Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Island
Cooking
Volume 37 Issue One • April 5 - 18, 2007 now in our 37th season

To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn

by Maryjane Mojer

Cooking with the seasons is a wonderful trick.  While we have the bounty of the harvest available year-round with fruits and vegetables from all over the world, the flavors and scents seem to conspire to make us crave what’s in season.  The heat of the summer lends itself to light, fresh vegetables with a roasted chicken or some grilled simple fish.  In the fall, pumpkins and butternut squash compliment the savory sausages and roasts that seem to be on every menu, and, let’s face it, and apple always tastes better in October.  The winter brings stews, potatoes and big, scrumptious family feasts.  Spring seems to combine the best of each season.  We get the delicate flavors of the fresh local fruits and vegetables.  Rhubarb, asparagus, explosive herring roe. The sight of them at the store and the smell of them as they cook simply make me feel like a survivor of winter.  Even though this winter was relatively mild, the longer days and the position of the morning sun warms my bones and renews my spirit.

Speaking of herring roe and memories, I have to say that I was one of those kids that made people cringe when my Dad would take me netting for herring.  I was forever falling into the water at the first bridge on Madaket Road, forever tripping over and tangling up the nets, knocking over the buckets, and creating havoc.  “Shhhhhh…you’ll scare the fish away”  designed to try to keep me quiet didn’t work.  Fishing for herring was a spring tradition that my Dad and I had for many years.  In spite of my “help,” we would always seem to make it home with a few fish.  (Probably a bribe from the other anglers to get Dad to take me home!)  Mom would always fry them up, make her own tartar sauce and serve them with canned asparagus and boiled new potatoes, followed by her rum raisin bread pudding with lemon sauce. 

Just being in the kitchen when she dropped the floured roe into the hot fat and hearing it explode and sizzle was a thrill and a celebration itself.  The herring, the new potatoes, the lemon, and even the canned asparagus was a sign.  It may not have made the pages of Gourmet, but it was always the beginning of spring for me. 

Fried Herring

If you haven’t the inclination to stand at the bridge with a net, and you can’t find herring, fresh flounder is my second favorite.  While I do love deep fried…well, deep fried anything, (haven’t had deep fried pickles, but we’re working in it!) I don’t do it often.  I prefer to pan fry.  It takes less oil, there’s less waste and a bit less cleanup.

1 pound of fresh fillets (and roe if you have it)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cup canola oil 

Mix flour with the salt, pepper, and paprika.  Place in a bowl or deep pan.  Dredge fish filets in seasoned flour.  Lay on a dry pan or a plate; set aside.  

Pour about a half inch of oil into your skillet.  This is where Grandma’s Cast iron pan comes in really handy!  Heat the oil to about 350 degrees.

When the oil is hot (and not before!) slip a couple of filets into the pan. Brown well on one side, carefully turn, brown on the other side.  If you’re brave enough to fry the roe, be forewarned: it does indeed pop and explode! Spatters will occur and burns may, too!  If I have a mess of fish filets to fry, I’ll preheat my oven to 300 degrees, put a brown paper bag on a sheet pan, and put the cooked fish into the oven till they’re all done.  I also salt them immediately after they come out of the oil, while they’re still hot and the salt will stick.  Yes, I do know that salt is not my friend, but I really don’t eat a lot of processed foods, so I allow myself this extravagance!

My Mom’s Tartar Sauce

(….and everyone else’s mothers tartar sauce, too!) 

1 cup of Hellman’s mayonnaise

1/2 cup sweet relish 

Mix…mix well…chill….yes, that’s it.

Rum Raisin Bread Pudding 

If you’re feeding young children or those who may not want rum, skip it. Or use another flavoring.  Raisins macerated in apple juice, Kahluah, Frangelica, or cranberry juice (or whiskey) are lovely substitutes.

Overnight, soak 2 cups of raisins in 2 cups of rum.  Strain.  Procede with recipe (Save the rum for goodness sake!!) 

4 cups bread, cut or torn into bite size pieces

2 quarts milk

6 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla 

In a buttered casserole dish, place the ripped bread.  Mix the remaining ingredients, including the raisins.

Pour over the bread.  Let sit for about fifteen minutes, occasionally pushing the bread into the custard to saturate all of the bits and pieces.

Place casserole in a deeper pan, with water to reach about halfway up

the sides.  Bake at 325 for an hour to an hour and a half.  The custard will be set like a pudding.

This is great warm and just as great cold for breakfast. 

Lemon Sauce 

In a sauce pan, bring 2 cups of lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar to a boil.

Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water.  Slowly pour into boiling lemon and sugar mix.  Stir till thick, and remove from heat.

Pour over bread pudding. 

Rhubarb Sauce 

For every cup of rhubarb, I add a quarter cup of sugar.

Place rhubarb and sugar with about a tablespoon of water in a sauce pan.  Over a low flame, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer till thick.

This is great over ice cream, yogurt, or bread pudding…or straight from the spoon!  Grab a bowl, sit on the front porch and enjoy spring!

Nantucket’s most complete events & arts calendar • Established 1970 • © © 2017  Yesterday's Island • yi@nantucket.net