Whether you are a die-hard hockey fan or can’t bear the thought of winter sports in June, there is no getting away from an event that electrifies the entire country. Everyone has a dog in this fight — Canadians, Americans and Newfoundlanders. Pick your choice and you have rooting privileges.
So, what do the NHL playoffs have to do with food, you ask?
Boston and Vancouver share a rich coastal heritage, as well as some ancestry, and while east meets west on the ice, I’ll be bringing them together in my kitchen.
Asian Pacific salmon on a cedar plank
Let’s start in Vancouver, where the first game of the playoffs will have been held. Can you think of a dish that would better represent the mixed cultural heritage of this beautiful city than salmon with Asian flavours grilled on cedar? I didn’t think so. Buy the plank at just about any grocery store these days but well in advance, because you want to soak it in water for 12 hours or so. A large fillet should serve 4 to 6.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp. each lemon juice and honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed but left whole
2 green onions, roughly chopped
6 small red Thai bird peppers, halved
1 large side fresh salmon, boned but skin left on
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 large cedar plank, well soaked in water
Whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice and honey. Stir in garlic, onions and hot peppers. Pour into a heavy, sealable plastic bag and nestle the salmon in the liquid. Push out all the air and seal the bag; refrigerate 2 or 3 hours. Remove salmon from marinade and dry thoroughly. Sprinkle salt on cedar plank and place on the barbecue. Close the cover and wait about 2 minutes, until the plank is dry, and carefully place the salmon on top. Close cover and grill on medium heat 10 to 12 minutes — don’t overcook it, please. Remove and allow to rest 5 minutes before serving. For a great sauce, bring marinade to a boil and simmer until reduced and starting to thicken — remove hot peppers first if you don’t care for heat. Strain and serve with salmon. This is especially good with plain brown rice.
Boston baked beans
Now let’s head east and enjoy what’s possibly Boston’s biggest claim to culinary fame. I know you can follow the directions on the bag, but these beans are a little extra special, and go particularly well with a celebration barbecue. A lovely crock such as this serves as many as it must.
2 cups dried navy beans
pinch baking soda
1 large onion, finely diced
1/2 lb. lean smoky bacon
1/2 cup bottled chili sauce (or ketchup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. each dry mustard and freshly ground black pepper
Soak beans overnight, or at least several hours, in cold water. Drain and rinse. Place in a heavy pot, cover with fresh cold water and add baking soda. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Pour half the beans into a baking dish or roaster and top with half the onion and half the bacon. Repeat the layers. Whisk together chili sauce, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, salt, dry mustard and black pepper, and pour over beans. Add enough of the reserved boiling liquid just to cover. Cover tightly and bake at 325 F for 3 to 4 hours. Check halfway through and add a little more water if beans are too dry. If you like thicker beans, take out half a cup of the mixture, mash, and return to pot before serving.
Salt cod brandade
And now, for all the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who play or watch hockey, here’s a winning dish in anyone’s kitchen. The name might be fancy, but it’s really fish and potatoes dressed up in a tuxedo. Our representative on television’s “Top Chef” recently wowed the judges with this dish, but I’m not fortunate enough to have that recipe; this is my version and I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.
Serve this heavenly spread on crispy buttered toast alongside a couple of poached eggs for the most divine brunch you can imagine, but share with a few family and friends or this amount of cream will kill you.
Don’t scrimp on the herbs here — fresh and lots are critical.
1 lb. salt cod
2 cups milk
2 cloves garlic, crushed but left whole
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6 medium yellow-fleshed potatoes
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste — depending on how salty the fish was to start with
Soak the fish in cold water at least overnight, changing the water frequently. Place in a heavy pot and cover with milk. Add garlic and thyme. Bring to a gentle boil and allow to simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes. Drain and discard milk and thyme sprigs but hang onto the garlic. Break the cod into pieces. Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until very tender — as you would for mashed potatoes. Add whipping cream and olive oil and mash until well mixed and no lumps remain. Stir in salt cod and chopped parsley; season to taste and serve hot or at room temperature.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.