Archive for the ‘restaurants’ Category

My dog, Fellow, stood by me in the kitchen while I made this dish. I decided to name it after him. It makes a great Thanksgiving appetizer.

Since the first time I created this dish, I’ve made some improvements. First, a little history…

The original Oysters Rockefeller recipe is a closely guarded secret, created in 1899 at the famous New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s. Jules Alciatore, the son of founder Antoine Alciatore, developed the dish when they had a shortage of escargot, substituting locally available oysters. Antoine’s is still the only place in the world where you can be served the original Oysters Rockefeller recipe.

Search on line for Oysters Rockefeller, and you’ll find hundreds of recipes that claim to be the real thing. Most of them use spinach in the dish. The folks at Antoine’s claim there wasn’t any spinach in the original recipe.

My version, my Oysters Rock-a-Fellow, is a cheesier, gooier version than the original, but I think it’s one you will enjoy. I use larger, meatier oysters like Wellfleets from Cape Cod or local Rhode Island oysters, but use what you like. And, as I show you below, you can make the cheese portion of this dish the day before, saving yourself a lot of work.

 

24 oysters, washed to remove grit
2 cans beer (any extra beer you have is fine)
5 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves

Scrub the oysters under cold water to get them clean.

In a large pot, pour in the beer, peppercorns, salt, and garlic cloves, along with enough cold water to fill the pot about halfway. Turn the heat on high and bring the pot to a boil. This liquid will add flavor to the oysters and will further clean the outside of the shells.

The moment you reach a boil, turn the heat to medium and drop in 6 oysters, letting them bathe in the liquid for only 30 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl to cool. If the oysters open, they’ve been in there too long! You want them to stay closed. Do the same with the rest of the oysters, 6 at a time. Once all the oysters have had their 30 seconds, move the oyster bowl to a cutting board. Discard the liquid in the pot.

Pour Kosher salt onto a sheet pan lined with foil. Once the oysters have cooled enough for you to handle, carefully remove the top shell off each one, and lay them on the bed of salt in the sheet pan, trying not to spill any of the precious oyster liquor inside.

 

Salt holds the oysters in place.

 

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

 

 

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup low-fat milk
salt and pepper
3 cups (tightly packed) fresh arugula, finely chopped, about a 5 oz. container
6 oz. mild cheddar cheese (the white one), grated
6 oz. mozzarella, grated
Fine bread crumbs (Using GF breadcrumbs will keep this dish gluten-free)

 

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the milk, season with salt and pepper, and then add the arugula a little at a time, letting it wilt before adding more. Use all the arugula.

Once all the arugula is in the saucepan, sprinkle the cheese in a bit at a time, letting it melt, until you’ve used all the cheese: the cheddar and then the mozzarella.

Pour the gooey cheese mix into a lasagna pan, smooth it out with a spatula, and place it in the fridge to cool.

 

 

You can actually do this all the day before, because the cheese mix hardens and becomes easy to cut into cubes with a sharp knife.

 

 

Then simply place a cube of the cheese mix on each oyster…

 

 

…sprinkle a little bread crumb on top…

 

 

…and bake in the 425-degree oven for about 8–10 minutes until it’s golden and bubbly.

 

 

 

Whoever said that cheese and seafood don’t go together, never tried this!

 

I buy Udi’s gluten free frozen bread for my breadcrumbs. I take the loaf, toast the slices, then put them through the food processor. The taste is far better than buying pre-made GF breadcrumbs. Use regular breadcrumbs if you don’t need to worry about gluten.

If you’re really strict about gluten, you can use GF beer in the pot of water or simply eliminate the beer altogether.

 

I recently had a chance to sample some very tasty bourbons at Fluke Newport, one of my favorite restaurants here in Rhode Island. Not being a big football fan, there was no better way for me to spend a Sunday afternoon…sipping wonderful bourbon, cleansing my palate with a selection of delicious appetizers prepared by my friend, Chef Eddie Montalvo, and enjoying the company of dozens of other like-minded people.

 

 

I have a long history with Geremie and Jeff Callaghan, the owners of Fluke Newport. It was about 12 years ago when my wife and I accidentally found the restaurant one winter night, and Jeff, behind the bar, was more than happy to share his knowledge of rums. We sipped and sampled all night, and I knew we had found a restaurant we’d be coming back to for years.

 

The bar at Fluke Newport.

 

Over time, the demand for rum changed to bourbon, and Fluke Newport now serves about 45 different bourbon brands on any given day.

 

A personal favorite from the day’s tasting.

 

Our bourbon tasting focused on a total of seven bourbons, all from the Buffalo Trace distillery. Six were paired with appetizers and the seventh, one of my favorites, Blanton’s, was served as “dessert.”

 

Blanton’s on display.

 

Jeff and Geremie talked about having another bourbon tasting around the holidays. Can I make my reservation now?

 

We also got some cool Buffalo Trace swag!

 

 

 

 

I got my first restaurant job when I was 17, working at Pizza City East, just down the street from my childhood home in Plainview, NY. It wasn’t a great job, but I learned an awful lot about food preparation. It’s where I opened and tasted my first clam on the half shell. It’s where I had my first sip of espresso and cappuccino. And it’s where I learned a lot about how to make really good pizza. My buddy, Mel, and I worked the counter. Mel made the pies and I did the rest: sandwiches, espressos, clams, and eventually even cooked in the kitchen. We were 2 hard-working slobs in high school, but we bonded in a way that kept us friends to this very day, over 40 years later.

So you could say pizza was in my blood. For me, the true test of a great pie is a simple slice with only sauce and cheese. It’s not easy to get that right, despite how easy it may look.

And for me, there was no other pizza than New York style Neapolitan pizza, the classic round pie with thin crust. I have no doubt that it would be my choice for the classic question: “If you were stuck on a desert island, and you could only have 1 food, what would it be?”

But then I discovered Sicilian pizza: it was thicker, square, and was baked on a large sheet pan. The crust was crisp on the bottom, and light and airy inside. I thought: OK, I have room for 2 favorite pizzas. And then, believe it or not, I went to Uno’s…(Pizzeria Uno back in the day)…and I had my first pan pizza. It was thick like Sicilian, but somehow different, and heavier on the sauce. But absolutely delicious. I finally settled on 3 favorite pizzas.

Despite having 3 favorite styles of pizza, I always cooked a Neapolitan pie when I made pizza at home. Perhaps it was a bit easier, or perhaps I just never felt I really made the perfect pizza, and I needed to keep trying. In either case, it meant that after 40 years of making my own pizza, I finally made a pan pizza for the first time just last week. And it was good…really good.

 

The dough is stretched out and ready to accept whatever tasty toppings you like!

 

The dough…

The key ingredient is 00 flour, and it can be found in specialty stores, or online. Using ready-made store-bought dough saves a lot of work, and it’s great, too. Ratios for my dough recipe depend on the humidity in my kitchen on any given day, but my basic pizza dough recipe is as follows:

4–5 cups 00 flour
1 cup tepid water
1 tablespoon salt
1 packet Italian pizza yeast or regular dry yeast
a squirt of extra virgin olive oil

I mix all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, then slowly add the water as it mixes. After the ingredients are well mixed, and the dough pulls from the side of the bowl, I remove it to a floured board, where I knead the dough by hand for another 5 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic, shaping it into a ball. I rub a little olive oil over the ball of dough, place it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 2 hours, punching it down after that. I roll it back into a ball, cover it, and let it rise another 2 hours again.

Let’s talk pans. For me, nothing beats a real heavy duty cast iron pan for this recipe…and I’ve got a large one. I brush olive oil generously all over the inside of the pan–even on the sides–and then place the dough in the center. Slowly, using my fingertips, I spread and flatten the dough out from the center evenly all the way around. I keep spreading and stretching until the dough just starts to come up the sides of the pan. I cover the pan with a clean towel, and turn the oven on to 450 degrees.

Leaving the pan on the stove top while the oven pre-heats will help the dough rise again. Meanwhile, I get my ingredients ready for my pizza.

 

Crumbled sausage on top of the pizza.

 

White pizza…

 

3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
mozzarella
Parmigiano Reggiano
Provolone cheese
dried oregano
crumbled Italian sweet sausage

 

The first time I made a pan pizza, my daughter requested a white pizza. I minced a bunch of garlic and lightly sautéed it in olive oil, being sure not to burn it. I set that aside.

I grated mozzarella cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano, setting them aside. I also use sliced provolone.

And this time, my daughter asked for sausage on the pizza, so I got a few mild Italian sausages, cut open the casings, and crumbled the meat in a bowl, setting it aside.

The oven should be pre-heated in about a half-hour, so it was time to make the pizza. I removed the towel covering the pizza, and stretched the dough out a bit more. Using a spoon, I spread the garlic and oil mixture evenly on the dough. I layed down 5 or 6 slices of provolone. I then sprinkled the Parmigiano Reggiano on top, followed by the mozzarella. I crumbled the sausage meat over half the pie (I like my side plain), and then I finally gave the pizza a sprinkling of oregano.

The pizza went into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. I kept an eye on it to make sure it didn’t burn.

My first pan pizza: half sausage white pizza.

 

My second pan pizza was a classic tomato sauce recipe…

I use canned crushed tomatoes for my tomato sauce pizza.

 

Tomato sauce pizza

1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
mozzarella
peperoni, sliced thin
dried oregano

 

I like my tomato sauce to be a little chunky for my pan pizza, so I bought a can of crushed tomatoes. I placed about a cup of the crushed tomatoes in a bowl and added a teaspoon of sugar, mixing it well. This cuts the acidity of the tomatoes, and makes the pizza even better! I spooned out the tomatoes onto the the pizza dough. I sprinkled the mozzarella over the sauce. I layed slices of pepperoni on half the pizza (like I said, I like my side plain!), and I gave it a sprinkling of oregano.

 

Don’t skimp on the peperoni!

 

The final product!

 

Delicious! Crispy crust on the outside, soft on the inside.

 

 

I’ve had a lot of pizza in my life. But truly great pizza? I can probably count that one 1 hand: Sicilian at Ben’s in the Village…Pizza Montanara at Pizzarte on W 55th…a coal-fired oven-baked clam pizza at Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, CT…Sicilian at La Piazza in my hometown of Plainview, NY…and now…my house!

 

Growing up in New York, we just called them chili dogs. But when I moved to New England, they called them Coney Island dogs. Here in Rhode Island, they’re hot weiners. In fact, the Olneyville NY System restaurant has made it to “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri, “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern, and even won the 2014 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award.

A weiner. All that. Because it is all that.

Nothing beats going to the Olneyville NY System in lovely Olneyville, RI. But if you’re not fond of having your dogs lined all the way up the cook’s hairy arm…or if you’d rather just enjoy them at home…it’s really not that tough to do. You may not have the atmosphere that only a 70-year tradition can bring, but it’ll be pretty damn tasty nonetheless.

Of course, you can buy a packet of their special spices, but that’s cheating, isn’t it?

 

My chili sauce adds a few ingredients that you won’t find elsewhere. That’s OK. Yours should, too.

1 lb. ground beef (I use grass-fed beef, no leaner than 80/20)
2 strips bacon, finely chopped
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
8 hot dogs
8 hot dog buns
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
chopped Vidalia onion (optional)
celery salt (optional)

I like to put the dog under the broiler to melt the cheese before I use the other toppings.

 

Leave the bacon grease left over from frying the bacon in the pan. Turn up the heat, add the ground beef and cook it all the way through, crumbling it up as much as you can. Add the chopped bacon to the pan and mix well.

In a large saucepan, pour in the can of tomatoes and chop them up with a spatula. Add the Worcestershire, onion flakes, garlic, mustard, black pepper, and chile powder. Mix well. Let it come to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the cooked beef and bacon to the sauce. Keep chopping and breaking down the tomatoes every time you stir the sauce. (A potato masher works well for this, too.)

Cover the pot and let it simmer for at least an hour, stirring often.

What kind of hot dogs you should use for this is a matter of personal preference. The folks at Olneyville use their own special brand of all-beef dog. I love the pork hot dogs I get when I go home to Long Island and stop by the Forest Pork Store in Huntington, NY. It’s yet another amazing food store where my Mom would always go to buy cold cuts, especially liverwurst, and their delicious hot dogs and cocktail franks. They’ve been in that location for a long time, and it’s a must-stop when I go home to visit my Mom.

Ultimately, you should pick the hot dog you like! Being a native New Yorker, if I don’t have any of the Forest Pork Store dogs in my freezer, I go to the supermarket and buy the foot-long dogs from Nathan’s. Classic!

Boil or steam the dogs, place them on the buns (On your arm or not is up to you! Don’t blame me for any third-degree burns!) And pour some of the chile sauce on top. Sprinkle some of the cheddar cheese on top, and put the sandwich under the broiler to melt the cheese.

Then add the chopped Vidalias, and celery salt (optional, but I use ’em both!)

 

 

My 12-year-old daughter’s at the age where she’s fascinated by the world of music. Working in radio, I’m lucky that I’m able to offer her some great experiences. Thanks to my boss, Rob, the man with all the connections, she got to meet her favorite band, AJR. She went backstage and met the guys from Imagine Dragons. She received a hand-written birthday greeting from Brendan Urie of Panic! at the Disco.

I saw my first concert at the age of 17. It was Three Dog Night and T.Rex at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. My daughter has already seen more concerts than I did in my teens.

As touristy as they are (and as mediocre as the food is), Hard Rock Cafes and their walls full of pictures, guitars, photos and other memorabilia, offer a glimpse into the world of music that fascinates my daughter. Once she visited her first Hard Rock, the world’s largest at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, she was hooked. If we were traveling anywhere near a Hard Rock Cafe, we had to go.

The Hard Rock at Universal was followed by New York City, Washington DC, the Cayman Islands, Paris, and Reykjavik. Yet we never made to the one in Boston, closest to our home in Rhode Island. It was time to go.

Hard Rock Cafe, Boston.

 

Our stay in Boston began with lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, near Fanuel Hall. Nothing particularly amazing about the venue, but we could now scratch it off the list.

I clearly don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

 

Because our main point of going to Boston was to visit the New England Aquarium, I chose to get a room at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, located right on the water and literally a few steps from the aquarium. The area around Long Wharf includes many restaurant and shopping choices.

The Marriott Long Wharf is a huge hotel, and I was surprised at just how clean the property was, despite the vast numbers of people who were moving through the lobby and hallways. Our room was clean and technologically up-to-date: everything you’d want in a hotel room. Beds were comfortable, towels were plentiful.

The only complaint I had about our hotel is one that I have with most of the Marriotts and Westins that I’ve been to recently. They’ve decided to make the move away from old-fashioned room service with carts, real plates and silverware, and decent food. Now they all offer what amounts to take-out service. You get a bag full of cardboard boxes that contain your meals….paper napkins…plastic utensils…and crappy food. I highly doubt all of this gets recycled. So in a world where we’re supposed to be thinking about how not to overload our landfills, these guys came up with the idea to make everything disposable. Really dumb. Goes without saying that we didn’t eat at the hotel.

No carts. No fuss. No thanks.

 

The New England Aquarium is a great place to take the family and see penguins up close. We arrived at feeding time, and it was fun to watch them eat; some of them fussy, some of them devouring their offerings of fish. The center of the building is a spiral, and inside the spiral is a huge 4-story aquarium. So as you slowly walk up the spiral, you get a constantly changing view of the aquarium and the thousands of fish and other sea life (manta rays, tortoises, sea horses, jellyfish, starfish, eels, seals, and lots more that thrive there. Again, you might be lucky to catch them at feeding time, when workers in scuba gear swim down to the different groups of fish and make sure they get fed.

One note: buy your tickets online before you go. The outdoor line for last-minute ticket buyers was huge, and we visited on a bone-chilling winter’s day. Those people standing in line were very unhappy. We just walked right in with our online printed tickets.

 

The Red Lantern in Boston.

 

We don’t have many great Asian restaurant choices in Rhode Island, so when we go to Boston, it’s almost always on our list. This time, we decided to skip Chinatown and go to a restaurant that was as much about the atmosphere as it was about the food: The Red Lantern. Great music, cool lighting, awesome design, very good food and a huge cocktail menu. My daughter had miso soup and a massive delicious bowl of beef lo mein. I shoved a few large chopstick-fulls into my mouth “for blogging purposes.” Really good. I started with a plate of boneless ribs, sweet and sticky. My main dish was a huge spicy tuna toro maki roll: a tempura fried roll with avocado, cucumber, chili soy and toro tuna, slightly torched. Over the top. The Red Lantern has a beautiful bar, and my original mai-tai was well-made, though very sweet.

Dessert selections weren’t what we wanted…and we needed a breather…so we Ubered over to Newbury Street, where we found a wonderful gelato shop: Amorino. It’s an Italian chain, and they know how to do gelato!

I suppose if I wasn’t hanging out with my daughter, I’d take this opportunity to go to a bar for one last cocktail, but instead, we just went back to the hotel and focused on the next day, thinking we’d hit the indoor pool. Turns out it wasn’t a great idea, because the pool last the Marriott Long Wharf was really small and full of screaming little kids. Plan B: find a really great Sunday brunch.

Mooo, in Boston.

 

Mooo is a steak restaurant inside the beautiful XV Beacon Hotel, on historic Beacon Street. As I was searching for brunch possibilities, I saw the tempting list of freshly-baked treats on their menu, very different from those offered elsewhere, and I knew this was where we needed to go. We were not disappointed!

Ordering the cinnamon buns was a no-brainer. The moment they say on the menu that you “need to give it a little extra time,” you know it’s going to be worth the wait! as we slowly pulled apart the gooey rolls, shoving them into mouth, I moaned like Patton Oswalt in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: “Cinnnabonnnn……” (Though it was way better than any Cinnabon I ever head!)

The incredible cinnamon buns at Mooo.

 

My daughter knew almost instantly that she was going to have the chocolate chip pancakes…with a side of bacon, of course. I was contemplating the lobster eggs Benedict (I’m a huge fan of bennies), but then I said to myself: “Wait…this is a steak restaurant. They have half-a-dozen steak and eggs offerings on the menu. Have a steak, for crying out loud!” My inner voice served me well.

I had a choice of 2 ribeyes: either a 12-oz. American corn-fed ribeye, or a 14-oz. pastured, grass-fed Australian ribeye. I’m a grass-fed guy, so the larger Australian ribeye (which was also less expensive) was a no-brainer. It was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, and was one of the best steaks I’ve had in a very long time. A couple of eggs and a side of perfectly cooked potatoes made for an ideal meal.

Brunch is served!

 

Mooo was such a great choice for brunch that I will keep it in mind for dinner on a return trip to Boston.

 

We returned to our hotel after brunch, simply to pack up and head home. A nice 24-hour getaway with wonderful food and a fun time with my daughter. I know my daughter and I will be back in June to see a Billie Eilish concert at the Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion, so we’ll have more opportunities to hit a couple of restaurants, this time in the Seaport District, which, sadly, is being overrun by so much new construction that you can’t even see the water anymore. It’s sad because Boston’s traffic has just been rated the worst in the country, and this will only add to a crumbling infrastructure that is already overloaded.

 

 

 

I have to give credit for this recipe where it’s due. Last year, we traveled to Washington, DC and one of our best dining experiences was at the Blue Duck Tavern, a stunning restaurant matched by its unique and beautifully prepared plates. It is the restaurant I recommend to any friends in the DC area, and one I would go back to in a heartbeat. One of the incredible appetizers I enjoyed was the roasted beef bone marrow, which had a delicious pretzel crumble on top. The moment I had a taste, I knew that I would have to recreate this for myself.

The amazing bone marrow plate at the Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, DC.

 

Bone marrow played an important role in the evolution of early man. Perhaps that’s why some of us still have that primitive craving for it.

Early man had small teeth and ate anything he could lay his hands on, especially meat. But he was no hunter. Attracted by circling vultures, he probably scavenged the leftovers from a big kill such as an antelope left in a tree by a leopard, or a large animal such as a wildebeest that had been slaughtered by lions.

Because meat is relatively easy to digest and rich in calories and nutrients, early man lost the need for the big intestines of apes and earlier hominids. This freed up energy for use by other organs. This surplus of energy seems to have been diverted to one organ in particular – the brain. But scavenging meat from under the noses of big cats is a risky business, so good scavengers needed to be smart. At this stage in our evolution, a big brain was associated with greater intellect. Big brains require lots of energy to operate: the human brain uses 20% of the body’s total energy production. The concentrated calories and nutrition found in meat was responsible for an increase in the brain size of early humans.

But around two million years ago, telltale cut marks on the surface of animal bones reveal that early humans were using crude stone tools to smash open the bones and extract the marrow. Stone tools allowed early man to get at a food source that no other creature was able to obtain – bone marrow. Bone marrow contains long chain fatty acids that are vital for brain growth and development. This helped further fuel the increase in brain size, allowing our ancestors to make more complex tools. Many historians believe that the blunt force required to break bones with tools to extract the bone marrow was a crucial ingredient in the development of the human hand, and the unique dexterity it has over that of apes.

Of course, these days, we can simply go to our butcher and ask them to slice some beef bones for us so that we can enjoy the marrow like our ancestors did. It’s much more civilized.

My box o’ frozen bones. I ordered about 25 lbs. of marrow bones from a grass-fed beef farm in Texas.

 

They key to roasting marrow bones properly is to keep an eye on them. The bones can go from frozen solid to blazing hot in no time, and that means the marrow can go beyond its rich, gelatinous perfection into a puddle of fat at the bottom of your pan in mere moments.

 

3 lbs. beef marrow bones (I like them sliced lengthwise)
3/4 cup finely ground salted pretzel sticks
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
olive oil

 

I keep the beef bones frozen, moving them to the fridge until I’m ready to roast them.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Grind them up!

Place a handful of salted pretzel sticks in a food processor, and pulse them until the pretzels are ground fine. When you’ve got 3/4 cup of ground pretzel powder, move it to a bowl and add the parsley, onion, garlic and black pepper. No salt is needed if the pretzels are salted.

 

 

Lay the bones flat on a baking pan. If they wobble, place them on a layer of coarse salt to hold them steady. Sprinkle the pretzel mix on the bones, a little drizzle of olive oil on top, and place them in the oven.

 

Now you watch…there’s that one point where they go from “not quite yet” to perfection to “Oops! Too much!” …so be careful!

Perfection!

 

Some toasted bread on the side is all you need!

 

If you’re cooking gluten-free, try Snyder’s of Hanover GF pretzels. They are awesome…you’ll never know the difference.

 

Though it may sound Japanese, the word “saganaki” refers to a small frying pan used in Greek cooking. The most famous of these dishes, simply called saganaki, is a fried cheese, often flamed at the end with a little ouzo.

Shrimp saganaki is one of my favorite Greek dishes, and it usually involves cooking shrimp in a tomato-based sauce with plenty of feta cheese sprinkled in. It’s simple yet fantastic if the ingredients are fresh. Doesn’t hurt to be sitting in a taverna on the beautiful island of Santorini while eating it, either!

 

You can find Graviera cheese in most supermarkets.

 

I found a slab of Graviera cheese at a local supermarket, and decided to recreate shrimp saganaki using that instead of feta. It was pretty damn amazing.

I like using 24–30 shrimp, because larger shrimp don’t always cook through. These smaller shrimp will be bite-sized and delicious.

Melty, gooey, delicious!

Melty, gooey, delicious!

 

200g package (7 oz.) grated Graviera cheese
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes
1 lb. (about 24) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium onion, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, through a press
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons Ouzo
salt and pepper

 

Peel and de-vein the shrimp (or you can buy them that way already.) Squeeze the juice of  1/2 of a lemon on to the shrimp and toss. Set aside.

In a large pan, saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more.

Crush or puree the tomatoes and add to the pan. Add the red pepper flakes, dill and oregano, and salt and pepper. Add the Ouzo.

Let this sauce cook down for a bit until all the flavors have blended together.

Pour a layer of the sauce on the bottom of a metal broiler-proof pan. Lay the raw shrimp in a single layer into the sauce. Cover the shrimp with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the grated Graviera on top.

Place the pan in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly and the shrimp have cooked through.

shrimp saganaki

 

 

Despite the large Italian community we have here in southern New England, there’s no exceptional pizza to speak of. I suppose you could say “them’s fightin’ words!” but if it’s here, I haven’t found it yet. (Fellini Pizza is about the best in Providence.)

So where is the excellent pizza? New York City, of course. OK…maybe I’m prejudiced because I’m a Brooklyn boy, and worked in a variety of pizzerias in my younger days, but there’s no doubt in my mind that if you want the best pizza–or bagel, for that matter–you’ve got to go to the Big Apple. (Even the most excellent “Frank Pepe’s” in New Haven, CT is a mere stop on the way to the real deal.)

Pizza in NYC can be confusing as there are many different varieties to choose from. Brick oven pizzas abound, but there are pizza lovers who won’t settle for anything less than a pizza baked in a coal-fired oven. The extremely high heat of a coal-fired oven cooks the pizza in just a minute, and imparts a crusty, charred flavor you can’t get any other way. There are only about a dozen coal-fired pizzerias in New York City, and many of them have been around for 100 years or more, so it’s definitely a matter of making a special trip to enjoy this style of pizza. (Providence now has its own coal-fired pizza, but it can’t compare.)

Plenty of good, basic pizza, too: the traditional thin, round Neopolitan pie, and the thicker, square Sicilian pie, baked in that Blodgett pizza oven we all knew in our early pizza-making days.

Several years ago, when I heard through the pizza lovers’ grapevine that a “new” pizza was out there, one that was gaining a cult following, I needed to know about it. And more importantly, I needed to taste it!

It’s called Pizza Montanara, and there’s only a few pizzerias in New York City that serve it. The one I go to without fail is PizzArte, on West 55th, and I have to say it’s the ultimate pizza.

 

Pizza Montanara, sitting next to me in the car, just waiting to be devoured.

 

What makes Pizza Montanara so spectacular, quite simply, is that the dough is fried in oil for 30 seconds, flipped and fried another 30 seconds, before they put the sauce and cheese on it, and then they cook it in a wood burning oven. It is not greasy. The frying process puffs the dough up and creates a beautiful pillow-like softness that I’ve never experienced in a pizza before. Imagine a pizza cloud and you’ve got Pizza Montanara.

Where to get Pizza Montanara.

 

I’ve made Pizza Montanara at home, with some success. I poured a few inches of olive oil in a large skillet, stretched my dough into a small pie, and gently floated it into the pan. Using a spatula and tongs, I was able to flip the fried dough over after about 30 seconds, then removed it from the pan after another 30 seconds. It was golden and puffy. I quickly sauced and cheesed it and in the oven it went. But it’s a messy process I’d rather leave to the pros.

 

Every time I post a photo of Pizza Montanara on Facebook or Instagram, my friends don’t believe that this could possibly be a life-changing pizza experience. It is. I just came back from Manhattan, and we devoured 3 pizzas on the ride home. Nothing makes New York traffic easier to bear than a Pizza Montanara in the seat next to you!

Pizza Arte also makes one helluva gluten-free pizza.

 

 

My dog, Fellow, stood by me in the kitchen while I made this dish. I decided to name it after him. Since the first time I created this dish, I’ve made some improvements. First, a little history…

The original Oysters Rockefeller recipe is a closely guarded secret, created in 1899 at the famous New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s. Jules Alciatore, the son of founder Antoine Alciatore, developed the dish when they had a shortage of escargot, substituting locally available oysters. Antoine’s is still the only place in the world where you can be served the original Oysters Rockefeller recipe.

Search on line for Oysters Rockefeller, and you’ll find hundreds of recipes that claim to be the real thing. Most of them use spinach in the dish. The folks at Antoine’s claim there wasn’t any spinach in the original recipe.

My version, my Oysters Rock-a-Fellow, is a cheesier, gooier version than the original, which is heavy on the greens, but I think it’s one you will enjoy. I use larger, meatier oysters like Wellfleets from Cape Cod or local Rhode Island oysters, but use what you like.

24 oysters, washed to remove grit
2 cans beer (any extra beer you have is fine)
5 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves

Scrub the oysters under cold water to get them clean.

In a large pot, pour in the beer, peppercorns, salt, and garlic cloves, along with enough cold water to fill the pot about halfway. Turn the heat on high and bring the pot to a boil.

The moment you reach a boil, turn the heat to medium and drop in 6 oysters, letting them bathe in the liquid for only 30 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl to cool. If the oysters open, they’ve been in there too long! You want them to stay closed. Do the same with the rest of the oysters, 6 at a time. Once all the oysters have had their 30 seconds, move the oyster bowl to a cutting board. Discard the liquid in the pot.

Once the oysters have cooled enough for you to handle, remove the top shell off each one, carefully reserving the oyster liquor inside if you can. I do this by pouring Kosher salt on a sheet pan, and using the salt to keep the oysters propped up.

 

Salt holds the oysters in place.

 

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

 

 

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup low-fat milk
salt and pepper
3 cups (tightly packed) fresh arugula, finely chopped, about a 5 oz. container
6 oz. mild cheddar cheese (the white one), grated
6 oz. mozzarella, grated
Fine bread crumbs (Using GF breadcrumbs will keep this dish gluten-free)

 

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the milk, season with salt and pepper, and then add the arugula a little at a time, letting it wilt before adding more. Use all the arugula.

Once all the arugula is in the saucepan, sprinkle the cheese in a bit at a time, letting it melt, until you’ve used all the cheese: the cheddar and then the mozzarella.

Originally, I tried to spoon this gooey cheese on top of the oyster shells, but it was so sticky and stretchy, that it was too difficult to work with. Now, I pour the gooey cheese mix into a lasagna pan, smooth it out with a spatula, and place it in the fridge to cool.

 

 

You can actually do this all the day before, because the cheese mix hardens and becomes easy to cut into cubes with a sharp knife.

 

 

Then simply place a cube of the cheese mix on each oyster…

 

 

…sprinkle a little bread crumb on top…

 

 

…and bake in the 425-degree oven for about 8–10 minutes until it’s golden and bubbly.

 

 

 

Whoever said that cheese and seafood don’t go together, never tried this!

 

I buy Udi’s gluten free frozen bread for my breadcrumbs. I take the loaf, toast the slices, then put them through the food processor. The taste is far better than buying pre-made GF breadcrumbs. Use regular breadcrumbs if you don’t need to worry about gluten.

If you’re really strict about gluten, you can use GF beer in the pot of water or simply eliminate the beer altogether.

 

One of our favorite restaurants in Southern New England is The Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts, and one of their best-selling appetizers is a simple but delicious deviled egg plate with raw tuna on top. It’s so good, it’s the only thing on the menu that my wife and I refuse to share…we always get a plate for ourselves!

We can’t always get back to the Back Eddy, so when the cravings hit, I make my version of this dish at home. Of course, my version has a lot less finesse to it…but a lot more tuna, which is what I crave! It takes a little time to make it, but it’s so worth it…

 

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6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup + extra mayonnaise
8 oz. high quality raw tuna
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I use gluten-free)
1/2 teaspoon chili oil
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
fish roe (optional, see below)
handful fresh spinach, or cucumbers (see below)

 

My favorite method of hard-boiling eggs is to put them in a pot of cold water. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn the heat off and place a lid on the pot. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Perfect eggs every time. Remove the eggs from the water and cool them in the fridge, or in a bowl of ice water if you’re going to be serving this dish right away.

Here in Rhode Island, I can get fresh tuna right off the boat. Ideally, they say you should freeze all raw seafood before eating it. In general, killing parasites requires freezing and storing fish at a surrounding temperature of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit or colder for seven days; or freezing at a surrounding temperature of minus 31 degrees or colder until the fish is solid and storing at the same temperature for 15 hours; or freezing at a surrounding temperature of minus 31 degrees until the fish is solid and storing at minus 4 degrees or below for 24 hours.

That’s a lot of work and worry. I find that I can get high quality tuna already frozen into convenient bricks at Whole Foods or on-line at websites like Vital Choice, one of my favorites for extremely high quality, responsibly sourced seafood.

I always try to buy responsibly sourced, fair trade seafood, like this beautiful ahi tuna.

 

If the tuna is frozen, let it thaw a little. If it’s fresh, place it into the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. That makes it easier to cube up. Slice the tuna carefully into the smallest cubes you can make. Once done, place the tuna in a bowl and put it back in the fridge to continue its slow thawing until ready to use.

In a separate small bowl, combine the soy sauce and the chili oil. Set aside.

Finely chop the scallions. Set aside.

Once the eggs have cooled, peel them and cut them in half. Scoop out the yolks and place them in a bowl, starting with 1/4 cup of the mayonnaise. Add more mayo if needed. Mix well. I use a fork or whisk to get as many of the lumps out as possible. If you want to go crazy, you can put them in a blender or food processor to make a creamy puree. You can place the puree in a piping bag and carefully squeeze it out into each egg half. I simply use a spoon.

Once all the egg halves are filled, place them on a spinach leaf-covered dish and put them back in the fridge until ready to serve. Or, instead of the bed of spinach, peel a cucumber and cut the ends off. Slice the cuke into 1/2″ thick slices. Then, using a melon baller, carefully scoop out the seeds from the center to make a “cuke donut.” Use these as little stands to hold your eggs on the plate.

When you’re ready to serve, take the tuna out of the fridge. Pour the soy sauce/chili oil mix into the bowl with the tuna and mix well. Let the tuna marinate for just 2 minutes. Pour off the excess marinade, or it’ll get too salty.

Remove the plate of eggs from the fridge and carefully put a small spoonful of tuna on top of each one. Garnish with the sesame seeds and the chopped scallions and serve immediately.

 

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