Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An Embarrassment of Riches

Every once in awhile, an evening comes together. I had one of those over MemDay weekend. My parents visited, and the weekend was full of wine (OK, some Spanish tempranillo, plus gin and Sailor Jerry rum), women (OK, my mom, my wife, and my daughter) and song (OK, most of it was typical Scampwalker family trading of stories).

At any rate, on Saturday night, after a rousing game of ladderball (in which the boys won, thank you very much), I put together a pretty damned fine menu, if I do say so myself. Here's the deets:
  • Axis Venison Chops, marinated in pomegranate juice, olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs. Like the t-bones before them, they kicked ass. They were less tender, but the flavor was the same - earthy, but not gamey. I seared them again on the grill, served rare (natch).
  • Brown Rice with Dried Cherries, Toasted Pine Nuts, and Tarragon. This was a little ditty I threw together on the fly... it turned out better than it should have. Mrs. Scampwalker prepared our usual brown rice in the Neuro Fuzzy, and I threw in the rest, along with a couple of pats of brown butter. It complemented the beefiness of the venison beautifully.
  • Split & Grilled Artichokes. This was one I learned at a place in SoCal (Seal Beach?)with GrandBetty & RonDad, and we make it often. Parboil the 'chokes, split them, and grill them split side down. Serve with mayo, worcestershire sauce, lemon, and a dash of Tabasco. In season, and cheap.
  • White Crappie Ceviche on Organic Leaf Lettuce. This little riff was the pièce de résistance, in my opinion. Also the most expensive, at over $60/lb. If you know ceviche, then you know it's all about freshness. This fish was 18 hours from hook and line to plate and fork (actually, a scallop shell). Served on a bed of Scampwalker's own tender leaf lettuce and arugula.
The point of this is that it all (ok, most of it) came naturally to us. The family cameraderie, the fun, and the meal. The venison is documented here, the artichokes were in season (common sense prevents us from buying $4.00 vegetables in dead winter, and rice we got from the local Asian market), but a $225 10-hour crappie trip is totally copasetic.
That's where the kids come in. I've taken them fishing plenty, but I really wanted them to experience it from a boat and really tear it up. I called Brent Frazee, the KC Star's outdoor editor, and he pointed me to Chatt Martin, crappie assassin extroidinaire. In fact, I didn't know the lake we were fishing until the day before -- Chatt is so plugged in that he gets on-demand reports from every credible crappie pro in the Sunflower State, and Melvern was hot last Friday.
And so we went. A long, hot, windless day later, we cranked in about 100 slabs... and Jack, the nine-year-old wunderkind, was responsible for an estimated 60% of them. Of the 100 we caught, we probably took 25 home that were over the 10-inch size restriction. Of the 75 we threw back, 60 were within a half inch of getting filleted.
An embarrassment of riches indeed. I'm a lucky man.


  1. But the real question is: Did you catch them from a square-stern canoe, with a cooler of Hamms jammed up against the yoke?

  2. No, and curiously enough, there was no ragged out boom box playing the Eagles "Seven Bridges Road," either. Thanks for stopping by, Counselor Z.

  3. My pleasure. Keep up the good work.