Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lobster tails, crab cakes, mussels, trout and catfish.

     Living up here on the side of a mountain in an isolated, rural community does have a few disadvantages.  The mail is never quite as reliable as it might be in an urban center, plus my mailbox is a half mile away and about 700 feet below the old homestead.  UPS does a pretty good job except I am never sure whether my packages are going to come out of Sylva or Mills River.  We are at a mid-point, so I guess UPS isn’t sure either.  FedEx is a joke; we’re lucky when we get them out this far into the sticks, let alone on any kind of realistic schedule.  We even had one FedEx driver call from the bottom of our driveway to ask if we thought it was safe for him to come up to the house.
     The reason I started with this thought is I am planning dinner.  For those who have bothered to read the “About Me” section of the blog (and obviously for those who have known me a long time), y’all remember that I started off in life as a chef.  Although there is not enough money in the world to convince me to go back into a commercial kitchen, I still love to cook.  Most of the time, I can find the ingredients necessary to satisfy my “hunger” to prepare the fete du jour, but not always.
     A couple of weeks ago, it was my wife’s birthday.  A long-standing tradition with my family and friends is, “It’s your birthday, choose what you want, and I’ll make it.”  The diversity of birthday wishes never ceases to amuse me, and as yet, I haven’t been stumped.  This year, Shirle wanted lobster tails (a relatively easy order).  Unfortunately after checking every possible merchant in town, I was only able to procure warm water tails.  That may not be a huge thing to some of you, but to my palette, the difference between a Maine tail or one from South Africa and those spiny creatures that inhabit the waters off of Florida or India, is like night and day.  In the end, the meal was good, but not as great as I had planned.
     Our little town does have one good supplier of fresh Atlantic seafood.  Out at the Historic Waynesville Farmer’s Market (Wednesday and Saturday mornings) a fishmonger from the outer banks brings in an assortment of whatever is being harvested 700 miles away.  The nice part is, he takes pre-orders, and will reserve your catch from the rabid walkup buyers that always strip his coolers clean before noon.
     With that small exception, seafood here in the mountains is going to be trout, catfish, farm raised or frozen.  Not an epicurean fantasy.  Tonight I am going to make fresh J crab cakes out of a can of refrigerated blue claw meat I bought at Bi-Lo.  I’ve used it before for my Crab Imperial, but like warm water lobster, it’s okay, just not great.  Tonight it is going to crab cakes because the one day a week where Ingle’s gets fresh mussels in from Maine, I was busy and missed the boat (so-to-speak). 
     Thank goodness we are coming into the farming season (if the freaking weather ever breaks).  Fresh veggies we have in abundance. 
     What would be your birthday meal?

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