Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fly in the Surf

For a number of years I have fished the surf at the nearby beaches with my spinning rigs, and have been successful more often than not.  The one thing about surf fishing is the variety of critters that may be brought up to sand.  I would say “to hand”, but the teeth on most of these fish are quite large and quite sharp.  Recently I’ve been trying my luck with the fly rod.

My first outing was with a 6-weight.  It was the biggest rod I had in my arsenal of two fly rods, but I thought it would work well enough for surfperch.  Well a halibut is not a surfperch.  It was a short 14-inch juvenile, but it pulled me into my backing before I got control of it.  WOW!  What a blast!  Within the hour I nailed its 11-inch sibling, and again it reached the backing.  I decided then and there that I would be a regular with the fly rod, but I wanted something a little bigger for these fighters.

I went on a popular auction website where I found an 8-weight in a decent brand at a price I felt was acceptable for saltwater use.  (I’ve always thoroughly cleaned my equipment after using, but the salt water inevitably wins in the long run, and replacements are the norm.)  When it arrived, along with the reel and line I also purchased, I learned that an 8-weight requires more muscle that I was carrying around, so the practice began.

After a few weeks of work at the casting pond with this big rod, I headed back to the surf where I promptly hooked something big.  I was glad for the heavy rod.  We fought for about 20 minutes before the 15-pound tippet finally broke off.  If I had been using the 6-weight, I believe the rod would have broken first, even with the 10 pound tipped I was using on it.  I don’t know what it was that got away, but like a catfish from days gone by, I want to go back after it.

Since the day of the big one that got away, I’ve been heavily studying about fly-fishing in the surf.  I’ve been to seminars at the local fly-fishing shop.  I’ve read books about how to cast into the trough.  I’ve read books and watched films on reading the water.  I’ve talked to people who fly fish the surf regularly.  When I get back out there, I’ll be ready when the big one strikes again. 

In the years I surf fished with a spinning rig, I had no clue what I was doing.  I can fish fresh water rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, ponds, canals, or mud holes, but I knew zero about the surf, and some days I caught fish and some days I caught sunshine.  Now I’m ready.  Now it’s time to throw some fly line into the salt water.

It has now been over two years since I wrote the words above, and I’ve been back to the surf many times with my fly rod.  There is nothing quite like catching a big salt-water fish on a fly line.  What a ride!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cornmeal Biscuits

Okay, I hear you.  When I gave out the recipe for Jalapeno Brisket, I mentioned the cornmeal biscuit, and I didn’t include the recipe.  My fault.  I take the blame.  I’m sorry.

Actually I was planning on sharing this with everyone when I posted the Jalapeno Brisket recipe in ‘Subtlety’, but something went wrong, and it didn’t post the entire article, and I didn’t realize it.  After I wrote the line “Unbelievable on a Cornmeal Biscuit”, the post was supposed to continue with this:
Cornmeal Biscuits

Makes 8 to 12 biscuits, maybe more, maybe less.

    1 tablespoon unsalted butter                                   
    3/4 cup packed chopped green onions                            
    1 1/2 cups all purpose flour                                    
    1/2 cup yellow cornmeal                                        
    2 tablespoons sugar                                            
    2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder                                  
    3/4 teaspoon kosher salt                                        
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda                                       
    1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes       
    1 1/2 cups packed coarsely grated yellow extra-sharp cheddar cheese
    1 large egg                                                    
    3/4 cup buttermilk                                             
    1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon whipping cream for glaze 

Position the rack in center of the oven; preheat to 425°F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the green onions and sauté 2 minutes to soften slightly. Remove from the heat.

Blend the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a processor. Add 1/2 cup chilled butter; cut in using on/off turns until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the cheese; cut in using on/off turns. Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl. Whisk 1 egg in a glass measuring cup. Add enough buttermilk to the egg to measure 1 cup; stir in the green-onion mixture.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the buttermilk mixture into well; mix just until evenly moistened.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface. Knead gently just until the dough holds together, about 10 turns. Pat out on a generously floured surface to 3/4-inch-thick round. Using a 2-inch to 3-inch round cutter cut out the biscuits. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Gather the dough scraps; pat out to 3/4-inch thickness and cut out additional biscuits. Brush the biscuits with the egg glaze.

Bake the biscuits until golden, a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, and the biscuits feel firm, about 18 minutes. Cool on a rack 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Variation:  Mince one canned chipotle in adobo and add to the buttermilk/egg mixture.  This variation doesn’t pair well with the Jalapeno Brisket, but it is great on its own or made into an egg, smoked sausage, and jack cheese breakfast sandwich.

I promise to check my posts a little more carefully in the future.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Texans aren’t known for their subtlety.  Personalities tend to be as big as the state, and smiles are as wide as the horns on their famous cattle.  But there is one area where Texans are subtle—their jokes and pranks.  While jokes and pranks are usually on a grand scale, it’s the approach that’s subtle.
I had some neighbors who loved having people over for dinner.  They were very friendly and their Italian heritage was especially evident when they set out a meal.  It appeared as Italian-American as Sunday Gravy, but the family was Italian-Texan.  This was usually lost to the visitors underneath the appearance of everything Italian.
One of this family’s favorite moves was to replace a few of the pine nuts in their pesto with tiny pequin peppers.  They always made a normal pesto and as a garnish sprinkled on a few whole toasted pine nuts, but when visitors were at the table, a few pine nuts were a bit different looking from the others.
“Oh, we had to substitute a few Texas pine nuts,” was the normal response if someone noticed the difference.  However, the first indication of subterfuge was usually when someone was gasping for air and grabbing for water.
I don’t really know why Texans like “in your face” flavors, but they do.  Most foods Texans consume are simple but bold, like their barbeque, or their Tex-Mex.  Jalapenos are served with breakfast, coffee is very thick and strong, and French fries are covered with gravy or mustard.  For a snack, pour some chili into an open bag of Fritos, toss in some chopped onion and shredded cheese, and grab a handful of napkins.
Not everything is cooked on an open fire or in a pit in Texas, including brisket.  Jalapeno Brisket is one of those dishes with the full range of Texas personality—bold and subtle at the same time, but this is no joke.
Jalapeno Brisket
Serves 6
    1 (6-pound) first cut (flat cut) beef brisket, untrimmed                                      
    8 to 12 fresh jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded if desired                              
    5 cloves garlic
    1/3 cup brown sugar                                            
    1/3 cup apple cider vinegar                                    
    Olive oil as needed                                                  
    4 thick carrots, peeled
    1 large onion, peeled and thickly sliced                                       
    1 to 3 cups (or more if needed) beef stock                           
    1 lemon 
    Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste          
    Fresh jalapeno slices and slivers for garnish
Puree the jalapenos and garlic in a food processor.  Add the brown sugar and pulse two or three more times.  Add the apple cider vinegar and process until the ingredients form a thin paste.
Pierce the meat all over with a fork, and place the meat into a large bowl. Cover with the jalapeno puree, and place in a refrigerator for about one hour, turning over after 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450F.  Place a roasting pan on a burner, coat the bottom with olive oil, and turn on the heat to medium/high.  Remove the brisket from the puree and scrap off as much of the puree as possible, but reserve the puree in the bowl.  Brown both sides of the brisket in the roasting pan.  Be sure there is good ventilation for this step.
Remove the roasting pan from the heat.  Remove the brisket from the pan, and place the carrots and onions on the bottom of the roasting pan to form a base for the meat.  Place brisket (fat side up) on top of the vegetables.  Add enough beef stock to reach the bottom of the brisket.  Pour the remaining jalapeno puree over the brisket, and then juice the lemon over the top.  Cover and roast at 450F for 30 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 250F and slow roast for 6 - 8 hours.
Add additional stock to the bottom of the pan if it becomes dry.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes before serving.  Slice across the grain to serve.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with fresh jalapeno slices and slivers.
Unbelievable on a Cornmeal Biscuit.