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The Gearboat Chronicles

Smack and Cheese Gourmet Steelhead Fly

Still adjusting back to normal food after that deluxe Plate & Pitchfork extravaganza in Hells Canyon. I’ve got to make airplane noises, circle the fork around and say, “Here it comes!” just to trick myself into eating my own cooking. It’s a hassle.

Here’s Joe searing or doing something chefy with a slab of grassfed mastadon that turned out delicioso. I tried the same technique, standing off to the side of my stove at home all nonchalant with a beverage in my hand, but it didn’t resemble Joe’s results at all. I was using freezerburned venison so maybe that was it. It’s all about the ingredients, people. And also how you cook them, probably. I don’t know, I’m not a food writer.

But I do like to write about fishing so I’m delighted to inform you that the 2012 graduating class of Grande Ronde and Wallowa River steelhead have received their diplomas from the ocean and are beginning to percolate back home. We’re watching for rain to really prod those fish upriver.

To remind you what Wallowa County steelhead look like, here’s a wild bruiser caught last year with *ahem* a fly I tied all by myself.

It’s especially gratifying to catch something on one of my homemade flies, since the reaction from most fishermen when they see one of my creations is to recoil, shield their eyes and ask, “What is that?”

Revolutionary New Fly Pattern

I was busy at the vise tying up new patterns when I heard back on my Freedom of Information Act request for the Noble Rot Mac and Cheese recipe from chef Leather Storrs. He crossed out a few words with a Sharpie, but I’m pretty sure they were “butter” and “sauce,” so I put those back in.

I’ll share his super-secret recipe below, but first I’m proud to unveil my latest steelhead fly. I’m calling it “Smack and Cheese.” Because, you know, steelhead will smack it. Here she is.

To tie this beauty you will need the following:

A hook.

A piece of macaroni.

Rabbit tail dyed orange by soaking it in Kraft cheese powder. (Throw the powder and rest of the package away and make Leather’s recipe below.)

It’s a tough one to fish because you have to boil it for 8 minutes first, let it cool and then fish it really quick before the macaroni falls off. But the fish have likely never seen anything like it, so you’ve got that going for you.

Mac and Cheese Minus Glow-in-the-Dark Food Coloring

OK, here it is. The path to macaroni greatness the Noble Rot way. Looks to me like it would go great with fresh-caught barbecued fish. To catch your fish, come along on a Winding Waters fly fishing expedition.

To step up your dinners a notch, proceed with the following.

 Noble Rot Mac & Cheese

 8 ounces macaroni pasta
4 cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
3 allspice berries
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon coarse salt or 3/4 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for topping
Tabasco sauce to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs for topping

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pan to keep warm.

In a medium non-stick saucepan over medium heat, combine milk, bay leaf, allspice, red pepper flakes, and salt. Heat milk just to a boil; remove from heat and set aside. Just before using in the sauce, strain out the bay leaf, allspice and pepper flakes.

In another saucepan, melt the butter over low heat; whisk in the flour and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat. Add stained milk mixture, 1 cup at a time; whisking smooth after each addition. When all the milk has been added, return to medium-low heat and cook approximately 15 minutes or until slightly thickened, whisking frequently and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot so the sauce does not sticks. Remove from heat. Stir in Dijon mustard, cheddar cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to the hot sauce. Add additional Tabasco sauce to taste and additional salt if needed. NOTE: The sauce will keep, covered, for at least 5 days in the refrigerator.

Combine cooked macaroni with 3/4 of the cheese sauce. The macaroni should be soupy, as it will absorb a large amount of sauce. If the macaroni is not soupy, ladle more sauce over the macaroni. Note: The dish can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days at this point

To cook, preheat oven to 350°F. Top the dish with breadcrumbs and additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Place on a baking sheet and bake approximately 25 minutes (longer if refrigerated) until hot. To give a browned and bubbly finish, place the dish under the broiler approximately 3 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and serve immediately.