Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Shannon Bryan is a feature writer for the Portland Press Herald and content producer for MaineToday Media's entertainment website, www.mainetoday.com.
And here's a well-known truth: Shannon can't cook. She's also ostroconophobic (in Maine?!?), but in a foodie place like southern Maine, she's determined to learn how to cook, eat, and order with the best of them. Read about her culinary crusade:
Pans on fire
She's also an investigator into all that's strange and entertaining to do around here. Those findings are gathered here:
Out Going: Things to do in southern Maine
Peanut butter sandwiches are easily prepared with a little help from a butter knife. Or a rubber spoon, if that's all the prison will allow you. Heck, a bare hand will do, should you find yourself sans utensils in the Maine woods, lost and friendless and with nothing but a jar of chunky-style to keep you company.
Thanks to the simplicity of sandwich preparation, I haven't had the need for fancier kitchen accoutrements over the years. Outside of a few ghastly pans and a garden-variety spaghetti strainer, my kitchen hasn't been given many gifts from me.
And while I'm still not quite sure where all my money goes (Pamola, things made with chickpeas and overdue fees at the library), it hasn't historically gone to buy titanium knives and other tools whose purposes continue to elude me.
My colleague Karen eats radishes raw at her desk sometimes - often with the same hand-to-mouth enthusiasm I used to save for Goldfish crackers.
I figured she must be onto something, some root vegetable delight that I'd never had the pleasure of knowing, so I tried one.
It was expectedly crisp. And unexpectedly hot. (I'm Finnish, folks. And my people are sensitive to food that's any spicier than a potato.) I didn't beg Karen for more. I didn't set a small fire in the lunchroom to distract her, like I might be inclined to do if I actually wanted to steal the bag of remaining radishes from her desk. Radishes and I just didn't click.
I've never cooked a scallop. And I sure haven't cooked 175 scallops in 15 minutes.
But Heather Milliman has.
Milliman is one of the instructors at Stonewall Kitchen's Cooking School in York. Last Friday, her culinary tutorial focused on exploding citrus (exploding with flavor, not violently detonating. Though I have seen citrus explode before, back when my brother and I used to play a few innings of Orange Baseball in the downstairs hallway when the parents weren't looking).
I did it. I cooked a fish! And I ate it! My roommate ate it too and we're both still alive today to talk about it, right Nichole? ...Nichole?
It was, without a doubt, the best fish I ever cooked and ate.
I consider it one of the greatest achievements of my cooking career. The last time I brought a fish home it was alive - and it stayed that way for weeks until it went belly-up in the bowl I kept on my dresser. I didn't eat it. I flushed it down the toilet. That's what one does with fish, no?
Holy halibut. I just bought fish.
Perhaps that's not earth-shattering news to you - someone who probably eats fish and knows how to cook it - but for me, today was a life-changer.
With help from Chris at Browne Trading Market on Commercial Street in Portland, I decided to buy halibut. Chris recommended it for multiple reasons (The season's short, he said, so take advantage. And Halibut isn't as oily as, say, salmon, and a higher oil content is what gives fish that "fishy" taste), and when you don't know what you're doing, it's typically wise to take advice. At least that's what I've heard.