Traditional Great Lakes Boil

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 @ 08:06 AM

A  Great Lakes Boil or Lake Michigan Boil has been a tradition around the lakes region for over a century. Whitefish and lake trout were plentiful, and it was easy to prepare a meal outdoors by boiling fish, potatoes, and onions together in a large pot. Quite similar to the traditions of a New England Clam Bake done right on the beach. A Great Lakes Boil is technically a party with a bonfire and and a cast iron kettle of boiling fish and vegetables. Sometimes there is music involved. At the very end of cooking the fish and vegetables, kerosene is thrown on the fire. There is a huge ball of fire and a roar. This forces a boil over that usually rids the pot of fish oils and that nasty foamy residue that forms on top while cooking. Plus it lets everyone know that dinner is ready.  You don’t need a bonfire on the shores of Lake Michigan to have a fish boil. You just need to get out your trusty old Bayou Classic turkey fryer. So, we have yet again found another use for that propane turkey fryer that is collecting dust in your garage.

This recipe should feed about 10 people.

7-8 lbs Lake Michigan Whitefish (lake trout and whitefish are traditional choices, other trout or salmon can be used. You will need about 3\4 of a pound of fish chunks per person.)Remove the head, fins, and innards. Cut the fish into cross-sectional pieces two to three inches thick. Fresh fish is preferred, but frozen, dressed  fish can also be used. Cut it into chunks before it thaws completely.
1 1\2 pounds salt
20-30 new red potatoes, washed not peeled
30 small onions, peeled (approximately 1 1/2-inch diameter)(or 1 medium large onion per person)
1/2 pound butter, melted
lemon wedges

Fill your stock pot 3/4 full of water and half of the salt. You can use a special Bayou Classic Great Lakes Boiler pot on your outdoor patio stove if you have one, (it has two baskets, one for vegetables and one for fish), but the one perforated basket that comes with your turkey fryer will do just fine. Place over your propane cooker and bring to boil. Add potatoes to the perforated basket and place it in the boiling water. When boil resumes, time for 8 minutes. Add the onions wait until boil resumes again, then time another 2-4 minutes. Add whitefish and remaining salt. After an additional 10-14 minutes of boiling, dinner is ready. Now seeing as we’re not going to throw kerosene over our turkey fryer, skim any frothy residue off the top. Pull out your perforated basket of food, drain, and serve.

Fish is placed on plate along with potatoes and onions, melted butter is then ladled over and garnished with lemon wedge.To eat the fish, peel off the skin and lift out the bones.

Serve with fresh coleslaw and rolls.

NOTE: A bouquet garni  (a tied cheese-cloth seasoning packet) containing bay leaves, whole allspice, and peppercorns in roughly equal proportions may be added to spice up your world. You may want to add other herbs or spices of your own choosing. To feed 10 people, the seasoning packet should be about the size of a golf ball. Add the seasoning packet when the potatoes go into the boiling water.

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