Michele was the chef at the Fisherman’s Wharf, our family restaurant when we were kids (the drawing above was done by my sister Nicki). Shrimp & Rice was one of his specialties. I don’t have his recipe so I had to make a few guesstimates. What I came up with was pretty close.
Sauté onion and celery in oil with 1 anchovy (or a squeeze of anchovy paste) and Cajun spice When veggies are soft (not brown), add 3 cups of stockand ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce and stir. Check for seasoning. Sometimes stock can be salty and there are other salty ingredients so you may not need any additional salt. Bring it to a boil, add the rice and cook covered on low for 15 minutes.
Add the shrimp and the 4th and last cup of stockand complete cooking – 10 minutes on low heat covered.
If necessary, add some hot water to maintain a soupy consistency.
Fish stock involves fish heads, bones and shells. Make it if you like, but I prefer “Better Than Bouillon Fish Base.” One teaspoon mixed with one cup of hot water is all you need to do.
This is a very basic form of bouillabaisse. Just a few ingredients and there isn’t any shell fish or anis or fennel and the stock is made as it’s cooking. You can start with this recipe and add on to it but it’s really very good as simple as it.
-just a few simple ingredients-
Simmer the onions, garlic and tomatoes in oil with salt and black pepper on high heat, until they soften and release their liquid. There’s no need to peel or cut them too finely since they’ll be strained out before serving. Add the saffron and stir.
Lay the cleaned whole fish (any kind of white fleshed fish will do) on top of the vegetable mixture and cover them with boiling water. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 -15 minutes.
Remove the fish and place it in a platter and filet it. Return the bones to the broth and bring to a rapid boil for a few minutes then strain the liquid.
Place crusty bread in bowls and lay pieces of the fish on top of it, then some of the liquid and a sprinkle of chopped parsley if you like.
Coat the bottom of a baking pan with oil. Layer the onions then the baccala, celery, potatoes, olives and capers. Cover with the crushed tomatoes. Sprinkle the oregano over the top. Jiggle the pan so the tomatoes get to the bottom. Sprinkle with olive oil and add ½ cup of water. Cook in a 3500 over for 45 minutes, mixing every 15 minutes.
* Buy boneless baccala. Try to get frozen packaged rather than dried. It’s easier to desalt. Place the baccala in a bowl or pot and cover with cold water for 24 hours. Change the water 3 or 4 times.
Oyster Bread – a New Orleans recipe adapted by Nicki.
Mix the spices in a small bowl. Put the oysters with the liquid in a bowl. Stir half the spices into the oysters. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Drain the oysters. Put the flour and the rest of the spices in a bowl and mix well. Dredge the oysters in the flour mixture. Fry them in hot oil (the oil should be at least 2 inches high in the pan) until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Mayonnaise spread: Mix the mayonnaise, onions and Tabasco well.
Cut the Italian bread in half (DO NOT CUT THE BREAD AS YOU WOULD FOR A SANDWICH) and scoop out the inside doughy part down to the heel. Spread the mayonnaise mixture into the bread. Stuff the bread with the oysters. Slice the bread into one-inch pieces and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Oyster bread is an excellent appetizer.
“… A standard is baccala, dried cod fish, prepared both as a salad and a stew. It’s so dry it resembles a plank of wood when you buy it. Although caught and processed in the North Atlantic, dried cod has been a Mediterranean staple for centuries where the Norwegian klippfisk became the Italian baccala and the French morue. It must be soaked in cold water for days, changing the water often, to soften it and remove the salt used in the drying process before you can even think about cooking it.” – La Cucina Povera
Two family baccala recipes from Nicki –
In order to prepare baccala it must be soaked in cold water at least two days prior to cooking. Baccala can be bought in a supermarket. It comes in a package. Buy the boned baccala. If the supermarket doesn’t have it you can go to an Italian market. This baccala will be dried and resemble a fossil. Either one is fine, but both must be soaked in cold water. Put the baccala in a container and cover with cold water. Loosely cover the container and change the water two times a day by running cold water over it for a few minutes.
Rinse the baccala and put it up to boil in a large pot of water. Do not salt the water.
The fish may still be salty. Season to taste afterwards. Bring to a rapid boil and cook for five minutes. Drain in a colander. Flake the baccala with your fingers when cool.
Place the fish in a large bowl and add the sliced onions, celery and avocado. Mix it well. Add the oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with the oregano. Drain the liquid from the jar of olives and add to the bowl. Mix well. Taste the salad before adding salt. Add pepper to taste. This salad can be prepared in advance then refrigerated.
Although the ingredients are similar to the baccala salad this stew has an entirely different flavor.
Coat the bottom of a deep baking pan with oil. Add the baccala, par-boiled potatoes, onions and celery, olives, oregano and bay leaf. Mix them well. Pour the can of crushed tomatoes over the top of the mixture. Sprinkle the oregano over the top. Make sure the tomatoes get down to the bottom of the pan. This can be done by jiggling the pan carefully or by placing a slotted spoon in the mixture and moving it around a bit. Bake in a pre-heated 350o oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Serve hot with Italian bread.
This seafood salad is from my sister Nicki. It’s a traditional Christmas Eve appetizer.
Calamari (Squid) – Cut the cleaned calamari (not lengthwise) into 1/2” circles. If you did not buy cleaned calamari you must clean the calamari under cold running water. Pull the head out of the body, making sure to get the clear “bone” out. Squeeze the body from the tail to the opening to get out any residue. Then peel the thin skin off the body. Snip off the eyes and make sure you get the small beak out. (Go for the extra buck and buy cleaned calamari). Boil the calamari in rapidly boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes. They should be tender not rubbery. Drain and set aside.
Scungilli (Conch)– Fresh scungilli can be purchased at an Italian fish market. If you choose to use the fresh you should buy more than a pound because there is a lot of waste when you clean it. Rinse the fresh scungilli thoroughly under cold running water. Boil the whole scungilli in rapidly boiling salted water for about 7 – 10 minutes. Drain and rinse. Slice each piece thinly, discarding the “tail” section and any hard pieces along the edges. There is really quite a bit of waste cleaning scungilli. Canned scungilli saves time, makes your life easier and is very good. I have found that La Monica is the best-canned brand and I have been using the canned for the past few years.
Pulpo (Octopus) – Rinse under cold running water before submerging the whole octopus into salted boiling water. Boil for 30 minutes or more until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water. Cut off the octopus’ head and cut to separate each tentacle. With a kitchen scissor nip the dark purple skin and run your fingers along the “suckers” to release any loose particles. Cut each tentacle into small rounds.
Put all the seafood salad ingredients in a large bowl with the celery and garlic. Add the parsley, oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly. These salads can be made the day before and refrigerated.
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.
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.”
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.
This is an old recipe that Rochelle has kept alive. Our mother used to make it on Christmas Eve.
2 large onions, sliced
½ cup olive oil divided
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 lbs tuna steaks, at least 1 inch thick cut into 2 by 2 inch pieces
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup finely chopped mint
Fry onions in ¼ cup of oil on medium heat until soft, translucent and slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Remove onions and add the rest of the oil to the same pan.
Season tuna with salt and pepper and lightly brown on both sides leaving the center rare. Return onions to pan, mix with tuna, increase heat and add the vinegar. Cover and let steam for 3 minutes. Oil, vinegar and liquid from the tuna will create a light sauce.
Place in a serving dish and sprinkle with the mint. This dish can be served hot or cold. Serves six.