Scotch Woodcock

 Scotch Woodcock

scotch wodcock

Taken verbatim from the 1861 Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton, Chapter XXXIII. Milk, Butter, Cheese and Eggs. I followed the “Mode” exactly, whisking over low heat until it thickened. The flavor was reminiscent of eggs Benedict. My father’s version of Scotch Woodcock is scrambling eggs with anchovies and milk, frying in butter and serving it on toast (see below). He said Scotch Woodcock was a late night snack that used to be served at bars in the 1930s and 40s along with Welch Rarebit.

scotch recipe

My father’s recipe:

FI scotch woodcock

Sauté five or six chopped anchovies in four pats of butter and then add 1/4 cup of milk. Let it rest off the heat for about five minutes. Reheat, add four scrambled eggs and cook until done. Serve it on toast, salt and pepper.


American Woodcock from Vickster's Vine
American Woodcock from Vickster’s Vine

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

The Kids
The Kids

For Italians, the celebration on the Eve is more elaborate than Christmas Day.  It a seafood dinner because until not too long ago it was a religious ‘day of abstinence.’ Some people call it the Feast of the Seven Fishes. I never counted but I think we have it covered.



Raw Puttanesca

Raw Puttanesca  

Aunt Lena in Miami in 1936

My Aunt Lena got this recipe from a chef in Salerno.  He told her the idea was that a woman could be out with her boyfriend all day and serve this to her husband when he got home – with him thinking that it took her all day to cook it when it wasn’t cooked at all.


  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped basil
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt & coarse black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1lb spaghetti



Put the tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes until the skin cracks, then run cold water over them and peel off their skin. Cut them in half across the core and squeeze out the seeds.  Finely chop and put them in a large serving bowl.  Add garlic, basil, parsley, salt & pepper and cover with ½ cup of olive oil.

A few optional additions:  chopped anchovies, drained capers, chopped olives.

The ingredients should all be at room temperature before mixing with 1 lb. just cooked spaghetti.  The heat from the hot pasta will be all it needs.

Raw Puttanesca  is kind of a light and delicate summery sauce that’s almost a salad, so no cheese unless you must.

Cape May Crab Cakes

Cape May Crab Cakes

crab cakes 2
The $1.00 deep fryer


Bridget and I were bike riding in Cape May and came across a yard sale. There were some nice old kitchen utensils among other thing. I saw a stove top deep fryer labeled, “$1.00 – Made the Best Crab Cakes.” The woman who was running the sale told me it was her mother’s. I said that if she gave me the recipe I’d buy the fryer and continue the tradition.

Here it is, Elaine Walls’ Cape May Crab Cake recipe:


Sauté onion & celery (S&P) in butter until translucent. Add flour, mustard, cayenne, Worcestershire and milk (slowly). Cook until really thick. Add drained crab and sauté until dry enough to make patties. Cool and shape into 8 patties- dip into breadcrumbs, dip into egg wash and dip into breadcrumbs again. Let rest about 20 minutes, re-shape and then deep fry in Canola oil.

crab cakes 3


New York City Diners


coffee container

New York City Diners

There are some places that want to be perceived as diners and others that are intrinsically and naturally diners. The latter, which are usually family run, can be recognized by very large menus, a few traditional Greek dishes on those menus, a huge selection of Danish, muffins and elaborate cakes displayed on and behind the counter and never letting your coffee cup get less than half full. They serve breakfast twenty-four hours a day and fast service is provided by people who are professional waiters and waitresses. Their coffee-to-go is usually in a blue and white paper cup with, “It’s Our Pleasure to Serve You,” framed by two Ionic columns.


cake 4
City Diner – Upper West Side


Lately, in New York City, mostly Manhattan, a new type of chain diner has been opening. They try for a 1950’s retro style featuring Doo Wop interior design with old signs and maybe some muscle car parts hanging on the walls. Their menus list items with cute names that they want us to believe mythical Eisenhower-era Americans lived on; burgers, shakes and sundaes. Was there ever a “Malt Shop” in New York City? Maybe there was in television land where the Nelson boys and Donna Reed’s kids hung out after school but no, not New York. No matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” sipping coffee in any of these Disneyfied places. There’s something contrived about the “new” diners that I would hate to see catch on.

I hope tourists don’t have a BLT at one of these theatre sets and think, “Wow, I’ve eaten in a New York City diner!” because they haven’t.

Some of the old favorites are gone now; the Market, Munson and Cheyenne, but there are enough of the originals left to easily give anyone who wants it, a genuine diner experience.

A handful of them still have waitresses with teased blond hair who will ask you, “What’cha havin’, hon?”

How could anyone give that up for a second-rate copy?


diner 4
Neptune Diner – Astoria



DeR 2

A few words on how to cook a steak…

Steak misc

Sear the fatty edges


Porterhouse Peter Luger Style

Porterhouse, the king of steaks, has a strip steak on one side of the bone and a tenderloin on the other.

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  •  Sprinkle with lots of salt and let it (1 ½ to 2 inches thick) sit at room temp. Heat skillet very hot with a little oil. 3 minutes on one side and remove to board, crust side up.
  •  Cut the loin and sirloin in thick slices straight down and perpendicular to the bone but leave ends attached to the bone.
  •  Dot with lots of butter and put it back together in the pan curst and butter side up.
  •  Place under a preheated broiler for 3 minutes.  Spoon melted butter over it and remove from pan or it will continue to cook.


Roasted Tomahawk Steak



  • 1 -2 ½ to 3 inch thick tomahawk steak *
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  • Blot room temperature tomahawk dry with paper towels and season with pepper and lots of salt; let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°. Dot roasting pan with 3 tbsp. butter.
  •  Put1 tbsp. oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s good and hot add steak to skillet. Cook until seared on all sides (including edges), 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer to the roasting pan. Roast in the oven, turning halfway through cooking and basting with the melted butter, Cook for 10 minutes for rare.
  •  Place in a serving platter and pour the melted butter fron the pan over it. Cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serves two.

* A tomahawk steak is a rib steak with the entire rib bone intact.

Done well but not well done



Ramos Gin Fizz

Ramos Gin Fizz

Ramos Gin Fizz
Ramos Gin Fizz

We first tried this exceptional cocktail in New Orleans on my father’s recommendation. For the whole story click here – The Elusive Ramos Gin Fizz.

Ramos Gin Fizz ingredients and equipment
Ramos Gin Fizz ingredients and equipment



  • 2 oz gin
  • ½ oz fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz heavy cream
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 drops orange flower water
  • Seltzer or club soda

No substitute for any ingredient.



  • Put the gin and lemon & lime juice in the glass half of the shaker and the cream, egg white, sugar and orange flower water in the metal half.
  • Fill the glass half way with cracked ice and then add the metal half ingredients over the ice.  Shake for two full minutes. That’s very important to get the meringue-like head.
  •  Strain from the glass to the metal and then strain again into a Collins glass with no ice.
  • Top with a spritz of seltzer and let the foam rest and settle, tapping the base of the glass.  When it settles add another dash of seltzer/club soda so the head comes up a bit above the brim.
  • Serve with a spoon & straw.
milk 2
It’s only a glass of milk  and not a Ramos Gin Fizz that Cary Grant is about to serve to Joan Fontaine, but it glows like one.


Fried Little Fish

Fried Little Fish


Fried Little Fish
Fried Little Fish


They may not really be smelts although that’s how they’re sometimes labeled. They’re between 2 and 3 inches long and you can find them in an Italian or Chinese fish market. Some people call them bait fish, shiners or Kellies, I call them the potato chips of the sea. My Aunt Vicki used to make them on Christmas Eve. She called them “fried little fish.”

fried little fish 3
Floured and ready to fry


Rinse ½ pound thoroughly in a strainer under running cold water. Leave them head to tail, fins and scales. Spread them out on paper towels and blot them as dry as you can. Put 3 tablespoons of flour and some salt and black pepper in a bag, add the fish, shake until they’re coated and then spread them out again.   Put about an inch of light oil in a pan and add the fish when it’s hot. Make sure to separate them before putting them in the pan because they’ll stay stuck together – a little tedious but worth it.

When they’re done add salt. Eat them while they’re hot with white wine or beer like potato chips. A great snack for guests hanging around the kitchen while dinner is cooking.