One of the questions I’m sometimes asked is, “Do you cook out there on your boat?” My answer is, “Do you see any empty pizza boxes floating around?”
Actually, I’m a pretty good cook. Not as good as my first French girlfriend who was the chef on a 180-foot mega yacht over in Antibes, France, but I rarely cook something up and have to say, “Well, THAT, sucked!”
My dad was a chef and while he only taught me and my brothers how to cook the world’s best fried foods, watching him and my mother, no slouch in the kitchen in her own right, some of what he did was sort of absorbed almost by osmosis. I can’t tell you how often we’d have a supper and say, “Wow! That was great. Can we have that again?” and his answer would be, “No. You can have something LIKE that again, but you can’t have that.” The reason was that as a chef he was constantly creative. A little of THIS, a pinch of THAT, eye of newt, etc. Whatever inspired him at that instant went into the meal so it was impossible to duplicate it. There was no recipe.
When I was outfitting this boat I bought a two-burner Coleman propane camp stove.
It uses those little 1 lb green cans.
The bottles last a couple of weeks when you cook every day and they power my Little Buddy heater for those occasional cold snaps we get here on Anna Maria Island, Florida in the winter months.
I’d make a trip over to the Walmart on mainland Bradenton where a pair of those tanks could be purchased for $3.60. I’d buy three or four pairs at a time so I’d have a couple months worth stored away. The biggest drawback to these things is that if I’d been cooking for a while and wanted to make something that required a long time to prepare, like turkey thighs, I’d have to take off whatever bottle was attached to the stove and put on a brand new one because there’s nothing worse than having the gas run out in the middle of cooking.
Eventually, of course, I learned, via YouTube, how to refill those little cans despite the warning NOT to do it printed on their labels. So I went out and bought a 20 lb tank. This cut the cost per tank down by about 2/3rds. It’s awkward to do this, especially working in the cockpit of a 22-foot boat, and I was rarely able to get the tanks more than 3/4 full. But that’s okay if you’ve got plenty of them.
The major downside of the two burner stove, besides all the room it took up, was keeping it clean. And it was a hassle dragging it topside for a complete scrubbing down.
After nearly three years it slowly dawned on me that I rarely used both burners at the same time. So I bought a top-quality, single-burner stove the GasOne dual fuel stove. And got all the extra hoses to hook it up to the 20 lb tank…
I liked making one-pot meals such as “Unstuffed cabbage rolls,” Unstuffed green peppers,” stovetop tuna casserole, etc. When I make my stir fry chicken or pork I’d generally cook the rice, first and set it aside to steam then do the stir fry. I love using sweet chili sauce to make a sweet and sour type meal.
Not every meal has to be gourmet. I happen to like this: Cook up some pasta. Shells, elbows, bow ties, etc. add a small can of Rotel tomatoes with green chilis (if you like hot) or small can of diced tomatoes. Add a can of tuna or some diced ham, and then pour some cheese dip out of a jar until everything’s coated and yummy.
On the other hand I recently braised some sea scallops in olive oil and butter, at the last minute added some freshly minced garlic and oregano until fragrant and splashed with lime juice. Served over yellow rice with a small salad on the side. Honestly, you couldn’t have gotten anything more delicious at a restaurant.
So, how does it work when you NEED two burners? You need to use some ingenuity. For instance, last night I had spaghetti with meat balls. Now, I don’t use much prepared foods but sometimes it’s the easiest way to go. I bought some ready-made meatballs at the grocery and some spaghetti sauces that were on BOGO. I can make excellent spaghetti sauce but there are times I don’t want to do all the prep work and use a ready-made sauce whose label isn’t filled with words of chemicals I can’t pronounce in the ingredients list. Why not, huh?
Now, bring your pasta water to a boil then cover and set aside. Put the meatballs and sauce in a pan and heat until the meatballs are done. Cover and set aside. Put the pasta water back on the burner. It’s stayed hot and won’t take but a couple of minutes to get back to a boil. Cook your pasta. Now, when that’s done put the sauce back on the burner while you drain the pasta. It, too, will still be hot. Top the pasta with the sauce et Voilà as we used to say over in Antibes.
One thing I DO MISS on the boat, though, is the lack of an oven. There are some casseroles that can be adapted to stove tops, like tuna noodle, stuffed peppers or cabbage rolls, but some can’t be duplicated and I miss them.
I experiment a lot with my meals and most of the time their fair to excellent, but I’ll admit, a couple of times a year I have to say, “Well, THAT really sucked!”