I was for myself.  I played that fish under the helpful supervision of my younger cousin and dear friend.  Every time he told me to let him take line the fish would tear off a couple of yards.    When Adam instructed me to put a little more pressure on him I would tighten up and carefully reel.  When we netted the 9lb 30” steelhead we noticed by his dark color that he had been in the river for quite a while.  We made our way to the bank and I held my fish in proud fashion while Adam snapped a picture.

We released my first steelhead back into the icy current of the great Salmon River.  A bear hug and a couple of whacks on the shoulder and clear communication that we were so thankful to have had this time together.  He was not the biggest fish in the water but he fought hard.  I was not the most seasoned fisherman on the water but as I landed my first steelhead I was taken by the number of faces and voices in my mind that have contributed to my fishing and how I am seeing the result of being blessed by the company I keep.  I called Al Seavey from the river and shared every detail of my catch.  He ended the call by telling me to go catch another.  Who is helping you to become the _____________ you long to be?


Friday, January 27, 2012

Photograph of God

This picture was taken by a contemplative monk named Thomas Merton. It is entitled The Only Known Photograph of God.  I wonder if that means anything to you.  When it first was brought to my attention years ago, I was in a very different place.  I thought it was ridiculous and I dismissed it as such.  Review of this photograph and its title provides an opportunity to better understand our thoughts not only on God but also on art.  

Title aside, what is this picture of?  

Well Jim... it's a picture of a hook!!! 
Is it?

Why isn't it a picture of trees?  Why isn't it a picture of a field?  Why isn't it a picture of mountains?  Why isn't it a picture of the sky?  

In life, art and faith we humans have a tendency to only see that which is right under our noses.  Or in this case dead center.  Limited perspective equals limited understanding.  Steven Covey says "Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  Understanding requires openness and willingness to see beyond the obvious.  What would happen if we applied this idea of full perspective understanding to our relationships?  What if we applied it to our relationship with God.

Perspective breeds understanding. Understanding breeds compassion. Compassion breeds love. Love never fails.

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."     The prayer of Thomas Merton

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cambodian Soup

This soup calls to you in the night.  It says “come to me my love and I will fill you with Cambodian delights the likes of which you have never known”.  That’s right my people… a talking soup!  For that fact alone you should try this recipe.  For Alison and I this is one of our all time favorites.  It was published in Food & Wine a few years ago.  Every month they find a big shot chef with a cool name and have them dumb down their favorite dishes for chumps like me!

Below you will find the original recipe but I rock it out Jim Trick style.  I  use all of the meat off two rotisserie chickens, a whole pound of medium shrimp, brown rice and lots of spice!  I also use like 4 or 5 cloves of garlic because my Grandfather (the late Vinny Dirago) would have wanted it that way. You can use a bigger pot and go nuts.  Though I have not tried it yet I think coconut milk would be amazing in this dish. 

Are you afraid of fish sauce and flavor?  Do Thai chilies make you squirm?  Hike up your skirt, grab a box of Kraft mac n cheese and I will call you as soon as all the people of Cambodia stop calling me to tell me how dope my soup is.  It could be a while.

 Cambodian Chicken-and-Rice Soup with Shrimp by Ratha Chau

One 3-pound rotisserie chicken

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth

1 cup water

3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

1 teaspoon honey

1 cup cooked jasmine rice

8 shelled and deveined medium shrimp, halved lengthwise (about 1/4 pound)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped basil

1 Thai chile, thinly sliced

Lime wedges, for serving 

Cut the chicken into legs, thighs, breasts and wings. Cut each breast crosswise through the bones into 3 pieces. Remove the thighbones and cut each thigh in half.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the ginger and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the stock, water, fish sauce, honey and rice and bring to a boil. Add the chicken pieces and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and cook just until opaque, about 1 minute. Stir in the limejuice, cilantro, basil and chile and serve right away, passing lime wedges at the table. 

Make a double batch and give some to someone you don't know that well.  Omit the exotic Asian stuff and add some noodles and you have the best quick cook chicken noodle soup you've ever tasted. 

Thanks for reading,  happy cooking!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Write on...

When I am 100% on my game I journal.  I have multiple journals.  Almost all of them are black Moleskins.  Yes, I got sucked into that fad but I’m pretty sure it was before you did, so there.  I have a songwriting journal, a prayer journal and a fly-fishing journal.  I have a few random journals for random things and I even have a sketch journal even though I am not a great “sketcher”… Sketchy at best.

My hope in journaling is to capture thoughts and creative ideas as they creep in.  If they see or hear me they scurry away into the wilderness of my distraction, never to be seen again.  If in one motion I am able to sweep in with a pilot razor point (black extra fine) or a Kweco-sport roller ball they get trapped in my pages.  Some of them are serving what seems to be a life sentence.  [an unused idea written in a journal described as serving a life “sentence” is the kind of thing I hunt… just got one] Other ideas are sprung free moments after apprehension.  I grab em, give em a shake and try to get them to cough up the information. If they won’t talk they will sit there.  I have plenty of time…

Another reason for journaling is the hope that it will slow down my days.  It doesn’t work.  Since high school the years have been picking up speed and even if the ol notebook does not impact the second hand, at least I will know where the seconds went.  Old journals reveal occasional victories in the coliseum of personal development while others display bits and pieces of me, still being chewed by the lions.  Those are the troubling ones.  The balance of resting in God’s grace and still wanting to labor for the right things with the right motivation are separated by failing picket and barbed wire fence. 

The worst is when I re-read a journal from years ago and find myself belly aching about the same things that are holding me back today.  Can you relate?  It’s as if zero progress has been made and yet I know it can’t be as bad as it seems.  Or can it?

Yesterday is long gone. Tomorrow may not come.  All we have is now and the promise that if we open our eyes in the morning there will be new mercies to carry us through that 24 hour period.  You know… the one with enough worries of it’s own.

I wrote a list for 2012.  I was reading it to a friend the other day and it felt like a poem.




(Confess, repent, proclaim, acknowledge, listen)



Set goals for the day



Brush teeth




(pears, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, mango, melon, peaches)


(Vinegar, mustard, Cholula Hot Sauce, fish sauce, peanut butter)


Brown Rice


All forms of good quality meat, fish and fowl

(green beans, sprouts, squash, peas, corn, beets, parsnips, kayle)

Rise Early

Be Fit

Be Frugal

Be Kind

Be Creative

Be grateful

Be faithful

I love you for your time, your ears and your encouragement