Home Cooking Aboard A Taste of the San Juan County Fair

A Taste of the San Juan County Fair

by Bill Shaw

Each year in mid-August I trade in my white chef toque for a cowboy hat as the San Juan County Livestock Superintendent. Housing and feeding chickens, rabbits, lamb, goats, pigs, and cows from all the San Juan Islands can be a daunting task, but with the help of 4-H youth and parents, we put on a great show for the thousands of guests that come each year.

Each year I look forward to the new food trucks that show up, but I must admit that I have developed a predictable pattern of eating. This involves quick meals that I can eat on the run, and the corn dog is high on the list, but not the frozen kind that they sell in the stores. My ultimate corn dog is an all-beef frank pierced with a wood stick, dipped in fresh corn batter and fried crisp, then painted with French’s yellow mustard. The barbeque pork ribs with sweet and tangy sauce and the Thai noodle shack are some of my favorites, but for dessert I pass on the elephant ears and head straight to the PTA pie booth.

Each day, these dedicated moms turn out some of the most amazing pies and cobblers; Bluebarb (a combination of rhubarb and blueberries), lavender-scented peach, front porch blackberry, and heavenly apple with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. While I did not give you my corn dog recipe this month, I wanted to share some mouthwatering recipes inspired by the fair and all the wonderful people that make it so special.

Chop Chop Noodle Salad

Chop Chop Noodle Salad

Each year, guests eagerly await the opening the Madrona Bar and Grill and one of the most requested items is the Chop Chop Noodle salad. This salad was inspired by my late-night craving for leftover Chinese take-out chow mien. The noodles are an essential ingredient — as is the miso vinaigrette — in this salad and are made locally at Seattle’s Tsue Chong Company and available in Asian specialty stores. One morning, I was picking up these prized noodles in Seattle’s Chinatown and a woman at the desk asked me “Why are you buying so many noodles?” I explained to her that they went into a very popular salad. “SALAD,” she yelled and laughed at the thought of it. As I explained our noodle salad to her, she looked at me with complete confusion at the thought of such a thing, but thanked me for buying her noodles. During the summer we go through almost 300 lbs. of these fabulous noodles each week.

Makes 4 Entrée Salads

  • 2 cups romaine hearts, chopped into 1-½” pieces
  • ½ cup Napa cabbage, sliced ¼”
  • ½ cup purple cabbage, sliced ¼”
  • ¼ cup cilantro finely chopped
  • ½ cup carrots, peeled and grated fine
  • ½ cup asparagus spears cut into 3” lengths
  • ½ cup crimini mushrooms, sliced ¼”
  • 2 cups Hong Kong noodles, steamed and tossed in olive oil
  • 10 ounces miso vinaigrette (see recipe)
  • 6 ounces chicken breast meat, sliced ¼”strips
  • 6 ounces fresh Dungeness crab meat
  • 6 ounces shrimp, 75-100 count per pound
  • 1 each avocado cut into ¾ inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, slivered and toasted
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Shoga pickled ginger (bright red grated pickled ginger)

Directions: In a large bowl combine romaine, Napa cabbage, purple cabbage, cilantro, carrots, asparagus, mushrooms, Hong Kong noodles, and miso vinaigrette. Gently toss the ingredients and coat with the miso vinaigrette. Divide the dressed greens and noodles equally onto four chilled dinner plates. Build the height of the salad up like a volcano.

Top the center salad with the shrimp, crab, and chicken. Arrange the avocado around the outer edge of the salad. Garnish with almonds, cilantro, and Shoga ginger.

Miso Vinaigrette

Makes 2 cups

  • ½ cup. miso (light yellow)
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar, unseasoned
  • ½ cup sugar, granulated
  • 2 each egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, table ground
  • ¼ cup water, ice cold
  • ½ cup peanut oil

Directions: Dissolve miso in vinegar and reserve. Combine and mix together the sugar and egg yolks in a separate bowl and reserve. Using a food processor, combine and blend together the miso-vinegar mixture, sugar-egg yolk mix, black pepper, kosher salt and water. While food processor is running, slowly pour peanut oil into processing miso mixture until dressing is emulsified or has become thick, creamy and a consistent light golden color.

Wild Bill’s Huckleberry Barbeque
Baby Back Ribs

The sauce for these ribs was originally served over grilled oysters at weddings and marina events but when we served the sauce over braised baby back ribs, it was an instant favorite. The key ingredient is the illusive wild Olympic Peninsula Huckleberry, which give the sauce a fruity and acidic wine flavor. Growing up in Alaska, I learned about hundreds of varieties of wild berries that made the store-bought berries seem flavorless, but these dark purple little berries are pound for pound the most flavorful I have ever tasted. Our former Head Gardener James Farrell calls me each year in late September to give me the latest huckleberry report, “Bill, the berries are getting ripe and they are amazing and I think we are going to be able to pick in a week or two.” Unfortunately, in years past, the simultaneous ripening of the berries and the brewing of foul weather off the coast has created the most imperfect storm that destroyed the promise of huckleberries in our freezer and the creation of this very special barbeque sauce.

Serves 4

  • 4 lbs. baby back pork ribs
  • 4 pints dark beer
  • 1 cup Frank’s Original Red-hot Sauce®
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup kosher salt

Huckleberry Barbeque Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup onion, chopped fine
  • ½ each orange, quartered with peel
  • ½ each lemon, quartered with peel
  • ½ each lime, quartered with peel
  • 1 ¼ cup ketchup
  • 2/3 cup chili sauce
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • ½ cup wild blue huckleberries
    (can be substituted with black currents)

Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove the tough membrane (peritoneum) from the inside of the ribs or ask you butcher to do the work. Using a sharp boning knife, score the inside of the ribs in a diagonal pattern to form a diamond pattern of slices about 1” apart. This will help break down any tough parts. Combine all other ingredients in a shallow roasting pan and place prepared ribs in pan. The liquid should cover the ribs, if not, use a smaller pan or increase the liquid amount. Cover with foil and place in a 450-degree oven for two hours or until the pork meat starts to pull away from the bone.

For sauce, place a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat and add butter. When butter is melted, add chopped onion and garlic, sauté until tender. Juice the orange, lemon and lime into the pan. Add the peels to the pan as well. Add the remaining ingredients except the huckleberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Remove ribs from liquid and place on a baking sheet and allow to cool for twenty minutes. Cover warm ribs with Huckleberry Barbeque Sauce, coating all sides. Place sauced ribs and remaining sauce in refrigerator until ready to grill (best if allowed to hang out in the refrigerator until the next day).

When ready to serve your guest preheat your outdoor grill to medium and season grill with vegetable oil. Place chilled sauced ribs on grill, rotating every 2-3 minutes to give the ribs dark caramelized marks on all sides. When heated through, remove from grill and baste with more Huckleberry Barbeque Sauce, then place back on the grill and char the sauced ribs, but be careful not to burn the sauce. The charring or caramelizing of the sauced ribs adds a sweet smoky flavor. Cut into single riblets and serve as an appetizer or serve half-rack as an entrée.

Huckleberry Barbeque Baby Back Ribs

Fresh Island Berry Cobbler

Fresh Island Berry Cobbler

Blackberries do not make the best pies but they are perfect for cobblers. The English dessert was given the name cobbler because after cooking, the top of the dessert resembled the cobblestone streets in the 1800s. Roche Harbor’s “Yellow Brick Road” in front of the historic Hotel De Haro is cobbled together with yellow firebricks pulled from the Lime Kilns, resembling this dessert.

  • 1-½ cup flour, all purpose
  • 1-½ Tablespoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • ½ cup, butter, unsalted
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 quarts blackberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 cups sugar, granulated
  • 1 cup strawberries sliced
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 Tablespoons Chambord
  • 1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • ¼ cup cornstarch

Directions: In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. Cut butter into ¼-inch cubes and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Add cold butter cubes to dry mixture, and mix until butter is the size of chickpeas. Note: You still want to see small chunks of butter. Add buttermilk and mix just until the dough comes together. Allow to rest.

Using a large heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat, add blackberries and sugar, bring to a slow boil. In a small bowl combine Chambord, Grand Marnier and cornstarch, then add to boiling berries. Allow to thicken, then remove from the heat and add fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Using a 10-ounce baking dish, add 4 oz. of blackberry mixture to each baking dish, then top each cobbler with the cobbler dough mixture by tearing bits of the dough into irregular shapes, creating an irregular pattern of dough that covers the entire top of the baking dish. Note the small cracks in the top allow the berry juice to bubble through the dough.

Top each cobbler with 2 tablespoons of random splashes of the berry mixture. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar over the top of each cobbler. Place cobblers on a sheet pan and bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until the cobbler dough is fully cooked. Test by inserting a toothpick into the cooked dough. If it comes out clean, the cobblers are ready. Serve hot from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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