A Sushi Story

Tonight we’re celebrating the long anticipated start date of my first job with dinner at Mac’s Shack. Located just down the road from the Welfleet Town Pier, this old 19th century house that was once a nautical shop, has since been transformed into one of our favorite restaurants on Cape Cod.

It’s just my parents and me tonight, the original summertime trio. We know we’ll have to wait for a table so we skip the post-beach happy hour that usually occurs on the porch around 5:00.

Mac’s Shack is alive with a sweet summertime beat. The outside bar is packed with raw oyster-slurping ‘locals’ and vacationers alike, tapping their sandal-clad feet against the broken seashell-covered ground. A cool breeze soothes our cheecks, where the daytime sun has kissed our skin.

Dad orders our drinks, pino grigio for me and mom, and a Whales Tale Pale Ale for himself. After a blissful 20 minutes or so, our pager buzzes against the white-washed, wooden bench.

We open our menus. I quickly scan the variety of familiar appetizers and entres, knowing I won’t order any of them. We’ve come for sushi…at least I have anyway. I flip to the sushi menu and skim the long list of special ‘maki’ rolls, in search of any new additions. Before making any final decisions I re-read the descriptions of my favorites, just to make sure they’re still my favorites.

Deciding how many rolls to order depends entirely on who else is at the table; this is phase 1. So I sit quietly waiting for mom and dad to decide. If the whole family where here… Andrew wouldn’t eat a piece of fish if you paid him (really, my dad used to offer him $50), so he’d be out. Pete will eat just about anything so you know he’d be willing to split a few rolls and mom always claims to “only want a few pieces”.  It all comes down to dad. He could go either way; a few sushi rolls or a traditional entre. Tonight he chooses sushi. I think mostly because he knows it makes me happy.

Wave Roll
Wave Roll

We know from experience that we’ll need about 4 maki (sushi rolls). Deciding which rolls to order is phase 2. A well-balanced variety is key.  We try to avoid ordering two rolls with cream cheese inside, like the Philadelphia roll, or multiple rolls with the same piece of raw fish, like tuna or salmon. At least one roll with a little kick to it is always good, too. Of course, at Macs we have our long list of go-to favorites, making this phase a little easier. Dad and I decide on…

  • Gan Jah Mon: Tuna, mango, cream cheese, avocado, black tobiko (always a no brainer)
  • Wave Roll: Spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, avocado, cucumber, wrapped in soy
    paper (here’s the one with the “kick”)
  • Crabby Crunch Roll: California roll topped w/ tempura flakes & sweet soy sauce & a drop of sriracha (nothing too crazy, mom will like this one)
  • Rainbow Roll: California roll layered with tuna, yellowtail, salmon & white fish (another classic staple)

For only wanting a few pieces, mom still has quite a bit to say about our selection (Is that one spicy? I don’t think I like that one. Ooh ya, let’s get that!).

Enough time passes to devour a small side of seaweed salad, when 4 rolls are presented at our table. 4 rolls to be split, as evenly as possible, among 2.5 people. Now comes the trickiest part, just how many pieces of each sushi roll are mine, dads and now officially added to the equation, moms. I try to follow a system, one Gan Jah Mon, one Wave, one Crabby Crunch, one Rainbow, repeat. I try to keep that going for as long as possible. Dad has a similar technique.

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 1.08.52 AM
Which one will it be?

After trading a few pieces here and there (“I’ll give you one of my Rainbows, for your last Crabby Crunch), and sorting out the uneven distribution that moms random sampling has caused, it comes down to the final round and the toughest question of all: which piece will be your last? The one you can still taste as you exit the restaurant and in the car on the ride home. Will it be a piece with a kick to it? Or one that’s savory and sweet, like the Gan Jah Mon? To each their own.

Rarely are we disappointed with our choices, the many, many choices that are required when we all sit down for sushi. At the very least, if we didn’t order enough or mom sneaks in a few extra pieces than she had originally planned, there’s always room for ice cream.

Visit the photo gallery for more pictures of tonight’s meal at Mac’s!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

On any given rainy day you have two options: 1. Transition from your bed to your couch around lunch time, stay in your pajamas and watch outdated DVD’s borrowed from the town library all day, or 2. Spend a few hours flipping through whatever cook book your mom has laying around the house, decide on a recipe or two, gather the ingredients and start cookin’. Well, those are my options anyway…

Rainy days on Cape Cod in May and June are much more frequent than I’d like. I typically spend as much time as possible on the deserted beaches with my book and a sweatshirt, shivering only for a moment when the sun hides behind the fleeting clouds. But when those clouds are too stubborn to quickly pass by and they spread themselves low and thick above Nauset Light Beach all the way across town to First Encounter Beach, I’m left with 2 options, movie marathon or new recipe. Luckily for me (or not, depending on how you look at it), there are usually enough rainy days in the week for me to do a little bit of both.

Today’s cloudy day, culinary challenge: Chicken Tortilla soup, one of my all time favorites. My mom makes a delicious (and healthy!) homemade tortilla soup but she’s the kind of chef who doesn’t necessarily need cook books or measuring cups. She’ll take a look in the cabinet, grab a few cans or a couple of boxes, open the fridge, take what ever is left over from last night’s dinner, mix it all together on the stove and just like that, a few seemingly random ingredients become dinner. For these reasons, recreating mom’s Chicken Tortilla Soup was a little bit of a challenge. Taking a variety of instructions from a few different Pinterest recipes (and of course a few phone calls), I came up with a concoction of my own that sounded like it would turn out tasting pretty similar to moms.

Here’s what I came up with…

  • 1.5 chicken breast, diced
  • 1 green  pepper
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 japeleno pepper
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 of a jar of leftover salsa from the fridge
  • 1 can of chicken brother
  • 1 cup of water
  • a few shakes of cumin
  • a dash of chili powder
  • salt and pepper

In a large pot on the stove I drizzled some olive oil and let the garlic, onion, peppers, chicken and seasonings blend together. After a short time, I added the corn, still frozen, the black beans and the diced tomatoes. I let that sit on low heat for about 30 minutes.

Before adding the chicken broth and water, I took a little bike ride. The sun had made an unexpected appearance and looked like it may only be sticking around for a short while so I wanted to soak up as much as possible while I had the chance. This step of course is optional, just don’t forget to switch the burner off!

Upon my return, I reheated the mixture of vegetables and added the chicken broth and water. I let simmer for the remainder of the afternoon, about 5 hours and soon enough, I had homemade chicken tortilla soup for dinner!

With a handful of multigrain corn chips and a sprinkle of reduced fat pepper jack cheese, it didn’t look or taste exactly like my moms but every bite was loaded with vegetables, chicken and a unique flavor of my own. As my great grandmother Nonny would say, it certainly did “come good! “.

Chicken tortilla soup
Dinner is served!