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30 Hour Vacation

30 Hour Vacation © Andor (21)

I bought a Canon 6D and their 24mm f/1.4 L series lens to go with it. Anxious to make use of these new toys, I started asking around to see if any of My friends wanted to go camping. An old friend that I rarely talk to opted in, along with Her husband and three dogs. The morning of departure, I shot them a text to see if they were running on schedule. The reply was, “We have to cancel.” Her family rents out a few houses around the neighborhood, one of which was to get new tennants after the weekend. The person who had lived there decided to leave the place packed full of crap, clutter and furniture. It looked like a pack rat was living there. Hell bent on getting out of the city, I met up with them and we had the place mostly empty in under three hours. Happily, we then proceeded to get in the van and drive north. It was already after noon on saturday, but in My book, any time outside of city life is time well spent. It was a lovely drive, just south of Lake Superior’s western-most point, we encountered a thick fog. These pictures do not do it justice, one could barely see a hundred yards for a good twenty miles.

Just south of the lovely town of Duluth, the fog lifted and my friends, who had never been to this part of Minnesota, could see why I love this little city, perched on a hill. The place has an unusually elaborate system of bridges. Partially due to the fact that this is a busy port town, but that still does not explain why the highway has so many bridges, crossing, rising and bending in every which way. Duluth has so many great angles and lines built in to it’s infrastructure. Some time soon I think I shall head up there, just to photograph the genius of those who designed and built the city. Passing through, I snapped a couple of shots through the dirty windows on the car.

For those of us from the Twin Cities, Duluth is the gateway to the north shore. Once You have passed through town, You find Yourself on the red road. The red tarmac doesn’t last long, but is a much welcomed sign that You have left the urban environment behind. From that point, heading north-east along Lake Superior’s coast, is a long, long stretch of rolling hills, rocky shores, winding rivers and endless forest. My favorite place to be! We headed up the coastal road passing through the many State Parks and National Forests. Eventually finding ourselves at Cascade State Park, which is a little more than an hour from the Canadian border. It was already pretty late in the day, but we rapidly set up camp and got a fire going. After filling our bellies, we walked the couple hundred yards over to the lake and spent about two hours just sitting, taking in the vast darkness. It was a foggy night, visibility was quite low, but the sound of the waves rolling onto the rocky shore was just what I needed.

Once back at our campsite, we all went to bed pretty quickly. In the morning, we took a walk up the Cascade River, pausing for Me to take the following pictures and proceeded to head south, Hoping to make a couple of stops along the way back home.

My friend has a bad back, which chose to throw Him into a state of agony on this trip. I felt bad that He was in so much pain, so we took it easy on the return trip. In the end, we passed by all but one of the sights that the North Coast has to offer. I simply would not come up here without a stop at that which has become My favorite waterfall. Which I took a bunch more pictures of.. The overcast sky made taking pictures a lot nicer than the bright, sunny day the last time I was there. I took My time, stopping every couple hundred yards, pondering the angles I desired and taking more pictures, long exposures, all the way up the valley. The place was nice and quiet, we only saw two other groups of people the whole time we were there. What a wonderful place.

After basking in the cool water for a while, we climbed back into their van and headed towards home. Driving back down the coast, leaving behind the natural beauty of this post-glacial landscape and entering the land of human civilaization. The farther south You go, the impact of man kind becomes more and more evident. The lone road gets wider, sparcely placed houses give way to towns, tunnels bring You under towering rocky hills and eventually, You find Yourself looking at the ports and populated hills of Duluth. We paused there to stretch our legs and take a final look at the vast expanse of water, before climbing back into the van and continuing south towards Saint Paul. We managed to ride the leading edge of a storm for a couple hundred miles, all the way home. Arriving back in city life, just in time to see a very bold and beautifully colored sun set. Sorry, I did not get a picture of that, there were buildings in the way…


Fancy Feast

Fancy Feast © Andor

Last fall, I headed up to northern Wisconsin with My brother and some friends. During that trip, two of the bunch proposed a monthly cook-off. The original theme was simply ‘make Your s*** fancy.’ What can I say, it was a weekend of drinking, shooting and dirt bikes. The feast idea changed slightly after that and starting this past January, Fancy Feast had begun. Instead of making it a competition, it is a slightly less intense meal making endeavor. Four courses minimum, guests bring a bottle of decent booze as tribute, or declare themselves the next host/cook for the feast.

First up was My friend Keith, who made some beet and cheese appetizers that were quite good. Followed by a lobster and shrimp torta with lima beans, avacodo topped with seasoned cream cheese and an encrusted herby salmon bake. Then, He banged out a lovely candied bacon, puffed cream and brownie desert.

February went to My brother, Chris. Churning out seven dishes and various drinks. I did however neglect to catch a picture of the fresh pumpkin bread desert. Pictured are His mushroom soup, with leeks. Egg cooked in swirling water and hash, a topper variety plate, cold soba and soy sauce, what I think was a chorizo dish and meatballs cooked forever in a pho soup stock.

I called March’s meal. My theme was simply to do something different. So, no stir-fry. No grill, or smoker. No cajun spices, chili blends, sherry, or even soy sauce. I struggled a bit, making multi-course meals that come round after round doesn’t mesh particularly well with My laid back, ‘just throw some stuff together and hope it’s good’ cooking tendencies. I produced the minimum of four dishes. Bacon and baby lima bean soup, spicy sweet potato mash with roasted brocolli and pistachios on toast, fruit stuffed pork tenderloin roll and finished with citrus gratin. The desert was kind of odd honestly, but it had much potential to be delicious. Something to ponder on how to go about improving.


Port Chicken

Andor's Grilled Port Chicken © Andor

It doesn’t get much easier than this. The first time I made this, I roasted it in the oven. I made it again last weekend and opted to grill instead. Both times, it was quite delicious. Port wine and garlic provide the core of the flavor, with salt and honey accentuating the experience. Making for a solid base to add other ingredients to, which I shall venture in to soon. So long as You have time to let it marinate and take the time to baste as it is cooking, the meat should be very tasty!

Supplies Needed: Large zip-lock style bag, or a large bowl and a roasting pan, or baking sheet, with a raised edge to hold a bit of liquid.

Ingredients:

6 Chicken Thighs, with bone
3-5 large Garlic cloves, minced
3/4 Cup Tawny Port Wine
1/2 Cup of Water
2 or so tablespoons of Sea Salt
As much Honey as it takes to thinly coat the top of Your chicken, roughly 1.5 tbsp per piece of meat.

Prep and Cooking:

In Your bag or bowl, disolve the salt in the water. Warm water makes this go faster. Then pour in the garlic and port wine. Mix or shake it up to Your liking and put the chicken in. Let it sit in the marinade for 4+ hours for the best results, but You can rush it by going no less than an hour. Once You have let the meat soak in the flavors and are ready to cook, You will want to keep all the liquids in Your marinating bowl, or bag and lay the chicken out on a baking sheet. Pre-heat Your oven to 400(f), but when You put the chicken in, turn the tempurature down to 325 degrees. Let the meat cook for 25-30 minutes and then start basting. Spreading the marinade evenly over the top of the meat every 5-10 minutes, layer by layer making a nice glaze. While cooking, any time You open the oven You should be spooning a layer of marinade over the top of things. Even if You just want to peak, always baste as well, it will help to add more power to the impact of the flavor. Once the chicken is just about fully cooked, You will be adding the honey. Try to evenly coat the top side of the chicken and place back into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the honey has thickened to a nice dark hue over the red-ish color of the marinade. Remove from the oven, let it rest/sit for a minute or 3 and serve.

Notes:

Just about any port should work with this recipe.

This would go very well with various herbs, citrus, or chilis. Thyme stands out to Me as a natural fit. I can think of plenty of other things too.

It doesn’t hurt to use a larger amount of salt, 4-8 tbsp, to create more of a brine. You will need to have an additional cup of port wine and 2 large garlic cloves, minced, for basting. Once You’ve removed the meat from the salty marinade, You would want to toss it out and baste with the extra wine and garlic. In this case, You may also want to baste fewer times, so it doesn’t just taste like wine.

For grilling, I would push the coals over to one side and place the chicken on the opposite side, using indirect heat, You can layer on the marinade and later the honey, without it burning so easily. Adding a chunk of hickory or Your favorite hard wood to the coals will only make things better.