Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Valentine's Fish Story

Many years ago, I took Michele away for a romantic getaway up to Mendocino, CA. I told her I had arranged everything, but being a typical male, I procrastinated and assumed dinner reservations would be no problem. Much to my horror, there were only a handful of restaurants open that time of year, all of which were booked. How was I going to get out of this one?

Luckily the Bed and Breakfast we were staying at had a fireplace. I had a brainstorm...I told my wife
I had a surprise for her, and that I was going to cook her a romantic dinner in the room, in the fireplace. She loved the idea! Now, I had to find the food.

Fortunately, this area is home to some great salmon fishing, and I found some amazing wild salmon at a local store. I bought some foil, and did a simple salmon filet wrapped with butter and fresh herbs. I also wrapped up some baby potatoes seasoned only with salt. I tossed these foil pouches into the hot ashes, and in no time we were enjoying one of the most delicious, sexiest, and romantic meal of our lives.

The food Gods were rooting for me that night. The salmon was cooked beautifully - infused with the aromatic herb butter, with a texture so perfect for a few moments I swore never to cook salmon again.

But, the adventure didn't end there. I had also bought a little baggie of wild huckleberries at a fruit stand, and a single frozen piecrust at the main store. I poured the berries into the piecrust, and tossed them with all 12 of the little sugar packets from our coffee kit. This was carefully wrapped in lots of foil and placed on the dying coals.

As we waited for dessert, we finished what was one too many bottles of wine, and both fell asleep. I woke up about 4 hours later to the acrid smell of burnt piecrust. Oh no, I had burned the pie! I pulled it out of the spent ashes and tore it open.

Much to my amazement it was perfectly cooked! The burned smell was from some of the syrup that had leaked out into the ashes, but the pie itself was a perfectly crisp, golden brown, and the sugared berries had caramelized into a beautiful warm jam. It was ethereal.

I woke Michele, and we ate the pie with black coffee - toasting this incredible evening of food and improvisation.

Coast Photo (c) Flickr Lee Coursey, Fireplace Photo (c) Flickr iwona_kellie, Salmon Photo (c) Flickr VirtualErn, Berry Photo (c) Flickr Cheryl Dudley


Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a wonderful story.
You truly are a role model for other husbands out there!

Chef John said...

thanks! yes, most of my threatening emails come from other men telling me to stop making them look so bad.

Unknown said...

Yes,... and I've seen a few from women visiting here, asking you to "keep" them.

So, this story begs to ask, what will the master of meals and seduction plan for his beautiful wife this weekend for Valentines Day?

PS. Take pictures (but, only show us the ones that can be shared here.)

babagirl said...

What a wonderful and romantic memory!You really put your heart into that meal-LOVE is always the secret ingredient in the cook's recipe!!!!

Anonymous said...

OMG... that photo of the fireplace, which you didn't take, but used anyway, to tell your story, brings to mind the DVD atmosphere provided by Dave the (?).

PLEASE CJ, surprise your wife again, but this time use your own camera and share with us what the real deal looked like (the food, the atmosphere, is what I mean).

Unknown said...

I have only two things to say, Michele is one of the luckiest women in the world :) and I wish there were more men like you :(
in advance, Happy Valentine day to both of you :)

Connie T. said...

That sounds more memorable than if you had found that restaurant.

Anonymous said...

A live stream of that ocean scene surely would be nice to watch while reading your story. Right now, the coast sounds like a welcome retreat from our economic woes. There are a lot of folks in need of sharping their improvisational skills. Even s'mores cooked over a fire can provide a touch of elegance. Thanks for the reminder.

Romance is what a lot of women crave, yet so many are starving. As you can see from the chef's story, less of the usual trappings often results in more food for the soul.

Pyrofish said...

As a guy, the first thing I wondered after reading your story, did you ever admit that the fireplace thing was a fall back for your poor planning, or is this the first she's heard about it? ;-)

Chef John said...

oh yes, she knows that it was plan B!

Anonymous said...

This just goes to show you that some of the best things in life happen while you think you're on your way to doing something else. This is a beautiful example of always being prepared to enjoy life, whatever it brings you.

Anonymous said...

I so appreciate a planbdextrous man.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there is a tiny bit of footage from that very night. And all of it, I might add, very very safe for work.
And it goes... a little something... like this:

Scott - Boston

Anonymous said...

Great story, Chef john :-)
Wish you and your wife all the best .

I'll also make a great meal tomorrow.

And have to eat it alone, haha ;)


Chef John said...

Thanks Scott, but did you just call me a Jerk?

sleepybaker said...

chef john, I just found your blog today. I LLLOVVVVE IT !!You are a jewel! Have a wonderful Valentines Day !!

PIELADY said...

Happy Valentines Day, Chef John and Michelle

Anonymous said...