Like most Minnesotan kids with access to a lake cabin (so - most Minnesotan kids), my first exposure to fresh fish was the sunnies my dad would catch off the dock. In the 1980s, when I was a wee bespectacled lass who spent many a weekend at (in) the lake with my brother and cousins, scenic Pipe Lake in Wisconsin was rife with the little buggers! Dad would catch a bunch, gut them, and take them home to Mom who lovingly dredged them in seasoned flour and pan fried the shit out of them. Lip smacking good! She'd serve the tasty filets up with homemade American fries, which I cannot stand to this day. The only thing about them that reflects America is that we like to eat greasy crap. But I digress.
When I was older and living on my own, my mom taught me the easiest "grown up" dish ever - broiled salmon with butter and dill. It's so simple that even I've never screwed it up, and I'm the girl who once smoked out her apartment when an unattended nacho platter decided to burst into flames. The only improvements I've made on it over the years are grilling it (duuuuuuuh) and more recently, adding some fresh lemon. It's so good that the only time I've ever ordered it in a restaurant was at Three Fish, because I just can't replicate the portobello salsa on top. Blast!
Something ridiculous I also won't get at a restaurant is shrimp cocktail. For years at family gatherings, Mom has provided, amongst other things (EVERYthing), a big bag of shrimp from Cub and generic cocktail sauce, which I deem inedible until I doctor it up with a searing dollop of fresh horseradish. I'm not generally a fan of spicy food (ha ha oh you wimpy Minnesotans and your ketchup LOLZ CRAM IT), but cocktail sauce needs a good zing. My father claimed I made it so hot one time it singed his nostril hair, and that man can take the heat. He eats jalapenos for fun. He once had some chili that was so hot he went on a spiritual journey with a coyote that sounded like Johnny Cash. Or was that Homer Simpson?
One fun thing we have been doing when eating out is ordering food we never thought we'd want to try. We went to Meritage recently with my brother and sister-in-law and demolished a plate of oysters. I'd never wanted to sample them before because I didn't understand the point of ordering something you just swallow. How do you taste it, unless you have taste buds in the back of your throat and are a freak of nature? Once Cara informed us that it was now acceptable to chew them? Gamechanger. They were briny and delicious and I just now realized I sat down to a platter of supposed aphrodisiacs with my little brother and I feel like that's wrong somehow.
Apparently my bivalve craving has stuck with me, as recently Noah treated me to a night at our favorite Northeast restaurant, Erte, so that I could have the bouillabaisse. Normally when we go there after work, it's because I had a bad day and am craving comfort food, by which I mean a nice French martini. Lately, more due to the rainy weather leaving us unable to grill, we've been having dinner there as well. The bouillabaisse is a cavernous bowl of mussels, clams, giant shrimp (oxymoron alert!), and fish. I didn't think I liked clams, but it turns out the clams in the chowder at Red Lobster are not so much a high of quality as the little beauties still in their shells, soaking up a delectable saffron and tomato broth. Word to the wise, this is not a dish if you're a messy eater who still has their dignity intact. Being that mine is long gone, I counted no fewer than four broth stains on my person after that meal and wore them like badges of honor all the way home.