Tag Archives: seafood

Clams & chorizo

1 Jun

These clams were a big hit the other night. They were fresh and tender and super sweet, pretty much the perfect appetizer for four people to share.

If you’re like me, though, a dish like this is really about only one thing: dunking bread in the broth. So make certain to have plenty of the crusty stuff on hand should you decide to give this a go.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Saute a large onion, 6 garlic cloves, two celery stalks and some hot pepper in olive oil until softened. I used a very large black iron pan here, but any pan that’s oven-safe will do.

Add around a quarter pound of diced chorizo. I used cooked Spanish chorizo here.

Add some fresh herbs (thyme and marjoram here), freshly ground black pepper and a quart of stock. I used some of the homemade shrimp stock I had in the freezer but any light stock will be fine. Turn the heat up to high.

Let the stock reduce by around half.

While the stock is reducing clean your clams thoroughly to get rid of any sand or grit. I used three dozen medium-sized clams here.

Add the clams to the pan and place into the oven uncovered. I used the outdoor wood oven this time, as it was fired up to cook several other things that evening.

As soon as all the clams have opened, which shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, you’re ready to go. Either set the hot pan out where people can scoop out their clams or go the safer route and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Either way the clams will wind up in a few individual bowls like this one. We were four people on this night and so we each got eight clams as an appetizer.

Oh yeah, there wasn’t any bread leftover either.

Fresh Maine sea urchin

22 Mar

It isn’t every day you come across these babies, not even here in Maine. Virtually all sea urchins that are harvested in these waters get processed on their way to the sushi bar. Which is fine, because I do love me some uni. But I also enjoy wrestling with nature’s creatures from time to time, and so there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to mess with these. Four of them, actually.

In case you’re interested, this is what a Maine sea urchin looks like from what I suppose you might call “the business end.” The small circular area in the center is its mouth, actually.

I’m not smart enough to figure out a way to cut open and photograph a sea urchin at the same time, and so you’ll have to settle for this after shot.

Big surprise, I decided to go with a pasta dish. (I know, who’da thunk?) That’s a big hunk of butter, some olive oil, a shallot and a garlic clove.

Once the shallots and garlic softened, I turned off the heat, waited a couple minutes, and then added the urchin (a little lemon zest and/or fresh parsley are recommended at this point too).

The idea here is to not cook the urchin, but rather let the pasta warm it. And so once the spaghetti was cooked I added it and some of the pasta water to the pan and very gently mixed things together.

Definitely one of the richest things I’ve eaten in quite a while. Which is saying something because, well, you see how I eat. Delicious, though; silky and smooth in a way that few things are.

Go ahead, live a little!

Aunt Rita’s fried shrimp

19 Oct

I’m man enough to admit that I’ve got nothing on this woman.

Just look at her. Eightysomething and still strong enough to carry a load like me.

I can only hope that the family genes are as reliably hearty when or if I get to that age.

You may know Aunt Rita from the occasional reports that I post here from the Christmas Eve dinner table. We celebrate the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes in our family, and the extravagant, multi-course, multi-hour meal is always expertly prepared by Rita, Aunt Anna and Cousin Joanie.

Over the years I have prepared most all of the various holiday recipes in my own home, but never Rita’s shrimp. And so when charged with preparing an hors d’oeuvre the other evening I figured why not give it a shot.

These are the original. The photo was taken at the Christmas Eve dinner table. Which year I’m not sure, but it hardly matters. Rita’s shrimp always look and taste exactly the same, which is to say perfect! In fact, only two dishes on the holiday table NEVER have leftovers: Anna’s Baked Clams and Rita’s Shrimp.

Considering how extraordinary my aunt’s shrimp are, I was more than a little surprised to finally discover her secret to preparing them. Shocked is more like it.

“I don’t need to look it up,” Rita said when I called to ask for her recipe the other day. “It’s only three ingredients. And I couldn’t tell you how much to use of each.”

It’s not the lack of directions — for a recipe that the woman has prepared every Christmas Eve for decades — that shocked me. The cooks in my family often prepare dishes by feel, even those passed down through generations. I’m the same way. I’ll write down ingredients and proportions when I know I want to share the recipe on this blog, but even that isn’t an exact science around here. Sorry.

What threw me about Rita’s shrimp recipe were the ingredients themselves. They just seemed so ordinary.

“I use Bisquick, beer and breadcrumbs, that’s it,” my aunt told me. “As for the proportions, what can I say, honey? You’re on your own.”

So this is two cups of Bisquick and a cup of beer. I arrived at these proportions by following the package directions for making pancakes, just not with the egg. (In hindsight, and having consulted with Rita’s daughter Cousin Joanie, I would suggest going a little heavier on the dry mix than I did here, and making the batter a bit thicker.)

A whisk does a much better job than a fork and so I always go with that.

Rita’s shrimp are always on the large size and so go with the biggest shrimp you can get your hands on. Dip them in the batter…

… then dredge in breadcrumbs (on both sides of course).

Line the coated shrimp on a wax paper-lined tray and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. (Both Rita and Joanie insist that this step is critical.)

Then fry very quickly in hot olive oil. The trick here is to not overcook the shrimp. I’ve never had one of my aunt’s shrimp that were hard or tough, in other words overcooked. Remember, shrimp cook extremely quickly. I doubt these cooked for more than a minute or two.

Line a plate with paper towels and allow the cooked shrimp to shed some of the frying oil. At this stage I also sprinkled the hot, just-fried shrimp with Kosher salt.

This step is a big variation, and so let me explain. Every time I eat Rita’s fried shrimp they’re on a dinner plate that includes Aunt Anna’s Fish Salad, a traditional Christmas Eve dish. The thing about having both the shrimp and the salad together on the same plate is that I get to dip Rita’s plain fried shrimp into the seasoned oils and garlicky juices of Anna’s fish salad. Since my shrimp were being served alone I thought a little extra flavor was needed, and so I caramelized some garlic (in olive oil and with a few anchovy filets).

After plating the shrimp I drizzled the garlic and anchovy over them, a little freshly chopped hot pepper, and some chopped parsley.

These shrimp were delicious, but they weren’t my aunt’s. For those you’ll need to find your way to Queens the night of December 24th.

I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

The Seafood Recipe Index

26 Jan
Below are all of the seafood recipes that appear on this blog. Just click on a link and you’ll be taken to the recipe you’re after. Every time a new seafood recipe is added to the blog it will be added to this list, which appears at the right of the homepage under “Search Seafood Recipes.”

Aunt Anna’s baked clams

Aunt Rita’s fried shrimp

Gramercy Tavern baked clams

Shrimp & sausage scampi

Shrimp with prosciutto & hominy

Mussels & sausage

Stuffed squid

Salt-baked whole fish

Fish poached in olive oil

Oil-cured mackerel

Octopus salad

Octopus and chickpea soup

Salt cod with cauliflower & potatoes

Anna’s baccala & potatoes

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Goombah Joe’s white clam sauce

Crab sauce

Best swordfish recipe

Bluefish alla Abatemarco

Mussels & sausage

22 Jan

Why eat light when you don’t have to, am I right?

Here’s my thinking. I never ate a bowl of mussels steamed in garlic and white wine without doing serious damage to a good loaf of bread for sopping up the juices. This, of course, substantially ups the calorie count of the dish, but then it also vastly improves the pleasure that I derive from it. 

Being an all-or-nothing kind of guy, I figure what’s the harm in collecting a few more energy units. In the form of a couple of sausages.

Okay, so it’s more than just a couple of extra calories. What are you, my doctor?

If you are a fan of the classic steamed mussels in garlic and white wine, and don’t mind the occasional indulgence, I highly recommend putting this “Surf & Turf” on your to-cook list. Just don’t forget the bread.


3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Hot pepper to taste (optional)
1 pound sweet Italian sausage meat (removed from the casing)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pounds fresh mussels
Fresh parsley

Clean the mussels by scrubbing the shells and rinsing under cold water. Set aside.

In a pot or pan large enough to hold the mussels, saute the garlic (and hot pepper if using) in the olive oil until garlic is soft but not brown.

Add the sausage meat and cook until all sign of rawness is gone.

Add the stock and wine and bring to a boil.

Add the mussels and cover to allow steam to build up.

When the mussels are open (this should only take around 5 minutes; discard mussels that do not open) transfer to bowls, top with fresh parsley and serve.

Bluefish alla Abatemarco

24 Oct

If you walk the beaches of Montauk, Long Island, when the blues or the stripers run, there is an excellent chance that you will cross tire paths with my friend Fred. His is the beige truck with an untold number of rods attached to it, and the big white Igloo with a “Meatball” sticker strapped to its grill. His son Dan might also be in evidence, or his brother Frank and his daughter Gina.

The Abatemarcos are a loving, tightly knit family of very serious fishermen.

This is where they fish. And, for a while last weekend, so did I.

Fred and his wife Natalie (the only Abatemarco I have not witnessed carrying a fishing rod) go through a lot of what Fred calls “protein.” And so they are always scouting new ways to prepare it. After a three-hour round of fishing on Saturday my associate went about concocting a new preparation for our hosts, a lovely “Bluefish Scancanesca” (don’t ask) that pleased 10 very hungry people at dinner.

And so when four fresh pieces of blue got tossed into my cooler for the ride home on Monday morning I took that to mean it was my turn to come up with something that our gracious hosts and their family might enjoy.

They’d better. Because it’s got their name on it.

Season both sides of the bluefish (or most any other fish you like) with salt and pepper and marinate in olive oil for around half an hour.

In a baking dish covered in olive oil mix together potatoes, red onion, lots of whole garlic cloves and some cherry tomatoes, and season with salt, pepper, fresh rosemary and oregano. Place in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F and cook for around 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Place the fish atop the cooked vegetables and return to the oven.

In about 15 minutes you’ll be good to go.

And wishing that Fred and his Igloo were within reach.

Bluefish alla Abatemarco

4 6 oz. pieces of bluefish
Extra virgin olive oil
2 baking potatoes, cut into one-inch cubes
1 red onion, sliced
6-8 garlic cloves, lightly smashed but left whole
1 dozen whole cherry tomatoes
Fresh rosemary and oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Place the bluefish in a dish or bowl and liberally pour olive oil over it. Salt and pepper the fish and allow to rest in the oil for 30 minutes.
Cover the surface of a baking dish with olive oil, add the other ingredients, and place into the oven uncovered. Stir occasionally.
When the potatoes are fork tender (around 45 minutes) place the bluefish pieces on top of the vegetables and return to the oven for around 15 minutes.

Haddock alla puttanesca

25 Jun

Whenever I need a good dose of old school Italian-style seafood I go to see John Conte. His restaurant, Conte’s 1894, is a couple hours away from my home, true, but I make the trip gladly and as frequently as I am able. (Click this link and you’ll see why I love his place so much.)

When I cannot make the trip but still have a craving I do what any self-respecting meatball would do: Imitate the master as best I can.

The haddock fillets that you see here were initially sentenced to a bleak end in a diet-friendly, excruciatingly boring oven broil. Then I stepped in and decreed (unilaterally and without debate) that we would offer the poor things the respect that they deserve and give them “The Full Conte.” Which is to say pan cook them quickly in a nice red sauce and serve them over pasta. The way John would.

I decided on a puttanesca sauce for a couple of reasons. One, the flavor intensity is a nice contrast to the mild fish; and two, it’s an easy sauce to make, half hour tops. (Hell, it took longer than that to wrest control of the evening’s menu from the “responsible” adult in attendance.)

Saute some garlic, hot pepper and anchovy in extra virgin olive oil to get started.

Add in a can of crushed tomatoes, some Kalamata olives and capers.

Let it simmer, under medium heat, for maybe 15 minutes.

Lay the haddock fillets right on top of the sauce and turn up the heat.

Resist the urge to move around or turn over the fillets. Just allow the haddock to cook from the bottom up, while spooning some of the hot sauce on the topside.

Minutes later and you’ve got yourself a fine specimen of old school pan-cooked seafood.

It won’t put Conte’s out of business, but why in hell would I want to do that? Like I said, I don’t mind the drive.

Haddock alla Puttanesca

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 dried hot pepper, crushed
4 anchovy fillets

2 Tbsp capers, rinsed
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 lb. haddock fillet
1/2 lb. cooked spaghetti

In a saucepan saute the olive oil, garlic and hot pepper for around two minutes, then add the anchovies and stir until the fillets are broken up.
Add the tomatoes, olives, capers and salt, stir and allow to simmer at medium heat for about 15 minutes.
Add the haddock fillet to the saucepan and turn the heat up to high. As the haddock is cooking spoon the hot sauce over the fillet so that it becomes covered in sauce. Cook for around 8 minutes or until the haddock is done.
Serve over the spaghetti, or another pasta of your choosing.

Best. Swordfish. Ever.

22 May

I don’t do all the cooking around here, you know.

Sometimes I get to sit back, blurt out a request, and hope like hell that somebody with better cooking skills than me is within earshot.

This really swell bunch of Sicilian oregano (gotten on a visit to D. Coluccio & Sons) is what started things off just the other day.

Then, moments later, while at Frank & Sal, these beautiful fresh bay leaves sealed the deal for sure.

I have sat back and watched this wonderful Sicilian-style swordfish recipe being expertly prepared many, many times. Right here in my own home.

It’s my favorite way to eat sword.

And not because I get the night off when it’s on the menu.

Sicilian-style swordfish
Adapted from “La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio
Prepared (always) by my most valued associate

Serves 4-6

1/4 cup olive oil
2 swordfish steaks, skin on, cut at least 1-inch thick and up to 2 inches thick
12 bay leaves, preferably fresh
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Dried fine bread crumbs, mixed with 1 tablespoon crumbled dried oregano

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Brush the bottom of a large, shallow baking dish with olive oil. Place the bay leaves in the bottom of the dish and lay the swordfish on top, tucking the bay leaves under the fish.
Pierce the fish deeply with the tines of a fork, making about 10 evenly spaced incisions in each steak. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then the bread crumbs. Drizzle again with olive oil.
Roast for 15-25 minutes, depending upon the thickness, until done. Remove, let rest for 10 minutes, and serve.

Salt-baked whole fish

24 Oct
There are fishes buried under there. Three of them. Branzino, if you must know, a type of bass that came from the Mediterranean Sea.
They are encased in a mountain range-like mass of kosher salt. More important, I am pretty certain that these fish are the moistest that I have eaten.
They were baked for about 20 minutes in this wood-burning oven, but any oven will do. The temperature only needs to be in the 400 F range. 
The full recipe is below, but this is what you will see after cracking open the salt crust once the fish is cooked.
And if you enlarge this pic you will see how moist the flesh turned out to be.
I had always meant to try this cooking method but was somehow convinced that it would be too big a production. It wasn’t, I swear. The only downside, if you want to call it that, is the large amount of salt you’ll go through, which does add to the dish’s cost.
Other than that, it’s a major cool method of preparing a super moist fish. Dramatic, too, if you’re out to show off for your friends. (Speaking of friends: Yes, Fred, this might work with one of those big-ass stripers you show off on FishTales from time to time. I’d just cook it longer. And maybe buy more salt. And a giant-sized pan.)
Salt-baked whole fish
2 whole 1 lb. fish, cleaned and gutted (branzino is what I used)
4-6 lemon slices, cut crosswise
4 rosemary sprigs
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 or more 3-lb. boxes of kosher salt
Cold water as needed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Pour a 1/2-inch layer of the kosher salt onto a baking sheet.
Set both of the fish on top of the salt and stuff each one with the lemon, rosemary and parsley.
In a bowl, pour about a box of the salt, then mix in a little cold water, enough to moisten the salt just enough to hold it together. Don’t make it wet; the idea here is that you’ll be molding the mix around the fish to create a thick crust.
Pile the salt onto the fish and form a mold around them. If the salt mix isn’t enough to cover the fish completely make some more mix with the leftover salt.
After the fish are properly coated place them in the oven for 20 minutes.
Break open the salt crust, remove the fish and serve whole or filleted, whichever you prefer. You could also drizzle some olive oil or further season the flesh if you like. I didn’t. The branzino were plenty flavorful just as they were.

How to cure a smelly fish

25 Jan
Sometimes the best things just sneak up on you. Or, they could swim.
Take these mackerel. Furthest thing from my mind when I walked into the fish store the other day. Absolutely the best thing I came out with.
A lot of people don’t like the mackerel. “Too oily,” I have heard them complain. “Too fishy.”
Imagine that. A fish that tastes like a fish!
As my consigliere (of undisclosed ethnic origin) Gloede would say, Ach du Lieber!
Calm down, Glodes, pour yourself another Strega. I got this one.
See, I happen to like a fish that tastes like its oily, smelly self, and am specifically fond of the mackerel (saba at the sushi bar; possibly my fave, but don’t tell that to the uni).
If you are a fan of the fish (and the olive oil and the garlic), then you will want to try this recipe for “oil-cured” mackerel. It is shockingly easy to prepare (trust me on this), and will keep in the fridge for awhile.
Best of all, it will be of no interest whatsoever to people who want their sea creatures to taste like land-based proteins that reside in coops or, if they are lucky (the protein sources, I mean), roam “free” in “ranges.” Which will mean more of the tasty fishes for you.
Though not, evidently, for me. I put these mackerel out as an hors d’oeuvres the other night, along with a whole bunch of other cool stuff, and they were the very first thing to disappear. They went so fast, in fact, that all I got to do was dip a couple hunks of bread into the olive oil where the fish had once been swimming. Which is not such a bad thing, I’ll admit, but still…
Just my luck to be running with a bunch of smelly fish eaters.
I need some new friends.

Oil-cured mackerel
Recipe from La Cucina Italiana
1 medium onion, quartered
1 medium carrot, halved widthwise
1 celery stalk, halved widthwise
5 sprigs fresh marjoram
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 pounds whole mackerel, heads and tails removed (I left them on)
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (I may have upped this a bit; okay, I did)
3-4 cups extra-virgin olive oil (I used less)
Cover onion, carrot, celery, marjoram, rosemary and bay leaf with cold water by 3 inches in a 4- to 5-quart pot; add wine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add mackerel, return stock to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and let mackerel cool to room temperature in stock.
Transfer mackerel to a cutting board; remove and discard skin and bones. Transfer fish to a bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and garlic, then add oil to cover by 1/2 inch. Chill in refrigerator, covered, for at least 12 hours and up to 10 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.