Posted by Lori Ross - Viewed 13602 times
Story by Lori Ross
The most remarkable moments of my cruising life are marked by fond memories of great food and drink! I discovered Chesapeake Bay crab cakes and mint juleps when I first met my husband, while he was teaching me to sail at Offshore Sailing School in Tidewater, Virginia. Six months later, while snowbound in a Connecticut nor’easter, we were inspired to buy our first sailboat, a 24-foot Hinterholler-designed Shark in the afterglow of a memorable dinner of tenderloin, baked stuffed potatoes and vintage Bordeaux. The following summer, after a fogbound weekend anchored at Duck Island on Long Island Sound, “dining” by candlelight on emergency provisions, he proposed to me! And for our 20th wedding anniversary (on the same day as my 50th birthday), we brought our 42-foot Grand Banks trawler to Florida for the winter holidays, and made our first trip to the Bahamas with the PassageMaker Pokie Run. And there I discovered the wonders of fresh conch and Bahamian hot sauce!
Over 20 or so years of cruising, I’ve learned lots of lessons - through trial and error - that have improved my provisioning, menu planning, storage, cooking and serving. My first breakfast aboard our little Shark–parmesan and chive omelets, sausage and Portuguese bread—capsized all over our newly upholstered navy blue settee when we were rocked by a wake because I neglected to use the stove’s pot holder to stabilize my fry pan. Jim and I looked at each other in a moment of horror, then, with forks in hand, proceeded to eat it right off the seat! With that, we knew we’d found our soul mates.
Over the years, we lost many meals to broken glass bottles, failed refrigeration, dampness, heat, mold and damaged watertight containers. Once, we nearly lost several dozen crystal wine glasses when a picture perfect day’s cruise on the Severn River
(a wedding gift to our friends) turned into a violent thunderstorm that played rock and roll with our guests and their feast—truly a wedding day they’ll never forget!
These days, I routinely overprovision, ever since I had to feed eight people for two days on provision meant for two couples because a fellow cruiser on another boat forgot to bring the cooler of food for her crew! And I’ve learned wonderful lessons in sharing and making do, particularly on the last day of a cool, rainy autumn club cruise, when we made a most wonderful dinner from the surprisingly disparate contributions of what was left in four boats’ meager larders! I still remember being faced with two kielbasa, a rind of cheese, stale bread, fresh spinach, a jug of red wine, beans, pasta and several cans of soup, wondering what on earth could be pulled together from it all. An hour later, eight of us were sipping red wine and dining on a sausage minestrone soup with toasted garlic bread. And, years later, I still use the recipe we concocted. Cruising cooks learn fast that to be successful is to be flexible and innovative.
My first ocean voyage took place in a Beneteau 30 entered in the Annapolis to Bermuda Race. As the least experienced crew member, I was assigned the role of cook and celestial navigator. Typically, offshore sailboat racing meals are characterized by hardiness, not tastiness; however, my naïveté led to some interesting results. The previous winter I had read William F. Buckley’s Airborne, about crossing the Atlantic in high style with his son, and I was inspired by the wonderful meals he described during the passage. But my propensity for seasickness and my lack of offshore experience required that I plan carefully to spend as little time in the down galley as possible. Thus, our trip to Bermuda was as marked by “serve-yourself” breakfasts, lunches and snacks as it was by fabulous, home-cooked gourmet dinners that I froze, packed in dry ice, and then, once under way, reheated and paired with appropriate wine each night. The best of these meals are still vivid in my mind’s eye: whole tenderloin with mushroom, bacon, red wine sauce, twice baked potatoes and California cabernet sauvignon; stir-fried Asian chicken, wild rice with pineapple and Sancerre; sausage and spinach lasagna with garlic bread, and California zinfandel; Brunswick stew with corn bread and fume blanc; and beef stew with vegetables, hot biscuits and merlot. I replicated these recipes and advanced preparation techniques in future years’ Bermuda races and offshore deliveries with great success.
Much of what I learned much about planning, provisioning, storing, cooking and serving food was on cruising sailboats under 35 feet, so it was a revelation to indulge in my food and drink passions aboard Seaworthy, our 42-foot Grand Banks trawler. What freedoms I now have in our (comparably) spacious galley. Ashore, I adore everything to do with making and eating good food–growing herbs, selecting wines, preparing meals, having friends over, serving and dining. Rather than a challenge, for me, cooking and dining aboard can be fun, adventurous and one of the most rewarding aspects of the cruising lifestyle.
I’ll leave you with several memorable recipes that I associate with wonderful cruising experiences–this is all real food for real people, and all simple to make. In future columns, I’ll share some of the techniques, equipment and tools that help me when dining and entertaining aboard; favorite menus and recipes; provisioning lists, supply lists, food information and sources; drinks/wine and food pairings; and great places to dine ashore when cruising. In return, I hope that you will send me your questions, and share some of your best cruising and cooking ideas, recipes, resources and “finds” while ashore.
If you’re like I am, many of your sweetest memories of boating involve friends and savory food, and raising glasses to our good fortune in enjoying this cruising lifestyle. A special meal at the end of a day on the water with the sun painting the sky and lovely aromas wafting from the galley is a little bit of heaven. Join me here, next time, and let’s continue the journey together. Bon appetit!
Tenderloin With Baked Stuffed Potatoes And Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
This is an elegant dinner to serve aboard. I prefer tenderloin because it requires little cooking time and remains tender. You may also wish to try rib roast, lamb or pork, however, cooking times may vary.
Time: 60 to 90 minutes**
Potatoes: Baking—50 minutes; mashing and stuffing–10 minutes
Tenderloin: Grill on high at 7-10 minutes per pound or cook at 400 degrees at 8-10 minutes per pound
Preparation–15 minutes; cooking 30 minutes
½ pound of tenderloin per person in steaks or a roast
fresh ground pepper
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or 1 tbsp dried)
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 cups red wine
1 tbsp beef base
2 bay leaves
1 tomato, cut up
¼ tsp each of savory, marjoram, basil and garlic
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp flour for thickening
2 fresh shallots, sliced (optional)
1 medium baking potato per person
½ stick of butter
1 cup milk or half-and-half
Grated cheese (optional)
- Preheat grill to high or oven to 400 degrees F
- Put tenderloin into baking pan and season with salt, pepper, chopped garlic and rosemary
- Scrub potatoes, leaving skin on for baking
- Slice mushrooms and shallots
- Cut up tomato and onion
- Open red wine
- Bake for 10 minutes per pound or less (if rare)
- Once cooked, let it sit uncovered for five minutes before slicing
- Bake in oven for 30 to 40 minutes (until soft when squeezed)
- Cut off top of potato and save
- Scoop out cooked potato into bowl (preserving the skin for restuffing and baking)
- Mix potato with butter, milk/cream, salt and pepper
- Stuff mashed potatoes back into skins (you can grate a little cheese or sprinkle nutmeg on top of potato if you wish) and cover with reserved top
- Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, until reheated
Cook mushrooms and shallots in red wine for 10 minutes
Add beef base, tomato and onion and cook for 5 minutes
Stir in spices and flour and simmer on low for 20 to 30 minutes until thickened
Serving: Carve tenderloin into 1-inch slices (or simply serve steaks); serve one potato per person and serve mushroom sauce on the side. Serve with cabernet sauvignon or another full bodied red wine.
**. Much of this meal can be prepared and frozen and reheated in the galley. In fact, this dinner, fully cooked and frozen for more than a week in advance, was the highlight of several sailboat races to Bermuda. Simply undercook the meat (e.g., 5 minutes per pound), make sauce and stuffed potatoes and freeze each separately. When you are aboard, defrost slowly then reheat for 30-40 minutes at 300 degrees.
Smoked Sausage Minestrone Soup
Time: 30 to 40 minutes
This soup is designed to be flexible, so feel free to use ingredients you have on hand in your galley. The specific vegetables and sausage are suggestions; the key to this soup is that the tasty broth is created from the combination of vegetables (not too bland or bold); sausage (smoky and rich); cheese (salty) and herbs and spices (to liven it up).
Surprisingly, in a blind taste test comparing minestrone made with fresh vegetables vs. canned vegetable soup, PassageMaker staff found the minestrone made with canned vegetable soup superior to the fresh vegetable version on the day it was made. The next day, however, after a night in the ice box, the fresh vegetable soup was as tasty and balanced as the version using canned soup. Clearly, the fresh vegetable minestrone needed time for flavors to develop.
6 cups water (use half the amount if you are using canned soup)
Rind of hard cheese (e.g., 4x2” end of parmesan, Romano or pecorino)
3 cups of diced vegetables e.g., onions, carrots, celery, zucchini, green beans, cabbage (or 2 16-oz. cans non-creamy vegetable soup such as Campbell’s Chunky Vegetable or Progresso Vegetable Minestrone)
]2 16-oz. can tomatoes (stewed or diced)
1 16-oz. can cannellini or other beans **
1 lb kielbasa or other cooked or smoked sausage sliced into 1” rounds
½ cup pasta or rice (any kind of rice or small pasta) **
1 cup chopped spinach
1 /2 tsp crushed red pepper
¼ cup basil pesto (or mix 1 T. olive oil with 1 t. minced garlic and 1 t. minced fresh rosemary or other fresh herb)
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
** use half the amount if you are using canned soup with pasta or beans
Loaf of unsliced French or Italian bread
4 tbsp butter or oil
4 cloves garlic (or equivalent garlic powder)
- Mince garlic cloves
- Sauté garlic until tender
- Add salt and pepper
- Slice loaf of bread horizontally to create two long halves
- Brush garlic oil/butter onto both halves of bread and add grated cheese if you wish
- Broil for 5 minutes until golden brown and serve
- In a large pot, combine water with tomatoes, cheese rind and fresh vegetables (or canned soup broth)
- Bring to a boil
- Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes
- Add beans, smoked sausage slices, pasta (and soup vegetables if you are using canned soup) and cook for 10 more minutes
- Remove from heat and stir in spinach, crushed red pepper and pesto or herb mix
- Salt and pepper to taste
Serve with grated parmesan cheese, hot garlic bread and fruity red wine such as zinfandel or chianti.
Recipe Quick Tips:
- Beef base: Herb Ox or Knorr beef cubes are easiest to store on the boat
- Tomato: In a pinch replace fresh tomato in recipe above with 1 tbsp of Amore tomato paste (comes in a 4 oz. tube)
- Herbs and spices: in addition to salt and pepper, my top 20 dried herbs/spices are: basil, bay leaf, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, crushed red pepper, cumin, curry powder, dill, fennel seed, ginger, marjoram, mustard seed, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme
- Spice Racks: My favorite galley spice rack is made up of 30 glass tubes, capped with corks and set in 7 ½ x 6 ½” oak butcher block rack, to prevent breakage. The spice tubes are a little bigger than a quarter in diameter, and about 6 inches tall. The system includes labels. replacement tubes and extra corks and holds about 2 oz. of each spice. To use, simply pull out the butcher block rack and select your spices. If you have lots of drawer space, 2-by-2-inch herb and spice tins made of rust free stainless steel offer flexible, efficient storage on boats without risk of rusting or breakage. Spice sets and spices are available at reasonable prices at www.tubularspices.com
- Onion, garlic and shallots: Buy small, inexpensive onions, small heads of garlic and small shallots for cruises; they seems to last longer unrefrigerated.
- Flour for thickening: Use Wondra or Pillsbury Shake and Blend in 13-oz. containers on the boat. These are instant flours formulated to dissolve quickly in either hot or cold liquids, so they are ideal for thickening gravies and sauces.
- Salt and Pepper:. Use kosher salt, because crystals are larger and less is required to enhance flavors. Store kosher salt in sealed container on the boat to keep it dry. Fresh cracked pepper is best in my view, but a jar of coarse ground pepper works too.
- Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is essential and the brands available in supermarkets vary little in taste. Buy or store olive oil in plastic bottles to avoid breakage on the boat.
- Kielbasa or smoked sausage: Full-fat kielbasa or smoked sausage has better texture overall, but Healthy Choice, turkey kielbasa or other low-fat brands are also good in soups.
- Canned beans: DaVinci, Goya and S&W are my preferred brands of canned white, kidney, black beans and chickpeas.
- Fresh vegetables: Top 10 fresh veggies for the boat: carrots, celery, garlic, onion, peppers, potatoes, salad greens, scallions, tomatoes, zucchini.
- Soup: Frozen, canned, dried and powdered soups are rarely as good as homemade, but some of my favorites include: Progresso, Campbell’s Chunky, Maruchan Ramen noodle soups, Knorr dry soup mixes and Legal Seafood's clam chowder.
- Canned tomatoes: Stewed or diced, most canned brands available in supermarkets are good. Use Rotel for Southwestern dishes and salsa, Del Monte diced tomatoes or Progresso stewed tomatoes for soups, and Contadina crushed tomatoes for pasta sauce.
Dry pasta and rice: Ronzoni, DeCecco, Muellers and Barilla pastas/noodles are good and have a nice variety of shapes and colors. I like to have Arborio rice for risotto and Uncle Ben’s converted white or brown and wild rice blends for quick rice dishes on the boat.
Wine: I prefer inexpensive ($8 to $15 per bottle max) wine for the boat. It is difficult to store fine wine on a boat and it is fun to try to pick great tasting wines for less. The white wines of northern Italy, Loire Valley, Australia and New Zealand are tasty and inexpensive. The red wines of Southwestern France and the Rhone Valley, Spain, Italy, Chile, Australia and New Zealand offer excellent value.
For more information on canned tomato and olive oil taste tests, go to www.cooksillustrated.com