Saturday, April 14, 2012

Favorite Eats: Green Curry And A Few Shrimping Tips

I like exotic flavors in food, and one of my favorites is Thai green curry.  There seems to be a magical mix of flavors with green curry that just makes the taste buds in your mouth just sing - salty, tangy, sweet, and spicy.  What's more is that you can make it with whatever you like, there's no rule that says you have to have this or that in YOUR green curry.  I've put all sorts of galley "stuff" in my green curry - broccoli, canned peas and carrots, celery, carrots, bell peppers, tomato slices, potatoes, green beans, pea pods, zucchini, cauliflower, well you get the idea.  As for the "meat" or protein for your green curry, you can use pork, or chicken, or my favorite shrimp.

Remember we're on a boat, so the rules of least mess and work apply.  That means one pot. So what victuals do you need in your larder for green curry?  In British Columbia you can buy powdered coconut milk which works good in a pinch, but I prefer a can of real coconut milk.  Don't mess with trying to make your own green curry spices, just by a jar of pre-made green curry.  Again, believe it or not, many of the little coastal marina grocery stores carry pre-made jars of green curry spices.  Popular brands are Mae Ploy, Taste of Thai, Thai Taste, Maesri and many more.  It will help to have fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and some dried basil (If you have fresh basil - great).  Finally, some canned jalapeno's (or fresh) to add some heat.  How do you want to serve your green curry?  You can use Ramen noodles, Minute Rice, or any kind of noodles.  Hey!  It's your curry.

Ready, let's start to make your boat version of green curry... 

You will need the following ingredients handy:
  • 1 can coconut milk.  Do not shake can.  You want the cream on top.
  • Jar of green curry paste
  • Can of chicken, or 1 lb. of fresh pork, or a dozen prawns.
  • Vegetables: 1 stalk celery chopped, 1 carrot chopped, or can green beans (drained), or chopped zucchini, or whatever veggies you have available
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1 t brown sugar
  • 1 T dried basil
  • chopped jalapenos, optional (fresh or canned) to your taste
Since green curry is not something everybody makes I'm going to do a step-by-step instruction.
  1. Grab a deep pot, and heat 1 t of oil over medium high heat.
  2. Open your can of coconut milk and spoon the heavy cream into the pot.  Do not add the whole can, just the creamy stuff on the top leaving the coconut water to be added later.  Cook this for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Don't burn it.
  3. Add at least 1 T (or more) of the green curry paste to the thickening coconut cream and mix well continue to cook over medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes.  By cooking it like this you'll really bring out the spices and flavors of the coconut and curry.  By now, the aroma of exotic spices are filling the boat.  Again, don't burn your paste.
  4. If you are using chicken or pork add this now.  If you are using fresh pork, pound the meat a bit with a hammer to make it tender and cut it into 1/2"-1" chunks.  If you are going to use shrimp go to the next step.  Mix your chicken or pork well into the green curry and coconut cream.  You may also add your vegetables at this time.
  5. Reduce the heat to low, and add the remaining coconut milk or water to the pot and stir.  Add 1 T of lime juice and 1 T fish sauce, and 1 t of brown sugar.  You want to get those tangy, sweet, and salty flavors.  You may also add some chopped jalapenos to your curry depending on how hot you want it.  Finally add 1 T of dried basil or 1/4 C of fresh basil.  Finally, add 1 C of water to the pot.  Let all this simmer, covered, for about 10-15 minutes until the meat is fully cooked through. If you are using fresh shrimp, add them in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  6. Next add your package of Ramen noodles or 1 C Minute Rice to the pot, stir well, remove from heat and let the pot sit covered for about 5 minutes.
  7. Ladle curry into bowls and serve with extra fish sauce, or lime wedges.  If you want to be extra fancy, top with more fresh basil, some shredded carrots, and a few crushed peanuts.
While I enjoy shrimping or prawning a lot, many times it is easier just to buy shrimp or prawns rather than get them yourself.  My reasons for buying prawns is many fold.  The regulations are complex if you are shrimping in the US, but much easier in Canada. Don't always count on getting a pot full of shrimp, sometimes you come up empty handed.  It takes a lot of work to set and haul a shrimp pot.  There's the fuel and gear cost.  And finally, sometimes you lose gear.  Still want to go shrimping?  Well here's my tips:
  • Always check the regulations first.  For Washington waters, you will want to visit the Department of Fish & Wildlife site: Make sure you have the right pot mesh size, buoy, labeling on your buoy, and know your area.  For BC waters visit:
  • For gear, make sure you have a good shrimp pot, at least 300' of sturdy nylon line - I prefer 3/8" inch (doesn't cut into your hands so bad).  And a way to spool your line.  Have at least one clip on lead weight.  Clip the lead weight about 20' down from where you tie up your buoy so other boaters will not entangle your pot line.  The proper buoy.  In BC waters I use a large cherry buoy, but in Washington waters you must have a yellow buoy.  Make sure your name, boat name, and address are on the buoy.  I use paint versus a marker - seems to last longer.
  • Avoid high current areas and popular navigation channels - if you don't you are bound to lose gear and/or not get many prawns.
  • Use a GPS to mark your spot where you set your pot.  Drop your pot down and make sure you watch the line go straight down, not at an angle.  If you set your prawn trap and the line is going down at an angle of more than 20 degrees, you are not setting your pot where you think you are.  I generally drop the trap and keep the motor in and out of gear to stay right on top of where I set it.  Just don't get the line caught in the prop - bad.
  • Watch the tides and currents.  Again, high current areas will net you only a few prawns.  Look for areas where there is minimal current.  If possible set your prawn trap during a neap tide when there is minimal water exchange.
  • Best prawning spots are where streams flow into a deep inlet and just below the drop off, especially on an underwater shelf.  Setting your prawn tap on the side of an underwater cliff will net you few prawns; but at the base of that underwater cliff is generally productive.  Use your depth sounder to get a good picture of what the bottom might look like where you are setting your pot.
  • Do not use fish heads in your prawn bait. Large rockfish or ling cod are predators of prawns.  Prawns will see the eyes and avoid your bait.  I did a test of two prawn traps - one with heads, one with carcasses with no heads.  Carcasses always had more prawns than heads.  I find that fresh bait works better than old, stinky bait.
  • If not illegal (like in Washington) sew a dark canvas tarp tightly around your prawn trap.  Prawns like dark areas.  This will make it harder to retrieve but you'll have more prawns.
About a year ago I wrote a detailed blog post on catching shrimp.  You might want to visit it to learn more.  Go to:
Big bowl of spot prawns from Kingcome Inlet

Saturday, April 7, 2012

No-Fish Boat Casserole & A Few Fishing Tips

Despite your best efforts there are times when you come up empty-handed with 'no fish.'  I hate these times when Neptune refuses to yield any bounty of the sea.  The hardest part is when you return to the boat empty handed, the crew looks at you disappointed and in disgust. Next, the grumbling starts.  Such as, "Oh, so what are we going to have for supper, huh Mr. Big Fisherman?!" Although you too are suffering from your lack of piscatorial prowess, it calls for quick thinking and action. You're the skipper. Give them comfort food!  Like noodles in creamy, cheesy goodness, and SPAM.  Huh? What? SPAM?  Yes, that magical, mystery porcine meat that really signifies that you can't catch fish.  It is the only way you can redeem yourself with King Neptune is by punishing yourself with SPAM.  Because of this, tomorrow when you go out to fish, you and anyone who eats it will reap the bounty of fresh fish.  I know it, because it repeatedly works with me.  The SPAM humbles me and helps me to think what, where, and how I can be a better and more productive angler.  As a result I always keep a can or two of SPAM in the boat's larder. (Can also be used as shrimp or crab bait in a pinch.)

"No-Fish Boat Casserole" was invented as a result of a wet, miserable day of fishing and not catching anything worth keeping.  Once again the best and most memorable recipes are born from necessity and rummaging through the larder looking for ingredients that would satisfy the crew.  It had to be easy, tasty, comforting, and nutritious, because tomorrow I will need the strength to haul in all the fish I was going to catch.  There are a few victuals in this recipe that may be problematic in your larder - cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and fresh veggies.  I try to always bring a big block of cheddar cheese on a cruise since you can do so much with it.  Cream cheese keeps well and can easily be found at various small groceries up and down the coast.  (These two items are important comfort food items so you should always have them in your larder.)  And, carrots and celery seem to keep well in the dark, cool places on your boat.  Again, carrots and celery are also common at coastal groceries.

Another note for this meal, you'll need a pot or pan that you can place on the grill.  I don't regularly fire up my oven because it makes the boat too hot especially in summer, but I do regularly use my grill.  Besides that, by placing it on the grill to cook you'll add a bit of smoky flavor to it which everyone seems to like.  I also use the time that the pot is on the grill to contemplate in solitude (with a drink of course) where, what, and how I am going to catch fish tomorrow.  Study the tides - when is slack?  Study the charts - where are those "fishy" looking spots?  Get a weather forecast.  Look at your tackle and gear.  Make a plan.  Or, you can waste your time by making excuses why you didn't catch fish and tell the lies about the big ones that got away.  Please note that the more spirits you consume the bigger the fish that got away and as a result your credibility may suffer.  Be forewarned though, these sorts of fish exaggerations may negate your SPAM eating appeasement with Neptune.

Let's get started making "No-Fish Boat Casserole" so you can get back to "catching" versus "fishing."
  • 4 1/2 cups uncooked egg noodles
  • 2 quarts boiling water
  • 1 can vegetables such as green beans, peas and carrots
  • 1 carrot or celery or both, chopped (optional)
  • 1 C milk (powdered: 2-3 T powdered milk, 1 C water)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 C (8 oz) cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 of package  (6 oz) cream cheese
  • 1/2 t garlic powder (can use fresh too)
  • 1 T onion powder (can use fresh too, about 1/4 onion, chopped)
  • 1 can SPAM, chopped into cubes
  • 1/2 cup crackers, crushed (can be Ritz, Cheese-Its, Wheat Thins, or even Saltines)
Cook noodles in 2 quarts boiling water for 2 minutes. Add canned vegetables and any fresh veggies you might have to the noodles and cook 3 minutes more. Drain immediately. You do not want to over cook your noodles and veggies, otherwise you will end up with a soggy, sloppy mess.  Next, add milk, canned soup, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, SPAM, and garlic & onion powders to noodle mixture and mix well.
Put pot or pan in oven or on grill over medium heat and not over direct flame. Cover with foil or a lid and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Resist the temptation to uncover and check.  After 30 minutes, uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Top with your favorite crackers for some crunch.  Serve to the crew along with your fishing plans for tomorrow.

Here's a few fishing tips to ensure you'll not have make or eat No-Fish Boat Casserole.  Although we do enjoy No-Fish Boat Casserole on it's own occasionally.  It is pretty good comfort food when other things besides no fish ail you.
Click on image to enlarge
  • Look for underwater hills or humps or shelves on your chart for your area.  Note when slack tide is and try to fish the location then.  Just after the tide turns, fish the downward side of the underwater hill, hump, or shelf.  
  • Avoid fishing during the middle of a big tide, or if the current is too strong.
  • Use your depth sounder not to look for big fish, but to look for bait fish.  If you spot bait fish on your sounder you can bet there will be big fish about. If you don't see any bait fish, then your chances are greatly reduced that you will catch anything.
  • If you see gulls working on bait, fish the edges of the area where the gulls are feeding.  Again, there's probably big fish about.
  • If you catch a fish, cut it's gut open and see what it is eating.  Then check if you have lures that match it.  Once, we caught a nice yelloweye rockfish, checked it's gut and found that it was feeding on prawns.  We switched to a red or pink jig and bounced it lightly off the bottom and caught more.
  • Look for small or slight current ripples on the water and fish the edges of these.  The bait fish will get caught in the current making them easy prey for big fish.
  • Fish with the current, not against it.  Once you get to the end of your area, pull up your gear and return to the start.  Don't waste time turning and going against the current.  I've always caught more fish by going with the current than fishing against the current.  Fishing against the current causes you to stay in one place and waste a bunch of gas.
  • If you don't get a bite within 10-15 minutes in one spot, move on.
  • Unless you are trolling, don't let too much line out.  If jigging try to keep your line straight up and down and your jig just above (2-3") above the bottom.  If your line gets too much at an angle, reel up and re-drop down.
  • Always check the regulations for the area you plan to fish BEFORE fishing. If not, this can really ruin your day and eating SPAM will not help.
Good luck and hope you catch the big one!
Day after eating No-Fish Boat Casserole