I met Jack Idlas over a plate of delicious goodies in the office of a mutual friend. As we munched away, we got to talking about cooking and Jack told me he liked to spend time in the kitchen.
I’ve always been fascinated with guys who know their way around food, besides just eating it. While my own father and son are good cooks, most of the men I know, even today, are basically anti-cooking. This fact was not lost on me when I was raising my own son, and I vowed to myself that I would teach the kid, starting at an early age, how to cook up a decent meal for himself. I’ve never forgotten the time a friend came over while Jake was cracking eggs into a bowl as we prepared a recipe, and told me I was making a sissy out of the boy. A pretty ironic statement, I thought, coming from a guy I knew didn’t know how to boil water.
But, I’m glad to report, I wasn’t the only mother in the world who wasn’t afraid to show their male offspring how to use a stove and follow a recipe. Jack’s mom, Kathy, is a like-minded woman who taught all three of her sons how to cook. “When I was about 4 or 5 years old, my mom gave me a cookbook for a Christmas present one year,” said Jack. “My brothers and I would make recipes from this book all the time.”
Now, as an adult, Jack frequently finds himself cooking meals for himself and likes to spend time in the kitchen when he isn’t busy with his duties as a law clerk and court commissioner in Oneida and Vilas counties. He also mediates small claims cases and researches complex cases for the county judges. One job he finds enjoyable is marrying couples who come to the Oneida County courthouse to tie the knot. “It’s always fun to watch these people start a new life as a married couple,” he said. “I’m glad I get to be a part of that.”
Jack grew up in Grayslake, Ill., and then attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where he majored in political science. Then he attended UW-Madison and got a law degree in 2011. While Jack was raised in Illinois, he spent much of his summers at his family’s cottage in Minocqua. There he learned how to ski and even became a member of the Min-Aqua Bats Ski Team. He also likes to cross-country ski, play hockey and snowshoe, although he’s had to cut down on those activities after having knee surgery this past winter.
Even while Jack was attending college, he dreamed of living up here once he finished his education. “I knew from a young age that I would really like to live up here,” he said. “I like living in our cottage and have really enjoyed it.”
Jack’s job is on a year-to-year basis and he decided not to sign on for another law clerk stint. “What I would really like to do is become a prosecutor for a county,” he said. “Those jobs are hard to come by, though, especially in the Northwoods.”
While Jack’s last day at the Oneida County courthouse will be in mid-June, he’s looking forward to spending more time in the kitchen and perhaps even cooking up a meal when his family comes to visit. He likes to eat healthy and loves Mexican food, too. Jack shared some of his favorite recipes for this week and adds he is grateful his mom spent time with him in the kitchen as a youngster. “I’m really glad my mom took the time to teach us kids how to cook,” he said. “I’d be broke if I had to eat out all the time.”
Jack’s Baked Salmon
- 2 salmon filets
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
Put fish aside and mix the remaining ingredients. Place fish in mixture and refrigerate for at least an hour. Then wrap the filets in foil and bake at 375 degrees until fillets are flaky, about 35 minutes or so.
- 1-1/3 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
- 1 (4-oz.) can chopped green chilies, drained
- 1/2 cup chopped, seeded tomato
- 3 Tbs. sliced green onions
- 8 oz. pkg. frozen cooked salad shrimp, thawed
- 4 flour tortillas (10 inches)
- 1 Tbs. butter
Sprinkle the cheese, chilies, tomato, onions and shrimp over half of each tortilla; fold over. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook quesadillas in butter for 1-2 minutes on each side or until cheese is melted. Cut into wedges. Serve with salsa.