I can’t tell you how many times I made crab cakes while working at different restaurants. I am pretty sure even I don’t want to know. What I do know is many times they had lots of flavors sans one, crab and I often thought the cakes were more bread crumb than crab. So here is a quick, easy, and very crab tasting recipe that can be made any night of the week. This recipe makes a lot of cakes but realize you can make the cakes and freeze them in sets of 4 cakes or whatever works for you.
All-American Crab Cakes
1/2 cup yellow onion, fine dice
1/2 cup celery, fine dice
2 tsp. Garlic, finely minced
Grape seed or canola oil
1 lb. pasteurized crab meat, preferably from the claw
25 saltines, crushed
2 TBS. mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 TBS. parsley, minced
2 large eggs
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Place a medium sized sauté pan over medium high heat.Add a glug of oil to the pan and give it time to heat.Add onion, celery and garlic.Cook the vegetables gently until translucent.Do not let them brown, adjust the heat if need be.When finished let the vegetables cool.
Place the cooled vegetables into a large mixing bowl.Add crab, cracker crumbs, mayonnaise, Old Bay, parsley, and eggs.Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.It’s nice to bite into meaty crab pieces of cake, so gently turn the mixture with your hands being careful not to break the crab meat.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, set it into the refrigerator, and let it rest for 1 hour to over night.
Place a large skillet over medium high heat.Add a good glug of oil so there is a thin layer across the bottom surface of the pan.
Form tangerines size balls of crab cake working the mixture with your hands.Pat them into a patty.Repeat making patties until all the mixture has been used.
Gently place 4 patties into the pan.You don’t want to crowd the.Sauté until dark. Gently turn and do the same.Remove the patties from the pan.Either keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while you sauté more or serve them immediately.
I like the unexpected. Especially when it is something new to me, or it tastes and sounds exotic but in reality it has a longstanding history—a marriage of flavors that is natural. Flavors tried and tested over time, in this case, in towns all across Portugal.
Octopus is a food that falls into a category that not to many foods do—it is either flash cooked very quickly or it is stewed for a very long time. Both methods intended to render the octopus meltingly tender. I have tried flash cooking octopus several times and either I am an idiot and just can’t get it right or my definition of tender is radically different from everyone else who uses the flash cooked method.
For me, I used slow cook them. It takes about an hour for a 2 pound octopus, give or take 15 minutes. There is nothing at all wrong with this method. It takes time but it renders a perfectly tender octopus but ever since I wrote my pressure cooking book, An Idiot’s Guide to Pressure Cooking I invariably started cooking lots of things under pressure, octopus being one of the many. The pressure cooker turns out the most tender octopus in a lightning fast 10 minutes. You can also cook the potatoes just as quick and quicker depending on their size. I have thought about combining the two and cooking them both at once but I am not convinced I want my potatoes to taste like octopus. I want to keep the flavors separate, let the potatoes have an equal roll.
The tomato vinaigrette is bold with roasted garlic and sweet with sun dried tomatoes. The acidity brings out the best in the octopus and the potatoes. Once the garlic is roasted it comes together easily in the food processor.
Note: if you are using traditional cooking methods place the octopus in a large pot with the bay leaf and lemon. Add water to cover, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the octopus 2 hours or until tender.
Octopus and Potato Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette (serves 4)
1 octopus, about two pounds
1 bay leaf
6 Yukon gold potatoes, medium sized and cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 roma tomato, halved
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil
1 garlic head, roasted until gooey and soft
3 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
flat leaf parsley, minced
Place the octopus into a 6 quart (5.51l) pressure cooker along with the bay leaf and lemon.
Add enough water that the octopus floats. Place the cooker over high heat and bring to a boil. Lock the lid into place and bring the pressure level to high. Once the pressure is reached reduce the heat to low and set a timer for 10 minutes.
Once the timer has sounded remove the pot from the heat and perform a cold water release. Carefully open the cooker, insert a knife into the octopus and if it slips through easily it is done. If not place it back onto the heat, put on the lid and bring it to pressure. Cook another 5 minutes. Remove the octopus to an ice water bath to cool it quickly.
Rinse out the cooker. Add 2 cups of water and place the potatoes into a steamer basket. Bring the water to a hard boil, add the steamer basket, lock on the lid and bring the pressure to high. Once pressure is reached, reduce the heat to low, and set a timer for 4 minutes.
Once the time sounds perform a cold water release. Remove the potatoes and let them steam dry.
Place the tomato, sun dried tomatoes, vinegar, three cloves of roasted garlic, olive oil, a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper into a blender. Blend until the dressing is airy and creamy. It will deflate so don’t worry.
Slice the octopus tentacles into 1-inch pieces. Add them to a bowl along with the potatoes. Season them with salt and pepper and toss gently. Add half the dressing and toss again.
Plate up the salad onto a platter. Drizzle on the remaining dressing and top with minced parsley.
In a sense, to smush, press, or mash a sandwich could feel redundant but it’s not. It is a tool employed to make certain kinds of sandwiches better. Case in point, a Cuban, panini, a shooter’s sandwich, and pan bagnat.
I love all these sandwiches. Classics, each and everyone.
In the heat of summer, I rely on the pan bagnat, which when translated means bathed bread. It is a vegetable based sandwich from the south of France, it is light and I find it refreshing. Often the ingredients list is patterned after a Salad Nicoise subbing in anchovies for the tuna. For me I like to use omega-3 oil rich sardines but use whatever tinned fish you fancy.
The sandwich is built in layers, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and then some sort of weight is put on top of it. At my house the sandwich gets sandwiched between sheet trays and the milk and juice jugs set on top compress it. Because the sandwich is lightly salted and weighted after a couple of hours under pressure a lot of liquid is released only to be soaked back up by the bread.
And that’s the genius of this sandwich. In my experience it never gets soggy but instead it becomes meltingly tender, the juices mingle, and in the end this makes for a perfect sandwich on a hot summer day.
sandwich, french, sardines, vegetables, summer
Pan Bagnat (makes 1 sandwich)
a 6-inch (15.25cm) piece of French baguette
1 tin skinless, bonleless, sardines in oil
1 small cucumber, peeled
1 medium sized tomato, sliced
5 or 6 thinly sliced red onion rings, skin removed
Slice the baguette in half lengthwise. On one piece of the bread coat the interior with mayonnaise. On the other spread out a tablespoon or two of salsa verde.
Using the peeler, peel thin strips of cucumber, 10 or more of them. Lay them in an even layer across the salsa verde side. Give the cucumbers a sprinkle of salt.
Top the cucumber with the sardines, on top of the sardines lay out the tomatoes. Season the tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Top the tomato with red onion. Place the olives onto the mayonnaise so they stick.
Place the olive/mayonnaise bread on top of the sandwich. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and then either place a brick on top, a sheet tray with weight, something heavy. Let the sandwich remain weighted for at least three hours to overnight.
To serve remove the plastic wrap, slice on the diagonal, and serve with a glass of chilled dry white wine.
It is almost August. The month in which my parents would always load me and my siblings up in the car and we would head to the east coast for vacation. It was as much a search for a cool ocean breeze as it was a temporary reprieve from the mundane everyday Midwest.
Sometimes while on vacation when we would sit down to dinner at a nice restaurant my parents would indulge us. When they did I would order lobster. As a kid I loved it. What is there not to like about playing with your food? It is a distraction pretending the prehistoric monster on your plate is attacking the table while the adults sip their coffee and converse. There is a silent cheer in your head after you defeat the monster with a hammer and pick leaving behind nothing but empty body parts void of flesh.
Since being a kid, I haven’t eaten much lobster because years ago my taste for it waned. I don’t hate lobster but my feelings about it have changed. I believe it to be over rated. As an adult I think lobster is a pain to cook, let alone eat, and on top of that it feels like it is a foil for butter much in the same way the white is a foil for the creamy yolks of a deviled egg. I need say nothing of the cost per pound.
On the other hand shrimp is accessible, and in this sandwich there are plenty of complementary flavors, like cucumber, celery and spice, and classics like Old Bay seasoning are perfect. As a home cook shrimp is familiar, the fear of over cooking a lobster is a big factor to not cooking it, while shrimp are easy and take less time to prepare. The flavor of shrimp also plays a large roll in this new favorite because it is consistent. In other words with shrimp I know what I am going to get.
A lobster roll is a great sandwich, most assuredly an indulgence, but a shrimp roll is no less a treat not to mention much easier on your pocket book.
Summertime Shrimp Rolls (Makes 4 Sandwiches)
1 baby cucumber, cut into half moons (about 1/2 cup)
8 sugar snap peas, cut crosswise into thin rounds (about 1/3 cup)
1 lb. (450g) raw deveined shrimp (size 26-30)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
fresh ground black pepper
4 brioche hot dog buns, or whatever hot dog bun you prefer
1. To cook the shrimp place a 3.5 quart (3.5L) pot filled with 2 quarts (2L) cold water over high heat. Add 2 tablespoon of salt to the pot and bring the water to a roiling boil.
2. Add the shrimp and cook them for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the shrimp into a strainer and run cold water over the shrimp. Remove the shells.
3. Chop the shrimp into 1/2-inch (1.25cm) pieces.
4. In a small mixing bowl combine cucumber, sugar snaps, shrimp, zest, juice and mayonnaise, Old Bay, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper. Mix everything.
5. Split the buns from the top being careful not to cut them completely in half, line with leaves of lettuce and top with shrimp salad. Serve.
Some lucky people grew up eating okra; there are even families with rich okra histories that they pass on from generation to generation. I am not one of those lucky people.
I came late to okra — or at least my love for it did. Since I didn’t come from a family of okra-eaters, I always remained skeptical of the vegetable. My relationship with it was like that of boys and girls at an elementary school dance: standing at opposite corners of the room. It’s not that I didn’t like okra — it was that I had no idea what to do with it. I preferred to stay in my comfort zone and stick to eating green beans. Read More
There is something wonderful about a one-pan sauté. Sure, a quick dinner and easy clean-up would be enough to pass muster for most, but what I love is how wonderfully delicious dinner becomes as you build flavors in the pan. Starting at the bottom of the pan, there is an order to how things go; it is not a dump-it-and-go process. Read More
Last summer, my mother asked me to make cupcakes for the June birthdays. We have several in June and, in order to make it easy, we celebrate them all at once. Nevertheless, I forgot to make the cupcakes and I was on my way to the party when I remembered. “Oops,” or as Vivian, my daughter who never misses an opportunity to repeat a cuss word, noted from the back seat, “Oops” was more like a cuss word or three. Read More
There is something special about trout that goes beyond just eating. They are one of only fish that have a whole culture built around them. They are a freshwater game fish, they are skittish and will jump at their own shadow. They only thrive in cold water and need lots of oxygen provided by a stiff current. When they feed they feed only on what is abundant at the moment. Wild trout make for difficult prey.
In the high altitude lakes of the Grand Tetons you are likely to catch cutthroats the size of your hand while watching the sunrise in, hands down, one of the most beautiful places in the world. When you get back to camp you cook them up for breakfast with pancakes and eggs.
On the other hand you might spend the afternoon in the Catskills on the banks of the Beaverkill reading Hemingway or Fitzgerald. Legendary fisherman like Lee Wulff and Lefty Kreh coming to mind as you are thinking about the evening fish and having high hopes for a Green Drake hatch. You might even doze off for an hour.
Then just as the evening hours begin you pull on your waders and out into the rushing stream you go. It doesn’t seem like hard work from the shore but standing in rushing water up to your midsection takes effort. You wrestle the current to get to the spot you want. You look down at the water to see if there are any bugs floating by that might give you an indication of what the fish are eating tonight. You light a cigar and smile.
You see the transparent wings of a pale evening dun float by. You reach into your fly box and pull out a number 20. The fly you saw go by didn’t seem any bigger. You tie the fly to the tippet. You drop the fly into the water and strip out some line.
You draw back the rod in a gentle sweep and the fly draws past your ear and then you rocket it forward aiming upstream of an eddie that lies just behind a big rock. You watch as the fly floats downstream, you gather excess line, and as it passes the eddie you hope you hear and see a strike as a rainbow trout breaks the surface grabbing your fly. If you had a good night and matched the hatch you will be in camp cooking up a couple of nice rainbows for supper but only after a nice Scotch.
2 trout, boneless 12 to 16 oz.
4 pieces prosciutto, thinly sliced
a handful of sage leaves
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1/4 cup pine nuts
kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper
cornmeal for dredging
1. Season the inside of the trout with salt and pepper. Carefully lay out two pieces of prosciutto letting the long side overlap by 1/4 inch. Lay a trout across the short sides of the prosciutto and wrap it in the prosciutto.
2. Heat a 14 inch skillet over medium high heat. Dredge the trout in cornmeal and shake off any excess. Add the oil to the pan. Sprinkle in the half of the sage leaves and let them deep fry. when they have crisped remove them from the pan.
3. Gently lay the trout into the pan, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the pancetta is crisp and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Gently turn the fish cooking the other side. It will take about ten minutes total for the fish to cook through so be patient and adjust the heat as necessary.
4. When the fish are done remove them to their plates. Drain the oil and put the pan back on the heat. Add the butter, the pine nuts and the remaining sage leaves. When the nuts have toasted spoon some of the pine nut sage butter over the top of the fish. Serve
I made a recipe of yours last night. It wasn’t the first time I have made this recipe, in fact, I have made it several times but it has been far to long since it has graced our table, rest assured, this will not happen again. Just in case I haven’t been clear it was beyond delicious as always.
I remember the night I watched you make the gratin on TV. It must have been about three in the morning or somewhere around there. I was still working in the restaurant business and it had been a long night on the line. Now I was home, my wife fast asleep in bed, and I out in the living room and on the couch with a beer in my hand winding down. I was flipping through a food magazine and doing the same with the channels on TV.
At the time I had not seen but a couple shows in any of your many series because our local PBS station didn’t carry them or they were on at times when I wasn’t around. But here you were in the wee hours of the morning in front of the camera, your heavy French accent, broad smile, all as unmistakeable as the sparkle in your eyes. You caught my attention right away.
I watched as you peeled shrimp and even went so far as to show me how to pinch the tails between my thumb and forefinger, then wiggle, and finally you gently pulled and I watched as all the tail meat slipped out of its casing without any waste. Then you sliced a handful of the freshest white mushrooms with such speed and accuracy it could have been a magic trick. You wasted no time doing the same with a couple of green onions. Read More
White beans and tuna have always been combined in salads and pasta and have long been purveyor’s of pantry dinners in Italy. I have taken up the habit of pantry pasta myself and while I don’t keep many canned goods I do keep tomato sauce, tuna in olive oil, dried beans and pasta on hand.
The cheese rind is imperative here. It is to the broth what bones are to stock. Besides you know it makes you mad to have to pay for this usually unusable part. So here is your opportunity. I Always try to have at least one cheese rind on hand and just store it in the fridge amongst the other cheeses.
This is not a skillet pasta but a long simmering sauce because it takes some time to build the flavors in the beans. As with all beans everyone has their own method to their bean madness. I have tried many and the one I use yields a tender beans with tooth. That is not to say it is crunchy or undercooked but what it means is it holds its shape while being tenders. I want to know I am eating a bean when I bite into one.
I also don’t make home made pasta for this dish because this is one time were store bought spaghetti noodles are the right choice.
I served this with a green side vegetable and after the pasta served a salad, as the Italians would.
Serves 6 to 8
2 heads of garlic, the top 1/4 inch of which has been sliced off
1/2 pound white beans
4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and trimmed
10 sun dried tomatoes (dried, not in olive oil)
1/2 cup yellow onion, small dice
1/4 cup carrot, small dice
1/4 cup celery, small dice
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed, ground
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup strained tomatoes or tomato sauce
1 each 2 x 2 inch parmesan cheese rind
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup bread crumbs, toasted in olive oil then seasoned with salt and pepper then mixed
with 1 tablespoon of minced parsley
12 oz. tuna in olive oil
1 pound spaghetti, cooked according to the instructions on the box
Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Place the heads of garlic in a small ovenproof dish and drizzle each with olive oil then season them with salt and pepper.
Cover the dish with foil and bake the garlic for 1 hour. At the end of the hour make sure they have taken on alight tobacco color and are tender. Cook them another 15 minutes if you need to. Once they are done remove them from the oven and set them aside.
Place the beans, garlic cloves and the sun dried tomatoes into a sauce pan and cover by at least 2 inches of water. Place the pan over high heat and bring it to a boil and let it boil for 2 minutes. Cover and remove the pan from the heat and let it sit covered for two hours or longer.
At the end of two hours drain the beans. Rinse out the pot. Remove the sun dried tomatoes and chop them. Place the pot over medium heat and add a good 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When it is hot add the onion, carrots and celery and let them saute until they begin to become tender. Add the fennel, bay leaves and red pepper and saute until fragrant. Add the beans, sun dried tomatoes and garlic back into the pot. Cover the beans with water by 1 inch. Add the tomato sauce and cheese rind.
Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat so the liquid is at a lazy bubble. Season them with pepper. Stir occasionally to keep anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Near the end of the cooking season the beans with salt to taste and take the roasted garlic and squeeze out the garlic paste then add the paste to the beans. Stir it all in and taste. Adjust the seasoning.
When the beans are tender cook the pasta. Once the pasta is done drain it and immediately toss the pasta with some of the oil from the tuna. Toss the beans and pasta together.
Put the pasta into a serving bowl, top with tuna crumbles and then the bread crumbs. Serve immediately.
I don’t know why I haven’t made this lately. I developed this recipe for a fish and seafood class I used to teach at the local culinary school. It might seem bell-less and whistle-less but don’t let it fool you. It is a workhorse soup that is deeply satisfying in a working class bar sorta way. It can easily be whipped up right out of the pantry. Take note not to get carried away with the horseradish. It is subtle in the amount given, just enough to be a mysterious secret ingredient, but if you add more it takes over.
Makes 8 six ounce servings
2 eight oz. bottles Bar Harbor clam juice
2 six oz. cans Bar Harbor clams, drained, chopped and juice reserved
4 ounces bacon, diced
1 1/2 cup yellow onion, peeled and small dice
1/2 cup leek, white part only, small dice
1 cup celery, rinsed and small dice
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/8 heaping teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups yukon gold potatoes, peeled and 1/2 inch dice
28 ounces Pomi brand chopped tomatoes
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1. Place a 3 1/2 quart heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and render the fat until it is crisp tender, not crunchy.
2. Add the onion, celery and leek. Saute the vegetables until they are tender but not browned.
3. Add the garlic, celery seed, oregano, thyme and red pepper flakes. Saute until they become fragrant. A minute or so.
4. Add the clam juice and reserved juice. While you are waiting for the broth to come to a boil taste it and, depending on how salty the clam juice is, season it with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
5. Once the broth is boiling add the potatoes, bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes then add the tomatoes and clams, bring to a boil again then reduce the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning, then simmer until the potatoes are done, about 20 minutes.
6. Just before serving add the horseradish making sure to thoroughly stir it in.
One of the things I like best about the French dish Hachis Pamentier is the looseness of the recipe. Unlike Shepard’s Pie which connotates lamb as the central ingredient Hachis Parmentier quite often simply lists chopped meat and then leaves it to your discretion. So anything on hand, usually cooked, usually leftovers which is generally combined with Sauce Lyonnaise.. Then add potatoes, again, mashed, leftover bakers or boiled, pretty much anything you can crush with a fork.
In my book anything Lyonnaise is good and more likely great. The reality, though, of most classic French sauces is, who has demi-glace on hand and who is going to make it for this dish? Not many home cooks do, nor should they. So if you take the base ingredients of the sauce minus the demi-glace you have a vinegar based dressing. In other words something to cut into the richness of the meat and potatoes and a simple balsamic dressing does this just fine.
The reason I chose salmon for this version is it doesn’t need to be cooked before hand. You can put it right into the ring molds raw to be cooked in the oven. Salmon has enough natural collagen that it will bind on its own, no mayonnaise, no egg, no nothing.
What I have tried to do here, and I think with great success, is make a family style dish into something worthy of a fancy sit down dinner and even the main course to a dinner party. You can make the individual servings ahead of time (hint: my ring molds are water chestnut cans with both ends removed, cheap and simple) by putting the molds onto a parchment lined sheet tray, then layering them with the ingredients, covering them and storing them in the fridge.
On the other hand, you needn’t invite anyone for dinner to make this dish it is just as delicious for two as ten and if you want family style just chuck the whole ring mold idea and use a large gratin.
1 pound salmon, skin removed and cubed into 1/4 inch chunks
1/2 cup celery, finely minced
1 teaspoon capers, minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely zested
1 teaspoon dill, minced
1 teaspoon chives, minced
1/2 cup comte or Gruyère cheese, grated
3 potatoes, sliced into 1/8 inch or thinner rounds
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
a handful of arugula leaves, rinsed and dried
1/2 teaspoon Dijon
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Place the potatoes, garlic and milk into a medium size pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes by an inch. Add a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Place the pot over medium heat and slowly bring it to a boil. Cook the potatoes until just tender, being especially careful not to cook them to mush but if you do don’t get you undies in a bundle they will still cook and taste the same. Drain the potatoes.
2. If you plan to cook the dish now heat the oven to 375˚ F.
3. Place the salmon, celery, capers, lemon zest, dill and chives into a mixing bowl. Add 3/4 teaspoon of salt and some fresh ground white pepper and mix the salmon being sure to incorporate all the ingredients and evenly distribute them throughout.
4. Place a piece of parchment paper onto a sheet tray. Place four ring molds onto the tray. Lightly butter the interior walls of the molds and then divide the salmon mixture into four equal portions and pat firmly/gently it into the molds.
5. Taste a potato testing for salt content. Take the potato slices and fan them into the top of each mold making two to three layers. If the potatoes were salty enough when you tasted them then don’t season them anymore but if the need it season each layer with a pinch of salt and pepper. Top with a little cheese and a spritz of olive oil. Bake in the heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
6. While the salmon is baking combine the mustard and balsamic adding a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper. Then add the oil and mix to combine.
7. When the salmon is done remove it from the oven. Using a spatula and a dry towel remove each mold to a plate placing it in the center. Using a paring knife run it around the edges to loosen the salmon. Gently hold down on the potatoes with a spoon as you lift the mold.
8. Toss the arugula with the dressing and top each hachis parmentier with a bit of greens. Serve with a crisp fruity white wine.