Sunday, May 21

Iron Chef at Sea: Sushi Battle

One of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was the adventure of mooring at different stops up the coast and scrounging for local foods to add to my provisions. Yesterday I had such an occasion. We anchored and then took the dinghy over to an abandoned First Nation's village. On the way there we were passed by one of our boats. They informed us that they saw fresh bear scat and that we should grab the coke can on the dock and place a pebble inside and shake it so the bear would know we were there. Honestly, I pondered the wisdom of letting a bear know my exact address. Meanwhile, Max grabbed the can and shook like hell for the next 20 minutes.

I preferred the more civilized technique of screaming "hey bear-y, bear-y!" Our fearless captain forged ahead, leaving the rest of us bringing up the rear, wondering if the photo the other boat took of us as we reached the dock would be the last one ever taken. It didn't comfort me that Buck was around. The headline: "Chef gets mauled by hungry bear before she could even offer it a snack" went through my head. But mostly, I couldn't even hear myself think thanks to Max's vigorous maraca dance.

Meanwhile, I spotted some nettles growing all around. I used the sleeve of my wool sweater to pick them off and stuffed them into a plastic bag. When we arrived safely (phew!) back to the boat I steeped them with a bit of honey for some nettle tea. I then chopped and squeezed the nettles dry. Adding a bit of toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, sesame seeds and seasoned rice vinegar, I set about preparing some sushi for our boat. I used the nettles as a spinach substitute for a futomaki roll (which means literally "fat roll" in Japanese).

I taught my second cooking class the other day. I had no idea what to teach because I had expected that seafood would be readily available and I had been finding it a bit harder to find. Fortunately, as soon as we arrived at Lagoon Cove I spotted a local woman walking a huge bucket of beautiful pink shrimp up to the marina office. I asked her if I could buy a handful from her to use in my class. Turns out the shrimp was for us anyway, as the marina was hosting a shrimp and crab feed for our dinner. I raced back to the boat, sampling a few on the way. They were, hands down, the BEST shrimp I have ever had. Caught that morning, boiled in heavily salted water and pulled way before they had a chance to get rubbery, they were sweet shrimpy goodness.

I decided, mostly because I had only a bit of crab and shrimp to work with, to do a sushi class where the rice and other ingredients could go farther. I knew I wanted the class to sample the differences between the frozen gulf prawns I had provisioned the boat with versus the local fresh shrimp just caught and boiled. There was no comparison. The frozen/thawed/cooked shrimp were good. The local shrimp were UNBELIEVABLY wonderful. No contest.

Sometime before the class started I was informed that the Takagis (the 3 men from Japan traveling with us) were also preparing sushi for that night's potluck dinner. Suddenly, I felt my competitive juices flowing. Could it be that a girl from New Jersey could prepare better sushi than 3 guys from Japan? Tongue firmly in cheek, I explained to my class that this was going to be the first Iron Chef on the High Seas. Buck pointed out that the Takagis had no idea I was also making sushi. I think the class really enjoyed the staged drama. It especially became humorous when Nori, one of the men aboard "Indigo", asked me if he could use our power to run his high-tech rice cooker. Again, remember they have no idea of the competitive fervor that was whipping me into a culinary frenzy. My students asked me if I was going to sabotage his rice (especially after explaining that sushi rice is the most important ingredient to perfect in making sushi). Of course not, I said. I wanted a fair fight.

2 hours later I wrapped up the class and presented these platters to the potluck.

I made the following:
  1. Inari with rice, scallion, tobiko and sesame seed.
  2. Broiled eel nigiri
  3. Spicy local shrimp rolls
  4. Dungeness crab and egg rolls
  5. Futomaki
  6. Carrot and hijiki salad
  7. Sunomono

Buck mentioned at the end of the class that making sushi, to the Takagis, was probably like making a ham sandwich. "Of course, " I said. But in my head I thought " I make a mean ham sandwich..." You probably want to know who won Iron Chef at Sea: Sushi Battle. I'd like to say me, but being that they didn't even know they were on my own reality t.v. show, it seemed unfair to rate our entries. And besides, they only did one kind of roll and actually made more fried things (potato croquettes and dumplings) than sushi. So it would really be unfair to name a winner. (But my offerings were finished before theirs. I won! I won! I won!)

Sea-sickness report: As I was teaching my cooking class I noticed I started to feel pretty dizzy. We were moored but were getting rocked side-to-side by other vessels' wake. Teaching the class, I was spinning from the cutting board to the sink and then behind me to grab ingredients. Sometime in the middle of the class I started feeling pretty green. Afterwards I slapped on another patch, got a good night sleep and decided I better not do dizzy izzies when the boat is rocking.

Meanwhile, today we have been stopped at Sullivan Bay as there were high waves and gale-force winds predicted for our crossing of the Queen Charlotte Strait. We had battened everything down last night, but a 4:30 am skippers meeting led to a weather day being taken in this tiny, tiny marina, with houses floating on logs. The little store had 2 heads of broccoli, 1 cabbage, some onions and 1 bunch of bananas. I single-handedly cleared them out of almost everything. Bear jerky, pringles and beer anyone? That's all that was left.

Thanks to Buck for the opening photo.


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