Baked Haddock

Haddock is a nice catch of a fish. I usually find them up by Long Island sound. They range in size from 12 inch to about 30 inch, and they yield some really nice fillets

Fresh haddock has a clean white flesh with a nice healthy sheen to it. Its freshness  can be determined by how well it holds together, as a fresh fillet one will be firm to the touch; also, fillets should be translucent, older fillets have a chalky dull hue to them.

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 3/4 cup frsh from the bakery bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano / Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 4 haddock fillets

Start with the pre-heating – preheat oven to 500 degrees F nice and hot. Then, in a small bowl, combine the milk and salt, the wet bowl. In another bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and thyme, the dry bowl. I usually use a shallow wide bowl for this… I’m just sayin’.

Dip the haddock fillets in the milk, then firmly, yet gently, press into the crumb mixture to coat. Place haddock fillets in a glass baking dish, and drizzle with melted butter. Bake on the top rack of the preheated oven until the fish flakes easily, about 15 minutes.

Remember these cook quickly so get most of your sides prepped ahead…

for more on Haddock and its sustainability: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/haddock.htm

Borsch 1.0

Mmmm Borsch

Beet soup, yeah… nothing beat a sale on beets like beet soup. Now, I know there are a thousand and one variations on borsch, so there is no one right way or wrong way to make it… there’s just your favorite way, then your second favorite way, and then everyone else’s way to make… and none of them tastes like your mother’s.

How did I make mine this weekend?

  • 3 beef neck bones
  • 6 quarts of water
  • Sea salt
  • Red wine
  • 2 pounds of beets grated
  • 1 medium onion diced fine
  • ½ pound kielbasa diced

In a nice stock pot, sprinkle a tablespoon or two, or three of seal salt into the water. Add the neck bones and getting that good and rolling in a boil to extract the flavor of the bones.

While this is heating up, you finely dice a medium onion, and grate two pounds of fresh beets.

At the stock pot, add a little red wine and reduce the heat to a light boil. Let this settle a minute or two then, taking your tongs, carefully remove the bones. Collect a spoonful of the stock liquid and sample. If this is good, reduce the heat to a simmer and add the onion and beets. Let this cook a few minutes, then dice up and toss in the kielbasa and let that simmer away, while you pop a loaf of fresh pumpernickel bread into the oven.

Warm the bread through and ladle out the soup, once all the bowls are served, get the bread an butter to the table and lets eat.

September Snappers

Well now that October’s here, the snapper season is pretty much over. But in late August through September they were running rather well. I like catching them out fishing by the inlet, but they are fairly common all over the bay. They’re a light ‘hit and run’ fish easy to catch and they will hit on just about anything you bait your hook with (including aluminum foil when you don’t have bait yet). They are a small fish from which you get small fillets so you’ll need a couple for a decent meal.

To make a small fish-fry:

  • Several small snapper fillets
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes

Throw all the ingredients into a zip-lock bag and toss to cover all the fillets.

Toss a pat of butter in a large non-stick skillet over a modest heat (little lower than medium, a little more than a simmer). Arrange the fillets in the skillet. Fry the fillets for just a couple of minutes until they turn a light golden brown. Flip the fillets and cook for just two or three minutes more.

I like to serve these on a large plate over a bed of rice, and a side of chopped fresh garden tomatoes in mustard vinaigrette.

A Spicy Mussels Marinara

Growing up by Moriches bay, I really enjoyed a lot of things that I found there. The bay itself had a rather large shallow side where you could wade out from shore a good distance and still be in chest high water. Out there not too far from shore it was easy to wade out and find mussels.  The black shinny mollusks just hanging around in the seaweed were waiting to be harvested… they were asking for it.

A spicy mussels marinara:

  • About three pounds of mussels scrubbed debearded  rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans of chopped plum tomatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 or 2 two small links of spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Oregano
  • Olive oil

I start by dicing the onion, chopping the garlic, and removing the casing from the sausage. I then brown the sausage in olive oil with the onion and garlic. Once this is browned I deglaze with the wine, bringing up all the fond and making the kitchen smell wonderful. Continue cooking this until the liquid reduces by half.

At this point, I like chopping up plum tomatoes straight from Dad’s garden if he has any. But, canned chopped tomatoes work just fine here, so toss them in, add oregano and salt ‘to taste’ and reduce the heat to medium.  Let this cook a little to reduce the liquid before adding the mussels . Don’t be too concerned, this mixture should be thick; the mussels will provide the main liquid for the final sauce.

Toss those cleaned mussels into the pan and cover. Let this cook for about ten minutes. Now, get a wide, shallow serving bowl of linguini, I did mention the linguini didn’t I, and transfer the mussels onto the bed of al dente linguini. Do not transfer mussels that are unopened. Toss the unopened one out… do not eat those… they are the evil ones.

So, you should have a nice serving bowl of steaming mussels covering a bed of pasta and a great sauce in the pan. I nestle the mussels into the pasta and I like pouring that sauce all over the pasta, but I’ve seen some people serving the sauce separately… those people aren’t from around these parts….

Dad’s Manhattan Clam Chowder

This is my Dad’s recipe for Manhattan clam chowder. He’s the one who taught me how to cook when I was a ‘lil’ fisherman’. When I was young I would go out and dig up clams out in Moriches Bay. They were rather plentiful back then, and there weren’t any restrictions on eating local clams. Or at least none that I recall, but what did I know, I was just one of those slacker teens.

Well, the clams that I returned with would be steamed and eaten that way, Dad used canned clam in his chowder.

  • 2 cans chopped clams
  • 2 28oz cans whole tomatoes, in puree
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 ribs of celery
  • 2 cups water
  • Olive oil
  • Bay leaf, thyme, garlic powder, salt

 

Dad would start with sautéing the onion in a little olive oil in a pan. In the soup pot he would put about two cups of water with the celery and carrots and cook them until al dente. Then he would put the onions, diced potatoes,  cut up tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, garlic powder, and salt ‘to taste’.  As he says you cook this until the potatoes are done. When they are ‘done’ add the two cans of clams with their liquid. Stir this all together, and turn the heat to simmer and in a minute or two serve it up. Perhaps with a side of freshly gotten clams steamed in their own juice.

The ingredients were pretty straight forward. I think he used local Long Island potatoes. If he was making a big batch, he would split the pot before the potatoes were done. At some point in the cooking, when the potatoes were ‘half-done’ as he said, he would transfer half of the chowder into a separate pot and add one can of clams to each pot. Then the ‘hot pot’ was returned to the low heat on the stove, and the second pot was allowed to cool down.

This second pot, once cooled to room temperature was ladled into plastic containers and put in the freezer. He did this because the potatoes, once fully cooked would turn to mush if you thawed out frozen finished chowder. Ice crystals formed in the frozen potatoes once thawed was the culprit that turned those potatoes mushy. So he figured that if you froze the potatoes in the chowder before they were cooked, they would be too dense for large crystals to form, and so they would not turn to mush when the chowder was thawed out.

But you do have to finish the cooking once you do thaw the chowder out.

New England Clam Chowdah

So, for my second blog, I will combine two of my favorite things, soup, and seafood. Yes, today’s thoughts are of ‘chowdah’… the New England style clam chowder popular in these parts. I always refer to the New England style as ‘chowdah’ and the Manhattan version as ‘chowder’.

This is really a fairly simple straight forward soup consisting of:

  • 1 can of chopped clams
  • 2 rashers of bacon rough diced
  • 2 large ribs of celery rough diced
  • 2 medium carrots rough diced
  • 3 red potatoes cubed
  • 1 pat of butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ½ pint of white mushrooms rough diced
  • Sea salt

I start by rendering two rasher of thick cut bacon diced, then, add the diced mushrooms to brown with medium heat on the stove. Then toss in the pat of butter, let that fully melt, then whisk in the flour to create a roux. I generally cook it to a blond roux because gentlemen prefer blonds (or so I’ve heard).

Once the roux has developed, I add a little of the water to deglaze the pot. Then I toss in the potatoes and add more water to just cover them. Let them get a little head start in the pot with a shake or two of sea salt, after a few minutes add the diced celery and carrots and bay leaves and enough water to cover them.

Once the veggies have softened a bit, and the broth becomes fragrant, reduce the heat to a simmer and add in the half and half, and the can of clams. Now, I prefer not to drain the can, I add the liquid straight into the pot with the clams. Let this blend in and meld with the rest of the ingredients.

When the chowdah is ready, I like to serve it in a wide, somewhat shallow bowl. But before ladling the soup into the bowl, I toast up a slice or two per bowl of any left over Italian bread. I put these toasts in the bowl, and then ladle the chowdah over them, but most folks are happy to stick with oyster crackers. This is also an opportunity to use up any left over biscuits that might be lying around, placing them in the bowl before the chowdah.

I have found that creating the roux at the start of the process goes a long way in creating the thick and creamy texture that I like at the end of the process. Now, there are some cooks who prefer to thicken their chowdahs not with roux, but by using more, starchier potatoes, like Idaho’s, and mashing some of them in the cooking process to release their additional starch, but I find those chowdah too lumpy and not silky.

Now, as to the bacon, I use the thick cut rashers which I find at Western Beef market. This chain of grocery stores features a large meat department in a separate room off the main store and you have to walk through one of those thick plastic strip-doors to get to it. It’s always nice and cold in there. Some more traditional recipes use salt pork instead of bacon as the fat of choice for the chowdah. This is a good use for salt pork, but I tend to prefer the ‘smokiness’ that the bacon brings.

The mushrooms are not a needed part of the chowdah, and I only add them to stretch the bacon and clam ingredients. I find that I can get the mushrooms on sale for about a dollar to a dollar fifty per pint. If you skip the mushroom, then add an extra rasher of bacon, and another can of clams.

Well, here’s hoping that you decided to bring a bit of the seashore in-doors the next time the weather turns chilly…

Hello world!

Hello World!

I suppose it’s as good a start as any, the ‘hello world’ initiation into blogging. I’ve started this blog to share my love of seafood, soups, and salads, as well as other epicurean items from around Long Island.

I believe in cooking seasonally… selecting fresh local ingredients readily available along the mid-Atlantic coast, and of course, my local food stores. Long Island has a wealth of food sources, from big-box stores and national chains, to our regional distributors, local groceries, and ethnic markets offering a diversity of international ingredients; Asian noodles, Indian spices, African produce, Central American legumes.

But Long Island has its own agricultural heritage, from our famous potatoes, ducks, and wines, to locally harvested shellfish, eels, crabs, and of course fish! From fresh-water fish like trout which is seeded into our lakes and ponds; to the south shore bays with their bounty of  weakfish, fluke, flounder, and snapper; to the wealth of catches from the north Atlantic of Bluefish, Cod, Mackerel, Mako, Salmon, Stripped Bass, Tuna…

I enjoy concocting soups when its cold outside, salads when its warm, and I love seafood all year long. As this blog progresses, I will  introduce you to the wonderful treasures of Long Island and the tastes of its bounty,  from my home to yours.