The real title for this recipe should be “Door County Fish Boil.” But it does include kerosine as the final touch. This traditional meal comes from my home state of Wisconsin, specifically Door County, the peninsula sticking out into Lake Michigan.
Here’s how to make it:
First, catch some fish – whitefish (Coregonus clupeiformis) if you can, a common fish in that part of Lake Michigan, although you can use lake trout or salmon. Catch a lot. You’ll need it.
Second, invite all your friends and family. This is a big recipe: properly made, it serves 50 people. Scandinavian immigrants probably devised it to feed large crowds of lumberjacks and fishermen economically. Now that Door County is popular with tourists, local restaurants offer fish boils to entertain them.
Third, wait until twilight (for added drama), build a wood fire, and place a 20-gallon cauldron over it filled with very salty water and a large metal wire basket. First put in the potatoes, then the onions, and finally more salt and the fish. The salt keeps the fish firm.
When the fish is done, throw a cup of kerosine on the fire. This is not just for show. It makes the water boil over, clearing away all the oil floating on the water, and puts out the fire.
Pull out the wire basket and serve with melted butter and lemon slices.
Watch it being made: https://youtu.be/CZNsoapM6rA
Here’s a recipe to make at home. It serves 8 people, and out of concern for your kitchen, it skips the kerosine.
16 chunks of whitefish
16 small red potatoes
16 small onions, peeled
1/2 pound (.22 kilo) of salt
2 gallons (7.5 liters) of water
Fill a large kettle with the water and bring it to a boil. Add the potatoes and half the salt. Boil for 16 minutes. Then add the onions and boil for 4 minutes. Add the whitefish and remaining salt and boil for 10 more minutes. It’s ready! Drain it in a colander and garnish with melted butter and lemon slices.
If you can, serve it with coleslaw and Door County cherry pie, and pretend you’re in wonderful Wisconsin.