What to cook in 35-foot seas?
June 25, 2008 · Updated 1:02 PM
"Jack Williams is a South Whidbey resident and former cook at Useless Bay Country Club who now cooks at sea. He will send an occasional recipe by e-mail when time and waves allow. This initial contribution was written Dec. 21. He has also written a book, Crossing the Pond, which he hopes to get published soon.It's been nine days since we left Dutch Harbor, Alaska for San Francisco. Eight of those days we've had storm and hurricane force winds and 20- to 35-foot seas. We still have 800 miles to go and the storms are lined up on the weather map like the jets on Sea-Tac's runway.Not a break all the way to the dock.I can remember when crossing Queen Charlotte on the inside passage was my biggest dilemma. Five hours of, maybe, a 10-foot sea. That seems like a walk in the park compared to this.Trying to cook anything when all I can do is keep from being thrown from one end of the galley to the other is a major accomplishment in itself. Until this trip I used to say jokingly, I can't cook it if I can't keep it on the stove! Today I can't even keep it in the pan!But the job must get done. The crew has to eat, so I must figure out something that will work in a situation like this. Soup, stews and chowders work well because I can wedge the pot with empty cans along the rails of the stove to hold it in. If I use a large pot and fill it half way then it shouldn't splash over the sides when we are pounding into those giant waves.When it's this uncomfortable for this many days everyone loses their appetite. Breakfast becomes nonexistent and lunch is a light sandwich or salad. By dinner everybody's hungry, but not for something too heavy.I thought that tonight I would make a pot of Cioppino. This is the Italian version of the French stew, Bouillabaisse, and is pronounced Cha-pee-no.Bouillabaisse is made with a clear broth, and Cioppino has a tomato base. A loaf of French bread, and a bowl of Cioppino goes a long way out here. So let me get started.The first thing that I do when I am making Cioppino is get all the ingredients together and put them in little bowls, so that when I am ready to go, it's one, two, three and the stew is finished. It's so much easier if I have everything I need right there in front of me when I go to put it all together. It saves a lot of time and trouble looking for whatever I need.Cioppino1 diced large onion6 diced stalks celery4 diced carrots3 minced garlic cloves1 28-oz can diced tomatoes1 cup olive oil3 cups spaghetti sauce (meatless)2 cups white wine1 pound crabmeat4 cans chopped clams4 12-oz jars clam juice1 pound peeled raw 21/25 prawns1 pound scallops1 pound raw halibut in chunksAfter I have gathered all of these ingredients and have them ready to go, I heat the oil in a soup pot on medium high heat. Now I saute the onions, carrots, celery and garlic until they are soft. Then I add the tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes.Next I add the clams, crabmeat, white wine and clam juice, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes.Finally I add the red sauce and season the Cioppino with salt and pepper if it is needed. I let the stew cook for 10 more minutes and then remove it from the fire. It is ready to serve and can serve at least eight.Time to try and rest. Another day is behind us and it's another day closer to port. I'm sure that when we finally are able to tie the boat up for a two day stop in San Francisco it we be a welcomed rest from these past two weeks.All I can say is that on days like this, I look back with fond memories to those warm, sunny days in July when I was the chef at the country club, carving the prime rib at the buffet table outside the bar during one of Bill's wonderful golf tournaments. "