Tonight we partook of a culinary tradition peculiar to this part of the world. In fact, Wikipedia says it’s found in areas of Wisconsin and the Coastal Upper Great Lakes, with a “particularly strong presence in Door County, Wisconsin.” The process of cooking is the same as it has been done for centuries, and has been passed down through generations.
I chose Pelletier’s restaurant in Fish Creek, based on reviews I read on Yelp. It turned out to be a good choice, confirmed by some folks we met who come to Door County every year and always eat the fish boil at Pelletier’s. As you can see by the menu, they serve other food, and Don had the baked chicken.
When we arrived, although we had reservations, we still had to stand it line to check in, order and pre-pay for our meals.
But the wait wasn’t too long, and soon we were able to go out on the patio to watch the fish boil in progress.
One of the ladies we met took our picture, and I took theirs.
Actually, this was just the remaining smoke and steam from the boiling kettles, as there’s a fish boil every half hour. When making reservations, we were told to arrive a half-hour early to check in and watch the boil.
As one group of diners sit down to eat, another group is arriving to watch the cooking process.
First, the fire was fed some fresh wood.
Then the steaks of locally caught whitefish were brought out in a large basket.
Baby red potatoes and boiling onions were put in another basket and they started cooking first.
The fish was put in a smaller basket so it could be set on top of the potatoes and onions in the same kettle. Notice the flat pieces of wood leaned up against the sides of the kettle to shield the fire and increase the heat.
When the fish oil rose to float on top of the water, the Master Boiler threw fuel under the kettle, causing the fire to flame up and the water and fish oils to boil over the sides.
It was quite spectacular for a few seconds!
The Boilers then passed a long metal pole through the handles of the cooking baskets and pulled the cooked food out of the boiling water.
Notice the two baskets below, with the fish on top and potatoes/onions on the bottom.
As the food was plated inside, melted butter was poured over everything hot, cole slaw was added, and minutes later the dinner plates were served.
My fish (I got the “lite eater’s” portion) and accompaniments were delicious, and Don said his baked chicken (he’s not a fish eater normally) was very good and even the breast was moist.
We enjoyed the experience and met some nice people who shared their table and conversation while we dined. And we managed to miss the rain showers that arrived just as we were getting back in the car.
P.S. I failed to include a picture of my dinner plate from Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in my previous blog. I had Swedish Meatballs, homemade mashed potatoes and tender green beans. Don had Swedish Pancakes, with eggs and Swedish Meatballs, but I didn’t get a picture. (Carol Jennings, this is for you!)