After a couple of nights at Belfair State Park on the shores of Hood Canal, Lulu and I headed down to Herron Island to see our friend Leslie, who I’ve known since junior high (“middle school” to you youngsters out there). Herron Island, which I’d never heard of until Leslie bought a cabin there, is located in Case Inlet, adjacent to Key Peninsula in Washington. It’s a fairly small, privately-held island that serves as a year-round home to maybe 70 folks but is a vacation/summer home to many more. They have their own car ferry which is scheduled to have it’s annual maintenance next week. That means there will be no ferry service to the island for about 2 weeks. Leslie will be one of maybe 30 people who are choosing to stay on the island during that time.
Leslie still has her little cabin but she bought a larger place a couple years ago and has been spending her time and energy fixing it up. We parked Flipper under the covered entry where she looked right at home.
We kept busy on our first day. We got a driving tour of the island and then got permission from Leslie’s friend, Sam, to climb down to his beach and gather shellfish for dinner.
The tide was out so the pickings were pretty easy. At least the mussels and oysters were easy as they were just sitting there under less than an inch of water. I love mussels and I really love how easy they are to harvest. So, while the ladies were digging for clams, I was gathering mussels and oysters. The mussels were so plentiful that I could pick and choose the size I wanted. I varied it a little, getting a few small-ish ones but mostly medium size ones (maybe 1.5″ x 2.5″). I added a couple of large oysters to the bucket and then started looking for clams.
Those little buggers proved elusive. We dug down a few places and didn’t find much of anything except sand dollars. And, man, did we find sand dollars! I had no idea they grew in such numbers. There’d be dozens and dozens of them sitting on the surface and then, when I’d dig down a few inches, I’d bring up dozens and dozens more. Before they dry out to the sand color that you see on the beach, they’re purple. Here’s a shot of a typical gathering. All those little sand-covered circles are sand dollars. I had no idea.
Once our buckets were full enough we rinsed the bounty off in fresh sea water and took them home to rest to give them a chance to flush the sand out of their systems.
Next, we headed back down to the beach where we jumped in kayaks and circumnavigated the island.
The ride was mostly placid, just like in the photo. But, once we were about 3/4 of the way around, the north wind kicked up. Which way were we heading? North of course. The wind slowed our progress down a bit but when we rounded the corner and were paddling across the top end of the island, the wind created swells that we got to take broadside, making things much slower, more interesting and wetter, at least for inexperienced kayakers like Lulu and I. It was a pretty trip and a good workout but we were ready to beach the boats when we got back to our starting point.
Now you’d naturally think we ate shellfish for dinner that night but you’d be wrong. We decided that we’d let them sit in the salt water overnight. Nothing worse than having sand in you otherwise tasty mariscos. Instead, Lulu made Ma Po Dofu, or, as we originally learned it from an article by Matt Kramer in an old issue of the Oregonian’s Northwest Magazine, Pock-Marked Ma’s Bean Curd. With our penchant for messing with words, we have come to know this dish as “Pork Mock”. We love it but we don’t share it with just anyone. The flavors are pretty intense and not for the weak. I’ll post the recipe at the bottom of the page in case you want to give it a try. We figured Leslie was made of the right stuff for Pork Mock and it turns out we were right. She loved it
Thursday morning, after we were all coffee’d and breakfasted, and internetted, we took a walk around of the island, visiting some of Leslie’s friends along the way and taking a closer look at some of the houses. Lots of cool places, some large, a few small, and even one made from a shipping container. But the big event Thursday was dinner. Time to cook those shelled goodies that we’d gathered.
We cooked everything out on the barbecue to keep odors and mess outside. After scrubbing and de-bearding the mussels, I steamed them in a mixture of onions, garlic, olive oil, butter and Bud Light. The other beer in the fridge was too good to cook with. Leslie let the clams steam in their own juices in a pan on the burner and we just set the oysters directly on the grill to do the same. There were so many mussles that we had to cook them in shifts, keeping the finished ones warm in the oven. Leslie made a salad and we toasted a baguette and then we were ready to eat.
The bowl of liquid you see in the center of the table is what was left in the pan after steaming the mussels. It was made of the aforementioned ingredients along with the juices from the mussels and it was unexpectedly delicious. We used it mostly for dipping bread into. Everything was excellent. We ate like kings. The mussles were the big surprise to everyone except me. I knew they were excellent. Their taste and consistency is superb but the fact that they are also so easy to collect makes them even more delicious. A short time later, the table looked like this:
That’s right, the room actually got darker once we were finished eating. The lumps you see in the bowl of dipping broth is the meat from the few mussles and clams that we just couldn’t eat. Leslie added it to the rest of the broth that was left and froze it so she could turn it into a rich chowder to eat on a stormy day this fall.
Friday morning we got in line early for the ferry. What with the impending lack of ferry service, they were going to be busy this weekend shuttling people off the island and bringing people back over after they make big provisioning trips to the store. We didn’t get on to the first ferry before it was full but, since this is a privately-owned boat, they just keep shutting back and forth until everyone’s gotten across. We were the first ones on the second ferry. We gave Leslie a big good-by hug and thanked her for an excellent visit and headed back across to the mainland.
I neglected to get the ending mileage when we arrived on Herron but I’ll catch the mileage figures up in the next blog entry.
Pork Mock (Pock Mark Ma’s Bean Curd)
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 cloves garlic, minced
3″ piece of fresh ginger root, minced
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 tablespoon chili paste
1/4 cup dried tree ears, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 20 minutes then drained and chopped
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 pound hot pork sausage, cooked and drained
2 one pound squares of firm tofu, cut into 1/2 ” cubes
5 each green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, ground
Heat wok over high heat. Add vegetable oil. When hot, toss in garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for 15 seconds, then add chili oil, chili paste. tree ears, water chestnuts and Scechuan peppercorns. Stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add tofu and stir-fry thoroughly, tossing to combine. Add sugar, combining well. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the sausage and stir. Pour in soy sauce and water. Bring to a boil. Serve over hot Jasmine rice.