So we had driven for miles and miles and miles and at last had arrived at the Pennsic War.
We were grocery shopping for the week’s supplies and there, before us, were these beautiful salmon fillets. Our house didn’t have a cooking fire pit dug yet, but I had a feeling where we might find one…
Suspecting (correctly) that Pembridge Manor just might have had a nice cooking fire ready for a girl, we sent a message to the good Baron, who replied that indeed, were such foodstuffs procured, a fire to order would be made.
We picked up planks of cedar for the salmon, and the fish (beautiful, beautiful, though a little thinner than what we often get here in Endewearde). We had a few non-period root vegetables, onion, garlic and some summer squash and zucchini.
We took the salmon, coated it in oil, and tied it onto the plank with oil-soaked cotton string, then rubbed the fish down with sea salt and pepper. The veggies we tossed in oil, threw in whole cloves of garlic, the onion and everything with salt and pepper as well into a neat little packet of foil (so as to not need to clean the cast iron. I am a lazy cook.)
The salmon faced the fire, and soon was dripping and steaming in the radiant heat from the nice fire. The veggies were steaming gleefully in their package, and so we headed out to park the beast of burden someplace in the next county. Of course, it always takes longer than you think, so when we returned the salmon was not so moist as it ought to have been had I tended it, but it still was a bit moist in the thickest parts, and a flavorful, flaky jerky at the lean end. It was utterly delicious, and the veggies were magnificent – perfectly cooked to tenderness and full in flavor without being a bit dry or really burned, even those at the bottom of the pot.
With a lovely glass of brandy, and the company of Drew, Angus, Margarite and Connor, we passed a lovely evening away before the fire, eating our fill and then taking the salmon on a walkabout for neighbors to sample. And that was how the war began, and it set a wonderful tone for the rest of the week!
- olive or vegetable oil
- salt and pepper (or spices to taste)
- wood for planking – it need not be cedar, but ought to be, obviously, untreated and clean
- cotton string (enough to wrap the fish onto the plank)
- ideally a little butter or oil to baste the fish as it cooks
Get the fire nice and hot, so it is fiercely radiating. Wet the string with oil, oil the board lightly and tie the fillet to the board with string so it is secure – it ought to be able to stand tall-ways and not slide. Prop the salmon up near the fire so it is getting the best heat; you will need to turn it. It does dry quickly, so one should (not leave camp to park a car in Ohio) stay with the fish and baste it to keep it moist, turning it frequently. You can use any kind of fillet in this method, but salmon holds up to a lot of abuse in a way a more delicately tempered fish might not.
- half dozen red potatoes, cut coarsely
- one sweet onion, cut coarsely
- one bulb garlic cloves, peeled but not cut
- two each small zucchini and summer squash
- other veggies as preferred
- oil, salt and pepper
Make a packet of tin foil which will hold all the vegetables, or line a pot with a few layers of foil. Toss the veggies with oil and spices and put them into the foil, wrapping it tightly to help steam them. You can place them over the fire in a Dutch oven, or over coals, or put the packet itself right in the middle of the coals. They should be done in an hour or less, over a hot fire, but they won’t really overcook if they’re above. Burning the bottom layer is really the worse threat to this dish. You’ll want to check periodically to see that it’s cooking but not burning. Make more than you think you’ll need, because even people who hate vegetables seem to love them when they’re cooked in this steamed/roasted method.