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Monday, January 06, 2014

The Cuisine Drive Continues, The Smelt Run

Smelt Run

Sault Ste. Marie of course is the meeting place of Lake Superior and Lake Huron. The Great Lake "Lakers" pass through the Soo Locks on the way from one lake to another heading Thunder Bay or Duluth with some finishing as far away as Nova Scotia. 

Wild life around Sault Ste Marie abound, it is the hunters paradise especially for Moose. This area is home to many of the 150 species of Great Lake fish, some of which are Bass, Lake Trout, Salmon, Musky, Yellow perch, Northern Pike, Sturgeon, Walleye and especially the Smelt.

I have memories of smelt fishing with my father in and around Sault Ste Marie, it really wasn't as much fishing as it was scooping. When the fish "run" in early spring they do so by the tens of thousand (1 female fish can lay nearly 30,000 eggs, most hatch) so the best way to catch them in to wade into the river or spring with a net and simply scoop them up into a bucket, it won't take long before you have more than enough. In 1912, smelt were planted in Crystal Lake, Michigan, and from there they made their way to Lake Michigan, and now they are the primary food source for many of the larger lake fish especially the Coho Salmon.

Most people will consume about 10-15 of the tiny 3 inch 2-3 oz fish for a meal, frying them crispy is how I enjoy them best. Before eating each one, push open the steamy hot smelt (butterfly it or open it like a book), grab the top end of the spine and pull -- the spine and fine bones just lift out in one piece.


Prepare the fish by removing the head and cleaning it, (some actually just eat the fish as is given they are so clean during the run, I don't recommend this, however).

2 pounds (about 12) smelts (2 to 5 inches long), gutted, fins removed
4 cups Vegetable oil
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon Chef K Seafood Seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, plus extra to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups milk
1 lemon, cut into 6 piece

Pour oil into a large pot to a depth of 1/2". Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of pot so the bulb is submerged in oil. Heat oil over medium-high heat to 320°. Season smelt fillets lightly with salt.

Place flour, cornmeal, and seasonings in a wide shallow dish (a pie dish is ideal). Holding 1 fillet by the tail, dip into the milk then dredge in flour on both sides, shaking off any excess. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet; repeat with remaining fish. Working in batches and returning oil to 320° between batches, fry fillets until light golden and just cooked through, about 1 minute per batch. Transfer fish to paper towels to drain.
Heat oil to 360°. Working in batches, fry fillets until golden brown, about 1 minute. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season with salt and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Your journey to "The Soo" would certainly be unfulfilled if you did not have a feast of lake fish. The most popular fish are the Lake Trout, Perch and Salmon, be sure however to try many varieties and often. A personal favorite is the Great Lakes Walleye (the largest of the Perch family.)

¾ cup ground hazelnuts (filberts)
¼ cup fine bread crumbs
¼ cup Romano cheese grated
¼ cup milk                                    

1 egg
4-6 oz Walleye fillets
3 tbsp butter
¼ cup flour
3 tbsp safflower oil
Veronique Sauce (follows)

Mix the hazelnuts, crumbs and cheese. Blend the milk with the egg. Dust the Walleye with flour, dip in the milk and dredge through nut mixture.

Heat the butter and oil together in a large skillet. Sauté the fillets over medium for 5- 6 minutes, depending on thickness. Serve at once with a Veronique sauce.


1 cup fish stock
¼ cup white wine
4 tsp green onions chopped
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cold water
½ cup whipping cream
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 egg yolk
16 green seedless grapes

Combine the stock, wine and green onion in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil reduce to half volume. Strain, return the liquid to pan.

Mix cornstarch with the cold water, blend into sauce. Reheat and whisk in the cream and the salt and pepper.

Blend the egg yolk with a little cooled sauce, whisk into the sauce and remove from heat.
Stir in the grapes. Use as required.



1 lb moose tenderloin                                          
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 lb fresh sliced wild mushrooms (any mix)
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp each, salt, pepper, Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon each dried basil, thyme, garlic powder,         
1/3 cup sweet sherry
4 cups cooked egg noodles, hot, buttered

Trim the tenderloin and cut into large cubes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the meat on all sides.

While the meat browns heat the butter in a 4 quart saucepan, add the flour, reduce the heat and cook until the mixture is a dark brown (be careful not to burn it.)  Add the mushrooms and cook on low heat for 3 minutes.

Pour in the broth, soy, Worcestershire and seasonings, simmer for 6 minutes. Flame the sherry in a skillet and stir into the sauce. Add the moose  meat and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir in the sour cream, simmering for an additional 5 minutes.

Plate the buttered noodles and spoon the Stroganoff over, serve at once.
Serves 4


3              3              eggs
1½ cups                375 ml   oil
2 cups   500 ml   granulated sugar
3 cups   750 ml   all purpose, flour
1 tsp      5 ml        baking soda
1 tsp      5 ml        baking powder
1 tsp      5 ml        salt                                

1 tsp      5 ml        vanilla extract
1 cup     250 ml   pecans
3 cups   750 ml   cored, peeled, diced apples  
4 oz        120 g      butter
1 cup     250 ml   packed brown sugar
¼ cup    60 ml     milk

Mix all cake ingredients together and pour into 9" x 13"  (23 cm x 32 cm) oblong pan. Bake at 350F (180C) for 45 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. 

Cook icing ingredients in small saucepan for 2½ minutes.  Poke many holes in the hot cake and pour over the cake (it will absorb into the cake keeping it super moist .)

3 cups   750 ml   miniature marshmallows 
½ cup   125 ml    light cream
3 oz      80 g       semi sweet chocolate                      

2 tbsp   30 ml      blackberry juice
2 cups   500 ml   whipping cream
2            2           egg whites
1½ cups 375 ml  Michigan blackberries

In a double boiler melt the marshmallows with the cream and chocolate. Stir in the blackberry juice.  Remove from the heat and cool.

Whip the cream and fold in all but ½ cup (125 ml) into cooled mixture. Whip the egg whites stiff and fold into mixture. Fold in 1 cup (250 ml) of the blackberries. Pour into 6 serving dishes or parfait dishes.  Chill for 3 hours before serving.

Garnish with the remaining whipped cream and berries.


Leaving the Soo you travel south west, actually it is back onto the 75, then to Hwy 28, then Hwy 117 and onto Hwy 2, through the Hiawatha National Forest, past the Fayette Historic State Park on to the  Interstate 35 and little more than 5 hours later you arrive in Green Bay Wisconsin.  Home of the Superbowl  World Champions, cheeseheads, and the ice cream sundae was created just a further down the road at Two Rivers.

It seems a gentleman named Ed Berners in 1881 owned a soda fountain shop in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. For religious reasons. Ice cream sodas "the immoral soda." were forbidden to be sold on a Sunday, perhaps  keeping people from church as they hung out at the soda shop. One of Berner’s customers,  named George Hallauer, was on vacation from Illinois and visited Berner’s shop one Sunday asking for a dish of ice cream. Except, he wanted to try the sauce on top that they used for the ice cream sodas.  He convinced Ed to serve him ice cream without soda but with chocolate sauce covering it. Due to the popularity of the dish in Two Rivers, George Giffy another ice cream vendor began selling "sundaes" - but only on Sunday.

However there seems to a bit of confusion regarding the sundae as Ithaca New York also claims the ice cream concoction as theirs. It seems that on Sunday April 3, 1892 Pastor Rev, John Scott of the Unitarian Church had made a visit to the Platt & the Colt Pharmacy in downtown. Shop proprietor, Chester C. Platt  the church treasurer  often would serve bowls of ice cream on Sunday as the ice cream soda was frowned upon here (like in Two Rivers). Mr. Platt ordered two bowls from soda jerk DeForest Christiance, he then topped the ice cream with Cherry syrup and a Maraschino cherry, they loved it and after some debate named the new creation a "Cherry Sunday". There seems to a very solid written record of this account and so the debate goes on as which city the delicious  treat was actually created in.

But the  debate does end there for even the name has stirred up more that the chocolate syrup that tops it. Evanston Illinois was one of the very first towns to pass city ordinances to try to prevent the spread of the Sunday Soda Menace. Thus Garwoods Drugstore began to serve ice cream sodas without the soda on Sunday only, creating the name "sundae" in an effort to prevent offending anyone.  Finding the new concoction stimulating a local women's group praised as a great alternative to alcohol laced beverages green lighting the service of the sundae.

The most famous of sundae's is the Banana Split is said to have been created in 1904 at the Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe PA. by David Strickler, the National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) certified the city as its birthplace.

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