In Door County, Wisconsin, where we recently spent a few days, people have for hundreds of years been cooking a communal dinner called a Fish Boil. It’s a simple, delicious meal, just perfect for this low-key beach area about four hours from Madison.
First, in a huge cauldron of water (think witch’s brew), the cook puts in fresh whitefish, ideally caught that day in Lake Michigan. Then in goes a small bucket of salt (much of it cooks out), potatoes, and the optional batch of onions. A vat of kerosene is dumped on the whole thing, it boils over, and the dinner is ready. The fish is fabulous with a squeeze of fresh lemon or a dab of melted butter. The meal almost always ends with a piece of fresh cherry pie, as cherries are another mainstay of the area.
The Fish Boils originally fed huge groups of people after a hard day at sea, or at work. Now, the Fish Boil is a tradition among families in Door County–a true slice of historical American Cooking.