I SHOULD NOT HAVE TURNED ON THE COMPUTER
The menu was simple, seasonal, and definitely not traditional. Smoked Trout, Rack of Venison, Iceberg-Tomato-Onion salad, Oven Fried Potatoes, Sweet Potato Pie or Lemon Cheesecake. Simple red wine and good conversation. Coffee & Ice Cream. All punctuated by a blinding snow storm that lasted from 3:00 to 5:00 o’Clock. Then the sun came out and there was even a lovely sunset.
The trout was a gift from my neighbor Steve. He’s from Minnesota and smokes all of his catch. The Mountain Whitefish are the best, but he seldom lets go of them. The trout are a very close second. He won’t divulge the preparations but they are simply grand!
The venison is a simple recipe that takes just two days to prepare and uses my favorite cast iron frying pan. You need to butcher the beast with this dish in mind. Remove the tenderloins but not the backstrap. Split the vertebral column and cut to size. Then either freeze or start the marinade.
Rack Of Venison
Marinade: Place 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil with 3-4 mashed cloves of garlic in the bottom of a dish or large bowl. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the rack. Place the rack in the dish. Place 2-3 more cloves of sliced garlic and four branches of rosemary over the top of the rack. Pour three to four more tablespoons of olive oil over the rack. Sprinkle some red wine over all of it. Cover and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Cooking: In a hot cast iron frying pan, place two tablespoons of olive oil. Sear all sides of the rack until the meat surface is a nice brown. Place the pan in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the rack.
Au Jus: Pour off most grease from the pan and place over high heat. Add half a cup of red wine and reduce by half. Add more rosemary and two branches from the marinade. Add one cup of chicken stock and reduce again by half. Re-season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste and a bit of Worcestershire sauce and strain. Rinse pan with hot water, wipe dry, and return to flame. Return Au Jus to pan and finish with 1-2 tablespoons butter.
Oven Fried Spuds
2 russet or baking potatoes, unpeeled
1 egg white
Your favorite seasonings, (I use celery salt, Lawry’s, dried parsley, dried oregano, and a dash of Worcestershire)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preparation: preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a cast iron frying pan with non-stick cooking spray. Wash potatoes and cut lengthwise into 8 wedges or 4 wedges; dry well on paper towels. In a large bowl, combine egg white, seasoning, salt, and pepper. Add potato wedges and toss well to coat. Spread potatoes, in a single layer and leave a little space between them (if possible,) in frying pan, shake off excess egg white. Spray tops of potatoes, lightly and evenly, with the non-stick cooking spray.
Cooking: place potatoes in hot oven and bake approximately 25 to 30 minutes. During cooking time, turn potatoes once or twice with tongs or a spatula. The fries should be golden brown and crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Remove from oven, sprinkle with additional seasoning (if desired) and serve hot. Makes 4 servings. [Variation: during last 3-5 minutes top with a nice cheese – yummy & Full of bad things.]
Toss together torn lettuce, thin sliced sweet red onion and coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, a splash of olive oil, and a splash of the wine you’re having with dinner – not too much wine, just a hint. Pepper but no salt!
1 pkg (250 g) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 pkg (85 g) JELL-O Lemon Jelly Powder
1 cup boiling water
1 cup COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed
BEAT cream cheese until smooth.
DISSOLVE jelly powder in boiling water. Cool until slightly thickened.
BEAT jelly into cream cheese, until smooth.
FOLD in whipped topping. Pour into paper-lined muffin cups**. Freeze.
** You can bake some nice shells and pour the mixture into them too, or ramekins, – it’s more festive but not any more simple or delicious.
Sweet ‘Tater Pie
Ingredients: 1 pre made pie crust, 1-1/2 cups mashed canned sweet potatoes, 2/3 cups packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 cup of half and half cream, 1tablespoon dry sherry, (two is O.K.), 2 eggs, beaten sweet whipped cream
Directions: Heat oven to 425, Mash together potatoes, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, half and half, sherry and eggs well, Pour mixture into crust lined pan, Bake 15 minutes @ 425, reduce heat to 350, then bake 30-40 mins. longer or until done. Top with whipped cream.
The Wine, (another California Surprise)
I had two bottles of 1996 Lake Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley. More treasure from Mom’s seldom used wine rack. The bottles were terribly dusty, and I opened them with trepidation. After all, they were 10 years old and could be sort of poopie. But then again, I’d just finished some 20 year-old wine and survived nicely. The pop of the corks was reassuringly wet.
I poured both bottles in a giant Kool-Aid pitcher and admired the color and fragrance, Smelled just a bit like the smoked trout I was nibbling on. I forced myself to wait for an hour before tasting the stuff – “Holy Vineyards, Mustman;” it was a Cabernet. The wine was a bit soft on the nose and a bit too gentle on the tongue. It was way too chocolate for my preference, but the pepper and strong plum was very fine indeed. I could tell it was old, and on it’s way down – but better than it had any right to be. When dinner came ready and I poured the glasses the color was beautiful and dark. It did itself proud with the trout, and the potatoes. The venison was a perfect match and the combination was all I could have hoped for.
AND THEN I TURNED ON THE COMPUTER
The Damn NPS. They got the worst part right! The DEIS for the winter use plan is available. It, along with several other documents present a Yellowstone picture that is seemingly easy to decipher. There is too much noise, pollution, and bison wandering in & out of the park. So rather than fix it with some measurable standards, our National Park Service has bowed to the commercial interests in the surrounding communities, (West Yellowstone, in particular.)
They are still playing the numbers game. There is no incentive to improve the buses or vans or snowcoaches. There is no unguided motorized visitation. There is 100% commercial experiences mandated by our simpy NPS. The whole stupid process nearly ruined my dinner yesterday. I refuse to let it ruin today. There are three excellent blog reviews that spell out most of the details. Neo Commons has a straightforward report with a hope similar to mine. National Parks Traveler has posted an excellent review, but missed the point of the numbers game. Yellowstone Park News has some interesting notes but also misses the point. Even the Billings Gazette has a plain vanilla piece that talks some, says little, and also misses the point. What is the point? “Establish sound levels and pollution levels that protect the park and the visitor experience – REGARDLESS OF THE TYPE OF VEHICLES USED TO VISIT.” It’s sad that the commercial interests and the anti-sled contingent have convinced the NPS that just counting vehicles is correct. If the plan goes forth as proposed, There will be additional lawsuits and continued commercialization of the park. So sad!
The clean and quiet snowmobile post is just about finished. Tomorrow or Sunday I expect. There are many other ways to keep the park clean and quiet. There is no need to rely on West Yellowstone Concessionaires and the Snowmobile Industry to do it.
SNOWSTORM SAVES SKI FESTIVAL
Yesterday’s snowstorm arrived just as the ski teams were beginning to break out the roller-skis and the water wings. It was 20 below last night and the snow has set up wonderfully for the final races and the Army Guard’s biathlon challenge. Go Guys!