Well folks, Jason’s favorite weekend of the year has officially come to a close.
You might think that it was an obvious date like his birthday or the Super Bowl, but you would be wrong. Because Jason’s most anticipated activity each year is his annual ice fishing trip. Yep, this Texan boy loves to ice fish.
It all began last year when he and a few of his buddies decided to go ice fishing, an activity none of them had ever attempted. What occurred while they were there—between the drilling of the ice, drinking of the beer, and listening of the Dresden Files audiobooks—was nothing short of monumentally life changing [or so all of us wives were told].
So when this year’s annual trip started to take shape, we significant others basically invited ourselves along for the experience. 11 of us total signed up to go, and outside of the founding three fishermen, I don’t think any of us knew what the weekend would entail. All we knew was that Jason was the ringleader of fun, and we were content to follow him along for the ride.
Jason was so excited about the weekend’s pending arrival that he offered to take on every last detail—the rental of the equipment, the securing of the cabin, the packing checklist for the group, and, last but certainly not least, the purchasing and prepping of the food.
I questioned Jason many times about his decision to shoulder so much responsibility for 11 people, and all I could distill from his responses was that he was just eager for everyone to enjoy it as much as he does. So one monumental Costco run, three last-minute grocery store runs, and a week of equipment packing and food prep later, we were ready for our weekend in the mountains.
We’re not really sure how best to sum up the entire experience, because it was so much more fun and memorable than any of us thought possible. Our cabin was a cozy, albeit noisy, home base where a series of wooden bunk beds and central “mess” table made it feel as if we were returning to the summer camps of our youth. And while we didn’t have any running water or centralized heat, the cabin was perched on the shore of North Michigan Reservoir in the middle of State Forest State Park’s sweeping tree-covered peaks and trails, a view that none of us could really quite grasp in its beauty.
Then there was the actual act of ice fishing: stepping out onto the frozen lake for the first time was an at once electrifying and terrifying moment. But with the snowmobiles riding all around and a two-foot layer of ice between the water and us, we soon found there was nothing to fear. In fact, we found that there was everything to delight in: the warmth of the shanty sheltering us from the wind, dogs romping around excitedly in the snow, the thrill of yelling “FISH ON!” as soon as we landed a trout, the joyful power of drilling the auger through the ice, and the oncoming snowfall that lent itself to all sorts of snowball fights, snowshoeing treks, and snowmen building.
We found ourselves in a magical winter wonderland, where each day we awoke to warm coffee and breakfast, soaked in the quietly still yet inherently social act of ice fishing, and eventually retreated back to the comfort of the cabin for dinners around the table and riotous bouts of laughter from multiple games of Telephone Pictionary and Celebrity. [Special shout out to “fish jizz”, “colonial cannibalism”, and “George Strait” for being the winners of the weekend.]
It’s rare for weekends such as this to have anything remotely to do with food. We remember the cookies baked and the out-of-character Cheez-It binges, but we hardly ever recall the main meals except that we probably had to bring an ingredient or two to create them. This is where an ice fishing weekend helmed by Jason differs: this weekend was very much about the food.
Every morning, we were served healthy portions of breakfast tacos, replete with fire roasted green chilis and homemade refried beans. In the afternoons, he brought us freshly prepared turkey and ham sandwiches to keep us nourished as we waited for the fish to bite. And in the evenings, he cleaned and pan fried the fish to perfection along with tons of grilled veggies and rosemary garlic roasted potatoes, all to ensure we felt like kings.
Jason saved the best meal for last: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. It sounds like an indulgent decision for a weekend in the land of no-cell-reception and no-running-water, but he was intent on having our main meal together be an easy yet warm remedy for a full day on the ice. And that it was. Served alongside heaps of homemade “Jason bread”, plates of olive oil and balsamic dipping sauce, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, this soup is one that I am sure we will recreate again and again, whether in the mountains or at home.
Plus, the fact that nearly everything was pre-chopped, pre-prepped, or pre-frozen meant that it only took about 30 minutes to make—exactly the ease you crave after a long day in the elements.
So as a memento of our unforgettable ice fishing weekend, we are thrilled to share the recipe, beginning first with the egg noodles.
Homemade Egg Noodles
[Recipe was quadrupled and made several days in advance]
- 2 c. unbleached AP flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2 eggs, whisked
- 1/2 c. milk
- Don your armor 🙂
- Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to combine.
- Add in the eggs and process until the mixture looks like cornmeal.
- Turn the machine on again and drizzle in the milk until you have a smooth, firm dough.
- Remove the dough from the processor and knead it briefly by hand to smooth it out. Wrap in plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 min. to an hour at room temperature.
- With a large rolling pin, roll the pasta out until it’s about 1/16″ thick. Cut long strips 1/2″ wide, then cut those strips into 3″ pieces. Dust with a touch of extra flour, break up, and let dry at room temperature.
- Put noodles in a plastic bag or airtight container and place in freezer until ready to use [up to 2 weeks].
Ice Fishing Chicken Noodle Soup
[Recipe was quadrupled for 11 people and still gave us enough leftovers to last us the week.]
- 1 whole roasted or rotisserie chicken, deboned
- 1 to 2 onions, peeled and diced
- 2 green bell peppers, deseeded and diced
- 4 carrots, peeled and diced
- 4 stalks celery, diced
- 4 bulbs garlic, peeled and sliced
- Olive oil
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- ¼ bunch of parsley, chopped
- Homemade egg noodles, pre-made and frozen [above]
- Salt and pepper to taste
Several days in advance:
- Make the egg noodles [above].
- Debone the chicken, shred, and place in the freezer in an airtight container or plastic bag until ready to use.
- Chop the onions, bell peppers, carrots, and celery a couple of days in advance. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or plastic bag until ready to use.
- Slice the garlic and store in the fridge separately from the rest of the veggies.
- Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over a burner or fire.
- Add the veggies and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.
- Add chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Add chicken and parsley and cook until chicken is thawed and the soup comes back to a boil, about 5 minutes.
- Add noodles and cook until noodles float to the top, about 2 minutes. [No need to thicken. The starch from the noodles will help.]
Season to taste and serve hot with warm bread, plenty of friends, a healthy dusting of snow, and some freshly caught fish.