Mascotology

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Apparently there’s a basketball tournament in March that lots of people care about. This is a foreign concept to me because my interest in basketball is about on par with my interest in competitive swimming. The rules of both are pretty simple and I’m sure the athletes are incredible, but I’m miserable at both and can’t get into the hype.

One of the attractions of so-called “March Madness” is the wide variety of teams represented, including teams that traditionally don’t get much attention or love. I mean, who has ever heard of Austin Peay State University? Another attraction is that basketball is apparently way more unpredictable than football or baseball, so there is always a chance for a major upset. Due to these factors, creation of a bracket in which you pick which teams will make it through each round and to the final is a popular pastime among basketball fans and commanders-in-chief of the largest military in the world.

So, a few years back, I decided I would make a bracket. However, given that I know more about kobe beef than Kobe Bryant and that Lebron reminds me more of the nickname we had for my high school spanish teacher than an athlete, I knew I’d fail miserably at picking winners. Most of my knowledge of basketball comes from the movie Space Jam and I’ve always said if they included more aliens or cartoons I’d be way more into the sport. It was in pondering this that I realized mascots are kinda like alien cartoons that represent each team. Hence, the inspiration for my bracket, in which I picked my favorite mascot from each matchup. I had so much fun that year that I’ve continued to make one each year that I can be bothered to care. So, you’re probably wondering what the methodology is behind my choice of which mascot wins each matchup. Well, it’s a healthy mix of appreciation for obscurity, uniqueness, and a ton of personal bias, as well as tiredness since I quickly scrawled it at about 1 a.m. when I was waiting for code to compile last night. I try to go off just the concept of the mascot, but in case of ties, I go look up the actual mascot image and the character mascot that actually attends games.

I though it’d be fun to share my thinking with you, so here’s the beginning of what will hopefully grow to cover every game in the tournament. I wrote all this during my lunch break at work. I’ll update it as I have time and will write additional posts for each round of the tournament.

First round matchups

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Kansas Jayhaws vs Austin Peay Governors

iI’m not entirely sure what a Jayhawk is, but I know well what a governor is. I also know that this governor, a monopoly man of your nightmares, could handle any bird that attempted to cross him. He’s a robber baron who looks like he’s been taxidermied for preservation until the end of time. Gotta give it to Austin Peay here.

 

Colorado Buffaloes vs Connecticut Huskies

colorado-buffaloHuskies are pretty majestic animals. With cool blue eyes and the ability to pull a sled for miles, they have a strong argument here. Also, if they were in a pack, they could probably pull down the mightiest of buffalo. That said, there’s never been a movie made about a wild west cowboy riding on a husky. I’ve also had the opportunity to actually see Ralphie the Buffalo in person. He wasn’t the most intimidating animal ever, a trait that seems to be shared among Ralphies. However, it was probably because I was like 30 rows back. When it comes down to it, despite the fact that many Huskies can probably see Russia from their front porch, Buffalo are just more American…and that’s something I can get behind.

Maryland Terrapins vs South Dakota State Jackrabbits

sds_jackrabbitsThis was one of the hardest choices from round 1, as Terrapins and Jackrabbits are both pretty awesome. It’s hard to believe how intimidating a land-turtle can look. Really, Terrapins have everything going for them here. They’re durable, can live for decades, and share their name with a great beer company. However, despite what Aesop would have you believe, slow and steady does not always win the race. This is basketball, and I’ve yet to see a terrapin make a fast break. Despite their intention and capability to climb through the ranks, I’m going to have to put up a turtle fence on this one and give it to the Jackrabbits. South Dakota doesn’t really have much else going for it anyway.

California Golden Bears vs Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

UH-logo-150x150Some choices are hard, and others are Rainbow Warriors. I mean, both of these teams had a chance to make a somewhat lame, generic mascot awesome with a simple choice of color. Gold is a strong choice, especially when the economy is tanking. However, how does that even begin to hold a candle to the entire visible light spectrum? UC Berkeley, you think you’re so special because you get to be “California” and don’t have to live with your UC-something name. Well, sorry, but this time you got the hell ROYGBIV’d out of you.

Arizona Wildcats vs Wichita State Shockers

wichita-state-shockersI’m a cat person, so every cat in this tournament gets bonus points just for being a cat. However, the wildcats had no idea what was coming with the Wichita State Shocker. I mean, look at that guy. He’s a redneck in a sweater with stalks of wheat for hair. He’s a child of the corn that scares you away from walking the farm fields after dark. Not convinced? Well, check out the actual mascot. I was planning on not bringing them in unless there was a need for a tie-breaker, but what do you even do with that guy? After this performance, Wichita State is a strong contender for the final.

Miami Hurricanes vs Buffalo Bulls

miamiI have to say I was a bit torn here. I really want Miami to win because mere bulls can’t survive against the force of a hurricane. My favorite college football coach also just went to Miami, so it’s got a lot going for it. However, I can never get over the fact that they have a dumb U for their logo. Everyone you play in every sport is also a university, Miami. You are generic, and I can’t ever forgive you for that. That said, I don’t have to like you for you to win (ironic, isn’t it?), and thankfully you’ve got another mascot. He’s a weird looking Ibis with a sailor hat on, but he’ll have to do.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs Temple Owls

iowaI live in Georgia, and it seems like every other college in the state has the owls as their mascot (hootie hoo!). For this reason, I’m predisposed to dislike owls as mascots. However, when put up against a Hawkeye, it’s much more appealing. There’s really not a great choice here. Both are large birds. Owls are creepy because they can turn their heads around and make pellets of their meals. Hawks and their eyes are much cooler and sleeker and kinda more terrifying. It’s a toss-up, really. In those cases, I must turn to the mascot’s look. The Owls’ main logo is much more intimidating than the Hawkeyes‘, so they pulled out into the lead. However, a little more Googling sealed the deal for Iowa. Temple made a strong attempt with a terrifying yet constipated mascot, but Iowa…oh Iowa. This is the stuff of nightmares. Also, for anyone who wants to argue with me, I give you this and drop the mic as I walk away full of shame for what was once a great Temple.

Villanova Wildcats vs UNC Ashville Bulldogs

villanovaI went to UGA. We are the Bulldogs. No one else gets to be them and succeed. Seriously, do you really want to throw these poor excuses for bulldogs at me? I didn’t think so. Also, cats > dogs. End of story.

 

 

West

Oregon Ducks vs Holy Cross Crusaders

Holy_Cross_Crusaders.svgThis one was really tough. I’m a huge Oregon fan, and it’s pretty much entirely because of their colors and their mascot Puddles, who totally destroyed that Houston Cougar in a fight. That said, it’s hard to vote against the Holy Cross Crusaders. Ducks are definitely among the lamest birds and would normally be an automatic defeat against a foe that strong. I can’t let personal preference and a single fight sway me. Crusade on.

St. Joseph’s Hawks vs Cincinnati Bearcats

cincinnatiHawks are cool, but this is a bearcat. Also, the Cincinnati logo looks kinda like the Chick-fil-a logo, which is a win in my book. Also, Cincinnati is hard to spell. Any questions?

 

Baylor Bears vs Yale Bulldogs

baylorAs previously stated, I can’t get behind any bulldog that isn’t named Uga. To their credit, Yale’s bulldog is definitely much cuter than Ashville’s, though. The Baylor Bears take this one. Maybe if Yale had a beardog we could talk.

 

 

Duke Blue Devils vs University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks

duke-bluedevils1I used to know someone who swam for UNC Wilmington. I feel like if this was a swimming competition the Seahawks would have an advantage, because they have sea in their name. However, it’s a basketball competition, and Blue Devils just sounds like a basketball team that will destroy you. Also, any formerly religiously-affiliate school that ironically uses satanic imagery as their mascot is probably not someone to mess with (looking at you Wake Forest. Sorry Seahawks. You don’t exist anyway, though, so I’m sure you won’t mind.

Texas Longhorns vs University of Northern Iowa Panthers

Texas-LonghornsThis was another tough one, mostly because longhorns and panthers are both kinda lame mascots. However, it became easier when I did some research and found out that panthers are like seahawks in that they don’t exist. A panther is just a dark color variant of a cougar, leopard, or jaguar. It’s basically the opposite of albino. Also, if you’ve never actually seen a longhorn, it’s a pretty majestic animal. They’re not kidding about the horn length. The final straw was the UNI panther logo and the panther himself. The logo kinda sucks and the panther looks too much like Snagglepuss.

Texas A&M Aggies vs the University of Wisconsin Greenbay Phoenix

Green_Bay_Phoenix_logoI’m sure many of you are thinking “He can’t pick the phoenix because it doesn’t exist.” Sorry friends, but if you’re looking for consistent rules then you’ve come to the wrong place. You see, while seahawks are just lame fake birds and panthers are just a variant of jaguars, phoenix are legendary creatures that could destroy an aggie. What is an aggie anyway, you ask? Well, in Texas A&M’s case, it’s lassie. Well, a herding collie named Reveille that looks like lassie. Well, actually, a herding collie named Reveille that’s the 7th in a line of previous unrelated Reveilles, the first of which looks like he would make a better poker player than mascot. Actually aggie represents the spirit of the agricultural background of the school. All this to say, it’s way too complicated, so we’re going with the freakin’ phoenix.

Oregon State Beavers vs Virginia Commonwealth Rams

vcuFor being a generic animal, rams are actually a pretty decent mascot. This is especially true in football, given that a big part of the game is running into other people in an attempt to knock them over. Beavers are also pretty cool. They can chew through trees and cause isolated natural disasters by redirecting rivers. They’re sort of like otters, except less cute and more productive. So, it came down to the mascots themselves, and I can say there was definitely a clear winner. Sorry Benny, you just aren’t that intimidating. You look pretty dumb, actually. I can’t imagine you damming any rivers, and if you tried, I feel like you’d end up like this guy. So, while Rodney looks more devious than destructive, I’m going to have to give him the nod.

Oklahoma Sooners vs California State University Bakersfield Roadrunners

CSUBRoadrunnersLogoDo I even have to ask? It takes 12 paragraphs to explain what a sooner is. Meanwhile, everyone knows what a roadrunner is. It’s the largest cuckoo of the Americas…the bird that can run up to 20 miles per hour…and it’s never met a coyote it can’t outsmart. I mean, look at this guy. It’s like a battletoad and Izzy had a baby and named it Rowdy. I’m betting heavily on the roadrunner to go far.

2016 Pickens High School STAR Student Banquet Talk

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Back in 2004, I graduated from Pickens High School in Jasper, Georgia. I was honored as the STAR student that year by a banquet hosted by the Jasper Optimist Club. This year, I was invited back to the banquet as the guest speaker. The banquet recognized the 10 seniors with the highest SAT scores who also had GPAs in the top 10% of their graduating class.  I spoke on the importance of living a life that tells a good story. Here’s a video of the talk for anyone interested.

Election reflections

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It’s been fascinating to me to watch this election cycle. I’ve had at least half a dozen deep discussions and and full on debates with friends about so many different sides of this. I decided I’d put down a few thoughts just because everyone else is and I need to clear my head.

The grass isn’t nearly as green as you thought

I feel like this election is giving the parties the opportunity to see what it looks like from the other side. Democrats have two rich, white candidates. Granted, one of them is female, which is a huge deal. Very few women (among them Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin) have even gotten close to just becoming Vice President, much less President. However, on the other side, Republicans have had two individuals of Hispanic descent this cycle and have had a black man as a serious contender in both of the last two cycles. The party often identified with racism and bigotry has shown quite the tendency towards diversity, and I think that’s progress.

Speaking of minorities, Republicans have claimed for years that minorities are winning elections for Democrats, but that the policies Democrats put in place are hurting these individuals more than helping. They usually argue this on the grounds that Republican fiscal policies would better promote job growth for these often working class individuals. I’ve often heard this paired with frustration that stems from a belief that many minority individuals are uneducated and are just voting for the party they’re told to or voting based entirely on personality and not on substance. I think back to President Obama’s first run, when he was seen by many Republicans as simply having won a popularity contest with no actual ideas. I seem to remember the phrase “voting for someone who looks like them.”

Enter the current Republic front runner, who has offered essentially no tangible policy ideas and has run entirely on personality and questionable business success. He’s a man who says what he thinks and feels in the moment without regard to how it sounds and whose most noticeable fashion accessory is a trucker hat. Donald Trump, to me, is everyone’s redneck uncle and/or 3rd cousin who made (and also lost) a whole lot of money through various odd business ventures. He’s the guy whose dad was a home builder in a rural area turning suburban who started helping out with the family business in high school and was able to make it work from there…except he was in New York working with much higher numbers. Everyone said George Bush was someone you could have a beer with. The Donald is that guy you can share a case of beer with while watching a football game and complaining about how your neighborhood is becoming more dangerous because of all the blacks and hispanics moving in…at least until he got annoyed with your whining.Take a look at a voting heatmap and you’ll see that most Trump supporters tend to live outside of major cities, have lower relative income levels, and lower education levels. The rapper Eminem has a lot in common with the Donald, in his statement that he’s “Like a head trip to listen to, cause I’m only giving you things you joke about with your friends inside your living room. The only difference is I got the balls to say it in front of y’all and I don’t gotta be false or sugarcoated at all.” Well, there is one other difference. The Donald actually has a means of doing something tangible with those feelings. I think there may be a correlation here…something about voting for someone who looks like you.

As President Obama surprised everyone with his breakaway campaign in 2008 by preaching hope and change, Mr. Donald is surprising everyone with his breakaway campaign by preaching…himself. The thing is, we’re ok with that, and this isn’t an isolated case. Trump, to me, is all these things mixed with the Georgia Board of Regents member who was voted into another term even though he was having a well publicized extramarital affair with the gymnastics coach and earned the team sanctions by flying gymnasts on his private jet to party in New York (http://www.redandblack.com/opinion/leebern-jr-should-not-still-be-a-university-system-regent/article_e9ccca27-1122-5181-b8dd-c1668d4198b3.html). The thing is, no one really cares about that guy. He’s one of the biggest donors to the University system. How much harm can he do? It’s probably a net positive to keep him there.

Why is Trump succeeding?

As I wrote to a friend yesterday, economics teaches that gathering and processing information has a significant cost in terms of time and mental energy. Information that challenges your beliefs is even more expensive. College removes significant amounts of that expense, as you’re forced to sit in rooms and confront ideas that differ from yours and people who are different than you in order to move forward. Living or working in a major city does the same. Those who don’t get the opportunity to go to college or who live/work in rural areas have much higher cost and time barriers to delve into the depths of topics like economics or immigration reform. That said, we all actually face those same constraints. When’s the last time a college educated city dweller delved deep into determining the relative pros and cons of the two candidates for state commissioner of agriculture? I know there are quite a few rural-dwelling blue collar individuals who could give you an earful about them, whereas I just abstain or pick whatever name I’ve seen the most signs for. I think people are choosing Trump for the same reason.

In a time when it’s tough to get even 7 out of 10 top economists to agree on the best minimum wage level, when there are massively diverse opinions from experts on how to reform the prison system, when we can’t decide if having guns increases or decreases violent crime rates, and when a single payer system may either give everyone healthcare or lead to death panels, it may be a bit optimistic to expect people to vote on anything more than a name or personality. When life consists of working 40-50 hours of hard work a week and coming home to take care of a family of 4, a tweet of a quote from a dictator whose name you haven’t heard in 30 years probably doesn’t seem that important. In reality, how much is it going to matter which person gets in office anyway to that individual? They’re probably not making minimum wage, so that’s not a concern. To them, getting less money from their paycheck due to higher taxes, making sure an immigrant doesn’t take their job, making sure the economy doesn’t go bad so they still have a job, making sure they can keep buying ammunition for their ranch rifle, and making sure terrorists don’t blow them up are probably actually the most important and relevant issues.

Speaking of which, Trump has said things about all of these. Sure, he’s been on both sides of all of these issues at most points, but hasn’t every politician? John Kerry and Hillary Clinton both famously changed their stances on many major issues, which may have led to their eventual defeats as the Democratic electorate tried to decide whether they were trustworthy (or it may have had something to do with recounts…who knows). Now the Republicans get the chance to deal with the same. Does he want to accept refugees or deport them? Yes to both. Is he actually pro-life? I have no idea. He likes being flexible…whatever that means. At this point, we enter what I’ll call Maslow’s hierarchy of giving a damn. I’m sure there’s a proper sociological term…perhaps a stress-induced halo effect? Anyway, it comes down to…when you can’t be sure you’ll have a job tomorrow because you’re afraid immigrants will take it, it’s probably somewhat harder to care about the fate of terrorists’ families. This is why economics is called the drab science…because we say things like that. Remember that time you had a bad morning, were running late to work, got cut off, and you turned from NPR to the rock station in anger because you really didn’t have the emotional capacity to care about the person talking about the fate of kids living on the streets in Cleveland anymore? Same idea, in a more chronic sense.

People behave differently under stress, and both sides of the aisle have done a great job stressing us out by convincing us the US is struggling and in need of hope, change, and being made great again. It’s a great strategy, and likely a necessary strategy to build momentum and interest in a process that generally frustrates and exhausts us. People have mental and emotional limits on how much empathy they can give and how many decisions they can make, so let’s make empathy and decisions easy by using slogans instead of policies and emphasize the vague over the specific. Specifics are hard, but fear alleviation is easy. Sure, when you dig in to it, you find that research generally points towards the immigrants not replacing you but instead eventually leading to more management positions opening up, but when’s the last time you sat down and cracked open the American Economic Review? The individual may have heard something about it on CNN, but that’s a liberal news outlet, right? Can it be trusted? Information costs time and effort, and trustworthy information takes more. A lack of trustworthy information leads to more uncertainty, and more uncertainty leads to simplifying our decision making process. I can’t trust the information I’m getting externally, so let’s turn internal. Hence…is this person likable…can I relate to them…would they make the same decisions I would? I like that goofy hat…he’s been successful so far in business…I can tell because he’s rich…I don’t like politicians…at least he has some strong opinions…he’s a Republican…I’m a Republican…he can get things done…it’s a go.

The Berninator

Having said all that, there is one candidate who seems to be quite consistent in his opinions. The Berninator has been the new hotness (while on the surface appearing old and busted) this cycle. I’ve found it interesting watching his campaign, especially in that it’s so similar to Trump’s. Sure, he has some actual policy ideas, but their political and economic feasibility seems right up there with Trump’s insistence on making Mexico pay for a wall. Do we really think a congress filled with individuals making over $200k annually is going to approve a plan whose top bracket effective tax rate has been estimated at anywhere from 52-75%? I’m pretty sure he couldn’t get that through a Democratic supermajority in both houses. They’d go all Will Smith on it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hs3NzBx5ei0). Also, most estimates I’ve seen show increases in the tax burden across the board. Taxes can be both helpful and dangerous things, causing much damage when used poorly. I admire Bernie’s dedication to healthcare for all, and honestly even as a conservative I would love to see it in my lifetime. However, I just don’t think it is realistic in a country and a government filled with as much division and bloat as we currently see.

At least Bernie isn’t racist or bigoted…or otherwise dismissive of individuals due to certain characteristics or beliefs they have, right? No, he’s really not, from everything I’ve seen. He’s run a very good, somewhat unrealistic campaign. However, there was that one time he went to one of the most conservative colleges in the country and spoke to an audience likely filled with individuals who feel that the killing of half a million+ babies annually might be a serious issue. Now, before I make a point, we need to pause here for an honest chat. You see, to many people (including one whose name rhymes with Panders), these are just fetuses with no rights. They often refer to them as parasites or simply tissue. To these people, it’s absolutely beyond reason that anyone would care about a clump of cells. They are unwanted growths that have encumbered a woman’s life and don’t deserve any consideration. However, some people (especially those whose names rhyme with Drumpf) view undocumented immigrants and their children as individuals with no rights. They often refer to them as “Mexicans.” They are unwanted parasites that have broken the law and don’t deserve any consideration. To these people, it’s absolutely beyond reason that anyone would care about an undocumented immigrant. “It’s a human with dignity and inherent rights,” screams the opposition from both sides. “It’s not the child’s fault that he was put in the situation he’s in. She doesn’t deserve to be taken away from the only place she has ever been, the source of provision and life, and put into a situation where she will surely die.” You see, we have more in common than we thought. Is this a perfect argument? No. Is it overly simplified and does it gloss over critical parts of both sides? Yes. Is it offensive? Probably. Does it make a point well? Hopefully. No, we’re not all the same, but we do all view certain beliefs that other people have as completely irrational, untenable, and worth of being called a name. That said, many people actually have have strong, logical reasons for the ridiculous beliefs they seem to espouse. Even if they don’t, perhaps they themselves deserve some dignity as we approach these beliefs. I prefer to skip the names and try to talk about these things…though that’s hard to do.

So, back to Bernie, who was at a talk filled with individuals who believe that half a million children are being legally killed annually. He made this statement early on in his speech: “I understand that the issues of abortion and gay marriage are issues that you feel very strongly about. We disagree on those issues. I get that, but let me respectfully suggest that there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and in fact to the entire world, that maybe, just maybe, we do not disagree on and maybe, just maybe, we can try to work together to resolve them.” It’s a great line, and well delivered. However, I can’t help thinking that it feels more than a bit dismissive of an issue that a significant portion of his audience considers the biggest humanitarian and ethical crisis in our nation. I get it…most Democrats do the same…but the audacity that it took to plan a speech at such a venue and then drop that line is incredible. Sure, it’s not racist or bigoted (perhaps birthist if you need a term for it…discriminating on the basis of whether one is born or not), but I’ve yet to see Trump go to Agnes Scott and dismiss women’s rights or LGBT issues to talk about growing the economy. To me Bern Gully is pretty much just as unrealistic and probably as brazen as the Donald.

Where do we go from here?

People talk about how the Republican party is fracturing, and a lot of people are scared for its outcome. However, I think a lot of Democrats have to be nearly as nervous for their own party. It’s much less likely to split, but it seems we live in a time where personality, unwarranted devotion, and extremism is king on both sides. John McCain was always called a maverick, but these guys are showing him up quite well. This is perhaps a dangerous game to play, but one that doesn’t have a readily available solution. Checks and balances are there for a reason, but even those have weakened more and more in recent years. I hope that whomever ends up in office will live up to the dignity of the position. I hope whatever ends up happening with congress, that they will realize that the President is actually their enemy as much as he’s their ally. I hope that the justices appointed will adhere to the constitution as well as to justice itself. I will pray for all of them.

For me, I believe I will always lean conservative. I’m ok with change, but only when it’s actually based on serious discussion, debate, research, and has a healthy dose of empathy to the other side’s concerns. Empathy seems fairly lacking in today’s environment. Liberalism just jumps too quickly for me. That said, conservatism gets frustrating sometimes. The Republican party missed its chance on so many issues. The libertarian side could have offered a non-governmental solution to same-sex marriage years ago, but the religious side prevented it. The Bush administration issued a tax reform study that came back with great analysis, but nothing was ever put in place from it. The compromise 2007 immigration reform bill had promise, but was not passed. I wish that conservatism would be just that…conservative. Hesitant, thoughtful, yet willing to move when needed. I just hope I don’t have to choose between Trump and Hillary, because I honestly don’t know which button I would push…

 

Cataplana…and a mojito for kicks

Plated cataplana
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I had the opportunity while in college to study abroad in Spain. It was an incredible trip for many reasons, but among them was the weekend we hopped on a bus and trekked to Lagos, Portugal. We stayed in a hotel right on the water, hiked along the coastline, and did some cliff climbing. It was there that I took some of my favorite photos of all time, looking out from the southwest tip of Europe towards home.

Lagos Portugal cliff photo

While I was there, I tried cataplana, which is both a classic Portugese dish and the copper, spherical pot it’s cooked in. It was incredible, and I’ve hoped to recreate it for a long time. Tonight was just the night for it. The sauce on the cataplana I had in Portugal was pretty thick. Many of the recipes I found called for heavy cream, and are likely amazing, but I was hoping to go light for this one. I ended up going with a recipe from the Porto Novo restaurant at the Sheraton hotel in Porto, Portugal. The recipe actually came in the form of a video, so some of the ingredients amounts are estimates. The video can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/7544080. It’s a little lighter on both sauce and variety of seafood, but it just looked so good that I had to try it.

Shopping

Peppers and onions

  • 1 lb. monkfish filet
  • 1/2 – 1 lb clams
  • 3 bell peppers of various colors
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 cup white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Kosher salt

I snagged the monkfish, clams, and mint leaves at the local farmer’s market. These might be a little harder to find, but you can probably replace the monkfish with any mild white fish.

Cooking

Soak the clams in some water 20 minutes prior to cooking. Preheat the oven as high as it’ll go. Mine went to 500.

 

IMG_2245Cut up all the ingredients. Chop the garlic, chop the parsley and mint, and thinly slice the onion and bell peppers. Combine all into a cataplana pan or otherwise oven-safe pan with a tight lid, making layers of garlic and onions, peppers & bay leaf, herbs, monkfish & clams, herbs, peppers, and onions/garlic. Add the salt/pepper to the fish before adding the latter layers. Add the olive oil and wine to the top. You may use more or less than I did…I really have no idea how much I ended up using.

Layers of food

Final look before oven

Place the pan in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. If it’s a catplana pan, you can likely get away with 15 minutes due to how tightly it’s sealed. If you have a meat thermometer, shoot for the fish getting to 140 degrees.

Drinking

Mojito

You’ve got nothing to do for a while and probably some left over mint leaves, so why not make a mojito while you wait?

I used this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/147363/the-real-mojito/.

This is scary good. It tastes like limeade. You get absolutely no alcohol flavor. Storing this one under “make again…but be careful.”

Eating

After cooking

The cataplana was very good, though the flavors didn’t intermingle quite as well as I would have liked them to. I may have used too much wine and/or oil, but I think it was likely because I forgot the salt and pepper until the end and added them on top so they didn’t get into the wine sauce. It also probably didn’t help that I didn’t cook it in the traditional hermetically-sealed cataplana dish so all that steam could seep around or that I only used half a pound of clams. However, all that said, it was still easily in the top 15 things I’ve cooked, and it was very pretty. The clams were by far the best part. I’d make it again, perhaps tweaking the wine and oil amounts, seasoning in the middle, and adding more clams.