Category Archives: seafood

CLAM AND PORTUGUESE SAUSAGE STEW WITH TOMATO AND ONIONS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Mediterranean is one of the most varied regions of the world in its beauty, its people, its countries and its cuisines.  It straddles Europe, Africa and a bit of Asia.  Centuries of trading and plundering brought foods from all over the globe to this region where, like the peppers and the tomato, they became part of the local cuisine.  Portugal on the far west of the Mediterranean region is actually on the Atlantic but it shares this food connection with the rest of the area.  Seafood, smoked pork sausages, abundant use of the powdered dried red pepper we call Paprika, chiles, onions, Olive Oil, herbs all factor heavily in Portuguese cuisine.  Truth be told I’ve not been there, it’s on my bucket list but thanks to living in the NYC Metropolitan area, there are many Portuguese restaurants one can visit, especially in Newark New Jersey’s Ironbound section.  One one of these visits I was introduced to the combination of Clams and Pork.  There are a few dishes that use fresh pork, fried in cubes, and sometimes sliced Portuguese sausages like chourico and linguica are used.  Combined in a saute’ of the pork,  peppers, onions, garlic, herbs, then wine, paprika, tomatoes, the clams are then added last and steam in the mix adding their oceanic brine to the liquid.  It’s amazing.  Want to try it?  Good.  Let’s cook.

TIME:  about 1 hour                            SERVES:  6

1 LB. PORTUGUESE CHOURICO OR LINGUICA (DIFFERENCE IS CHOURICO IS HOT, LINGUICA IS MILD), CHOICE UP TO YOU.  I LIKE THE EXTRA SPICE KICK FROM THE CHOURICO, SLICED INTO 1/4 INCH RINGS

1 CUP CHICKEN STOCK

1/2 CUP PORTUGUESE WHITE WINE (OR ANY MEDITERRANEAN WHITE)

1/4 CUP SPANISH OLIVE OIL

1 LARGE ONION, THIN SLICED

4 CLOVES OF GARLIC, PEELED AND THICKLY SLICED

1 DRAINED  28 OZ CAN OF SAN MARZANO TOMATOES, COARSE CHOP THE TOMATOES, RESERVE THE JUICE FOR ANOTHER USE

1 JAR ROASTED RED PEPPERS,  SLICED

4 DOZEN COCKLES OR SMALL LITTLE NECK CLAMS, SCRUBBED AND CLEAN

2 SPRIGS OF CILANTRO OR PARSLEY

1 TSP. SWEET SPANISH PAPRIKA (HUNGARIAN WORKS TOO)

PINCH OF SEA SALT

 

In a Dutch oven, add 2 tbs of olive oil and heat.  Brown the Chourico on both sides.  takes about 6 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Add the onions and 1/2 the garlic.  Season with salt and the paprika.  Be careful not to brown the onion as that will turn them bitter.  Keep an eye on it and stir frequently.  When they are fairly soft, add the peppers and tomatoes. Saute’ for 5 minutes then add the wine and reserved Chourico, and let this cook for 5 minutes. Add the Cilantro (or parsley) then the rest of the garlic and the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil a little more olive oil, and then the clams.  With a sturdy spoon make sure the clams are all coated with the liquid. Cover and let this cook for 10 minutes,  Uncover and check for the open clams. If all clams aren’t open gently stir the pot and cook until they are all open, another 5 minutes it should take.  Let the pot sit hot and covered for 10 minutes.  Uncover. Any unopened clams discard.  Serve in bowls with crusty bread on the side that you’ve drizzled the remaining olive oil over. Now dip that bread into those bowls, bring a clam up to your mouth and slurp out the juice and the clam then have a slice of chourico as a chaser.  LOL. Tastes great right?  Enjoy and Happy Cooking!!

 

 

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STUFFED MUSSELS….COZZE GRATINATE…

flakytart 001MUSSELS!!!!  Inexpensive and Delicious Mussels are a way of life here on the Eastern Seaboard.  I live in an area where they are literally scattered all over the beaches so we grew up eating them, pulling them off of the seaside rocks and pilings, or buying them in all the seafood markets and supermarkets.  Fresh live Mussels are very available.  Oh yes, there’s also the frozen ones sold but there’s nothing like eating one that was live only moments before you are eating it.  They are salty…they taste like the ocean….and they come in different sizes.  My preference?  Thanks for asking.  SMALL. Tiny is tastier.  The meat is sweet and in two bites you’re done.  For this recipe look for the Black Mussels in the net, usually on a pile of ice.  They are live.  They are probably from Prince Edward Island or somewhere else in the North Atlantic.  Today’s mussels are cultivated in the wild or wild caught.  Wild Caught need some additional cleaning, the cultivated not so much. There are also larger black ones or the New Zealand Green ones (like at the Chinese buffet restaurants).  I can’t.  Too big.  That’s alot of mussel you’re trying to chew, no thanks. BUT, i’m putting that out there because YOU may want to make this recipe with the large mussel.  Hmmm., to each their own, but i’ve never stuffed the larger ones so I’m not sure of the cooking time on them.   COZZE GRATINATE is Italian  for Mussels stuffed with Breadcrumbs and baked or cooked under a broiler.  Like baked Clams Oreganata, same dealio.  A few years ago in my home kitchen i was tooling around with my usual Mussels Oreganata and decided I want to stuff these mussels differently than I stuff my clams. That’s how it happens.  You find a new recipe..or you use your food knowledge to come up with something new.  Now I didn’t invent the Stuffed mussel but this is my own version of the stuffing.  It’s quite orange in color.  I add San Marzano tomatoes that get pureed then added to the stuffing mix.  You’ll love it.  Let’s make Stuffed Mussels!!

SERVES : 4-6           TIME: about 1 hour

1 1/2 CUPS COARSE ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

2 FINELY MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

3 TBS PECORINO ROMANO

1/2 TSP. PEPERONCINO

PINCH OF SALT

PINCH OF OREGANO

3 TBS PUREED SAN MARZANO TOMATOES or ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

2 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

 

For the Breadcrumbs…Saute’ the garlic in 1 tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add the Breadcrumbs and toast this for about 2 minutes, then Add the tomato, cook for 2 minutes longer and place in a bowl.  Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Reserve for stuffing the mussels.

 

2 lbS. CLEANED ATLANTIC BLUE MUSSELS, LIKE PEI MUSSELS, SCRUBBED AND DEBEARDED

2 TBS. WHITE WINE

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 GARLIC CLOVE, SLiGHTLY BRUISED

Pre heat oven to 475 degrees. Place mussels in a wide pan.  Add the olive oil and white wine, and the garlic clove.  When the steam starts to come up from the pan gently add the cleaned mussels and cover the pan, shaking it  gently every few minutes.  Check to see if the mussels are starting to open.. When they are just starting to open up remove them from the pan and take off the empty side from the shell.  Arrange the mussels in a baking pan.   Drizzle the juice from the mussels in the pan over the mussels on a 1/2 shell. Then top each mussel with the Breadcrumb and tomato mixture.  Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until they look toasty on top.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.  They are just fantastic!!!!

 

VERMOUTH AND LEMON GARLIC SHRIMP

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There are many types of Shrimp sautees usually involving butter, olive oil, garlic and wine.  The most popular of course is the ItalianAmerican favorite, SHRIMP SCAMPI.  Once you have a basic technique or recipe down you can mix/match on it and build up into something new.  When you change even one part of a recipe you’ve created something new.  The rule to follow though, or I should say, the rule I follow is to keep the new ingredients in the same family/cuisine and the end result will turn into a great plate of food.  Case in point, Sauteed Shrimp, or Shrimp Scampi.  By changing one ingredient you create a whole new dish…White Wine has one flavor profile, but if you switch it up to VERMOUTH, now your dish will taste completely different. VERMOUTH is an old school fortified wine, so there we have the common denominator of wine.  Seafood and Vermouth are an old school pairing.  Look through some cookbooks from the late 50’s, early 60’s.  Companies like Martini and Rossi pushed real hard with the food industry to not only use their Vermouth as a drink or a mixer, but as an ingredient for cooking.  It works very well with fish and especially seafood like Shrimp, Clams, Scallops.

Vermouth is a flavorful and interesting type of fortified wine originally made with “WORMWOOD” which in French translates to VERMOUTH. 165994_3211681293308_1441686714_n-1 In Piedmont in Northern Italy various distilleries began to sprout up and Italy along with France because Vermouth country.  As a drink ingredient Vermouth is a main component of the MARTINI which, thanks to JAMES BOND became a signature of the swinging 60’s.  Think MAD MEN and suddenly Vermouth will pop into your head. In fact, that’s what happened when I decided to make this dish.  Mad Men was about to have one of its season premieres and there was a bag of U.S. Wild Caught 16-20 Shrimp in the fridge.  Vermouth in the cabinet.  Lemons in the produce drawer.  It all came together.   Vermouth Garlic Shrimp with Lemon and Parsley.  Vermouth is such a pronounced flavor that I decided a simple addition of Italian Flat leaf parsley would be plenty.  Vermouth is a blend of citrus peels, herbs and other aromatics so there’s the flavoring, no need to add additional green herbs with strong flavors.  And that’s how you take one recipe and create something new.  A few ground rules and you’re golden. So this post will contain 2 recipes..one for the MadMen inspired Vermouth and Lemon  Garlic Shrimp and then a way to make Pierre Franey’s style of Crevettes au Vermouth…fancy right? Didn’t know I could speak French?  Only when it comes to food. I’m not that good, lol.  The Franey’s French version adds cream to the dish.  Life is all about choices, your recipes and cooking should be the same way.

 

SERVES: 4                                           TIME: 35 MINUTES, prep and cooking

  • 1 ½ pounds raw  16-20 shrimp peeled and deveined.
  • 1/8 cup sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. Sweet Paprika (use a Hungarian or European brand)
  • tablespoons  unsalted butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste 
  • 3 sliced garlic cloves 
  • ¼ cup dry white vermouth
  • 1/8 cup Olive Oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 lemon slices
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

In a heavy wide skillet/frying pan gently heat the butter and 1/2 the olive oil  Lightly dredge the shrimp in the flour mixed with the paprika and saute’ the shrimp till just golden on both sides, Takes about 5 minutes.  Do this in batches as overcrowding created steaming because of excess water created and the whole dish is ruined.  Keep the shrimp in on a platter lightly tented with foil. When you are all done saute’ the garlic for 2 minutes taking care not to let it brown or burn then add the Vermouth to the pan and deglaze it.  Add the lemon juice, the salt, pepper, parsley and the remaining olive oil.  Bring to a gentle boil then reduce to a simmer.  Add the shrimp back to the pan and gently heat through for 3 minutes.  Done.  Serve over rice or with potatoes or linguine.  Garnish with Lemon wedges.  Of course, before adding the shrimp taste the sauce and check for seasoning.

to the above recipe…if you want to make it in the style of CREVETTES AU VERMOUTH by Pierre Franey simply omit the lemon.  Omit the olive oil.  Omit the Garlic. Add the following ingredients:

4 tbs. additional unsalted butter

1/4 cup Heavy Cream

 

When you are ready to saute’ the garlic in the first recipe, instead, saute’ the onion till soft, about 7 minutes, then add the vermouth and deglaze the pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce…add the heavy cream, then the additional butter. Blend well and then add the shrimp and heat thru on a simmer for 5 minutes.  French. nice.

Enjoy either. The Vermouth saute on top..and the Cream Sauce version adapted from Pierre Franey’s recipe.

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SHRIMP AND CLAM CHOWDER…SEAFOOD HEAVEN

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A big bowl of warm chowder…works on a dock overlooking the sea in the Summer and it works next to a roaring fireplace in the Winter.  It’s an all seasons food so enjoy this one all through the year.  New England Clam Chowder is just about one of the best things…EVER but this is a little different..it’s a creamy soup with potatoes, vegetables, fresh dill, Hungarian Paprika, Onions, Sherry, Butter, and SHRIMP AND CLAMS.  It’s an elegant dish.  Make it for a fancy dinner or it’s wonderfully casual to..jeans and T-shirt time infront of the TV.  A little bit about some of the ingredients.  If you’re not using dill in some of your cooking, let this start you off.  It’s not just for flavoring pickles.  The Paprika should be SWEET HUNGARIAN.  SZGED is a good brand to look for, most Supermarkets do sell it so I’m not promoting a ridiculously tough ingredient to find.  Why Hungarian?  It’s way more aromatic than the cheaper PAPRIKA that just says PAPRIKA on the label.  There’s also a hot Hungarian paprika, don’t use that one in this.  For the Shrimp, if you can, use Wild Caught U.S.Shrimp and the clams, fresh that are shucked and chopped, liquor reserved.  When these items are not available, find the freshest shrimp you can and use a good prechopped fresh clam or a good canned variety.  Doxsee is generally a safe canned variety.  So, into the kitchen we go to whip up a pot of SHRIMP AND CLAM CHOWDER….you are going to love this.

BTW, don’t think that this is an all day affair….you’re going to be shocked…in an hour you will be enjoying this.

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SERVES: 4                TIME: 1 HOUR, about
3 tablespoons Unsalted butter
1 medium onion, fine dice

1 peeled and diced carrot

2 medium stalks of celery, fine dice
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Sherry (Harvey’s Bristol Cream is really nice in this!)
2 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth or an organic/fat free low sodium boxed broth
2 tbs. tomato paste

1 1/2 tbs. SWEET HUNGARIAN PAPRIKA

Kosher Salt and black pepper to taste

1/2 tbs Tabasco Sauce or 1/8 tsp. ground cayenne or chiles
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, coarsely chopped
18  clams,steams,  shells discarded, clams chopped, liquor reserved or 1 cup chopped clams
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, organic is richest
2 tbs freshly chopped dill

In heavy sauce pan heat the butter.  Add the onions, carrots and celery, pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook this on medium till the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes, careful not to let them brown. Simply lower the heat if you see any of that happening.clamshrimpchowder 001 Add the 1/2 the dill. Heat for 2 minutes.  Now sprinkle the flour over the softened vegetables.  Add the paprika.  Whisk gently and let this cook until a roux is formed around the vegetables.  Cook an additional 1 minute or so..then add the sherry.  Whisk till blended and bring to a boil.  The whole thing will begin to thicken up. Whisk in the tomato paste.  Then whisk in the tabasco and the chicken stock.  Make sure it’s ALL well blended.  NOW bring this to a boil for 2 minutes..then reduce to a simmer.Let this cook for 10 minutes.  Keep Stirring. Now add the potatoes and cook until they are fork tender, takes at least 10 minutes. Only when you’ve tested the potato and it’s done. then you will whisk in the cream and the paprika.  Add the shrimp and clams with their liquor and simmer this for 6 minutes.  Taste for seasonings.  Adjust.  clamshrimpchowder 003 When the soup is of “chowder” consistency you can shut it off.  Stir in the remaining dill.  Now let it sit for at least 1/2 hour..TIP..make the soup..put it to the back of the stove..serve it an hour after you are done.  Let those flavor marry each other, but certainly, you can eat it before you wait another hour…I like letting it “meld” first.  Another option is to serve each bowl with a small spoonful of sour cream in the middle…ahh very rich, but very delicious.

Serve this with nice soft dinner rolls or biscuits..with sweet butter.

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VONGOLE ARRABBIATA, CHILE SPICED CLAMS

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This is a great idea for hanging around on the weekends watching games, or casual get togethers, even works for a weeknight  meal.  America LOVES Chiles, after all it’s one of our indigenous plants.  We go crazy for hot sauce, for whole chiles, for all foods made with them in their fresh, cooked, or dried states.  America is a CHILE CRAZED nation.  From the Americas the rest of the world learned how delicious they are…with a seemingly addictive nature they have regardless of where in the world they are being consumed.   Let’s explore Italy (shocker) for a moment, in particular Southern Italy.  Chiles are a mainstay in all hot climates and the southern regions of Italy are hotbeds (pun intended) for growing these peppers.  Depending on the region they are referred to as PEPERONCINO or DIAVOLiCCHIO .DIAVULLILU, and many others.  Just an aside, don’t confuse PEPERONCINO with the Italian-American pickled Vinegar pepper known as PEPPERONCINI as they are 2 very different foods including their spelling.

Basilicata where my paternal Grandpa comes from LOVES the chile pepper in it’s cuisine.  Shows up in so many of the regional dishes.  We grew up with that tradition which was further cemented by my Dad who grew tons of redhot chiles and dried them every year strung up all over the basement rafters. Dad’s been gone since 2003 but I have the last jar he gave me. It’s my most prized “food” possesion. A pinch of peperoncino is a usual cooking method in COUNTLESS Southern ITalian dishes but sometimes it becomes the dominant flavor as in ARRABBIATA style, or FRA DIAVOLO(more ITalian-American) meaning ANGRY.  A colorful way to describe a dish..it’s a popular tomato sauce for pasta.  Here I take that southern Italian seafood and chile tradition and elaborate on it.  I rarely say this, but certainly adjust the amount of peperoncino that you are using to your taste but if anything spicy is not in your wheelhouse this isn’t the recipe for you.  My suggestion for how to serve this is as you would serve a pot of steamers…just the clams…and some good bread.

TIME: 1/2 HOUR                               SERVES:  4

4 TBS OLIVE OIL

4 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED

1 1/2 TSP. PEPERONCINO

4 DOZ LITTLE NECK CLAMS, or COCKLES, or MANILA CLAMS, well scrubbed and rinsed

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

SEA SALT

In a heavy bottomed pot heat the olive oil, then add the garlic and the 1 tsp. of the Peperoncino. Let this cook on medium for 2 minutes being careful not to let the garlic brown, then add the wine.  Bring to a boil then to a simmer. Add the clams.  With a heavy spoon get all the clams coated with the wine and garlic liquid.  THEN, cover tightly and keep on simmer and STEAM the clams until they have opened, takes about  8  minutes.   Shake the pot midway thru GENTLY.  Carefully remove the cover  and give the clams a good but gentle stir.  Remove any that did not open.  Add the lemon juice and the balance of the peperoncino and gently stir again. SERVE! with some good bread.  That’s it!! Now,are you wondering why I have salt in the ingredient list?  Taste that liquid.  I will venture a guess that it’s totatlly seasoned.  Why?  The liquor from the clams is salt water.  That will season the juices. Adding salt will put it over the top, unless you feel you need to, SO,before you serve, taste..then season if you need to, and drizzle with good Olive oil, then serve.  COOKING RULE…you can always add, you can NEVER subtract salt from a dish. There’s also a lack of greenery here..it’s no needed. Those clams look beautful without the green addition.  If you feel you need it…a little chopped flatleaf Italian parsley I guess (can you see my displeasure?? lol)..but one should always eat to one’s taste and pleasure.

 

SHRIMP SCAMPI, MY VERSION OF THIS ITALIAN AMERICAN CLASSIC

scampi 022 I hope that picture caught your attention.  I made this dish and looking at it  I’m thinking, boy, would I like to make that dish!!   It’s the colors, it’s the SHRIMP, it’s the total package.  The dish known as SHRIMP SCAMPI is almost a universal favorite because it contains so many flavors that we love.  Well here comes my lecture, you’re not going to get my recipe without me pontificating about the dish.  Sit down, get a nice glass of wine, espresso, coffee, tea, for other drink and let’s talk SCAMPI.  First lesson of the post is that what you are looking at and probably call “Scampi” is an Italian-American creation that is correctly called SHRIMP SCAMPI, hence the title of the blog.  Why is it not just SCAMPI?? GLAD YOU ASKED! This is a SCAMPI:scampi 004 Aren’t they gorgeous?  That’s a crustacean called NEPHROPS NORVEGICUS. Say that three times.  Translated it’s the NORWEGIAN LOBSTER, or most commonly called LANGOUSTINE.  It also goes by the lively name DUBLIN BAY PRAWN and possibly a host of others. It’s a slender creature win long pincers that unfortunately does not inhabit the waters of the United States.  Very unfortunate.  This is my favorite food..on earth.  How sad for me.  Let’s move on.  In Italy this crustacean is called LO SCAMPO or GLI SCAMPI.  You’re practically fluent now!  The North Atlantic and the Mediterranean are Scampi grounds.  In Italy the most common way to prepare  SCAMPI is split, then grilled with Olive Oil, parsley, and lemon.  Simple!! Did I tell you I recently found some Scamp here in the U.S. and cooked up 6 of them? Here’s the proof:scampi 016And that’s what they look like.  The bodies resemble a large Shrimp (oxymoron aside) and the immigrants to the U.S. from Italy recreated this dish and transformed it, using the available shrimp here into a dish that now took on some of those Italian traits all pressed together to create the Olive Oil, Shrimp, Lemon, Wine or Vermouth, Parsley and Garlic dish we call SHRIMP SCAMPI!  Ok, class is over, there will be a quiz tomorrow before you’ve had your first latte.  I hope that was interesting but what’s even more interesting will be cooking and eating Shrimp Scampi so let’s get cooking!!

PREP AND COOKING TIME: 1/2 hour              SERVES: 4

1 1/2 LB JUMBO SHRIMP, PEELED AND DEVIENED (stop right here..did you throw those shrimp shells out?  really?  Do you like the taste of a rich shrimp bisque?  That flavor comes not from the meat of the shrimp, but from a stock that is a reduction of the shells.  The flavor in the shells is just amazing.  You can either make your stock while you are cooking the shrimp, or freeze them in a tightly closed bag for about 1 month. Then use them when you get a nice amount and make a stock similar to how you would make a chicken stock.  Don’t waste anything!!  All those flavors that a good chef/cook will wow you with are derived many times from what’s considered garbage)

1/4 cup OLIVE OIL

2 TBS. UNSALTED BUTTER

4 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/8 CUP WHITE WINE OR VERMOUTH

KOSHER SALT

PINCH OF FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

JUICE OF ONE LEMONscampi 019

In a wide skillet heat 1/2 the oil and 1/2 the garlic, pinch of salt. Saute’ for only under a minute, then add the shrimp.  Saute’ for a few minutes on each side then remove them and the pan contents to a platter and lightly cover with foil.  Now add the rest of the oil, the garlic, when you smell that garlic…add the wine and bring to a boil then to a simmer.  Let this cook for 2 minutes, then add the shrimp back in and coat well with the pan juices.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add the parsley, the lemon juice, pinch of salt, black pepper and the butter.  scampi 021 Now be a good cook and taste one of the shrimp…(how will you know if it tastes right??)..if they are done, they are ready to serve.. If you need more seasoning..go with more lemon juice before you add salt, or just a pinch.  Now serve on their own, with rice, with pasta.  This is a clean crisp presentation.  Some recipes call for the kitchen sink to be added as well (in the 60’s they added Worchestershire Sauce..i’m pretty sure that those Italian scampi weren’t swimming in Worchestershire Sauce…so…no thanks to that in my Scampi Style Shrimp!!).

The butter is a finisher…a closer if you will..it adds a little flavor, but it pulls the dish together as opposed to cooking this in a butter “sauce”..where butter is the main fat in the sauce.  and the Lemon and parsley are last too because they add tons of flavor to it, fresh flavor.  If you add those ingredients early on..they sort of get lost in the end product.scampi 018  US WILD CAUGHT SHRIMP..a  product we can be proud of and really the best type to use for your cooking and eating.  Hopefully you can find some near you to create this dish!!

 

 

ITALIAN-AMERICAN SHRIMP BALLS ALLA LITTLE CHARLIES CLAM BAR, NYC

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  These are Shrimp balls  (ok, stop your lol’ing) and you will want to eat these balls.  Period, end of story.  Tasty morsels of everything that’s good in an Italian-American kitchen and more, it’s SEAFOOD!  And like with all little fried tidbits they are great for entertaining or as a first course.  Now let me tell you about these particular ones, first of all they are not my idea, they are a creation (although probably not unique) of a now extinct Italian-American Clam bar restaurant on Kenmare Street in the old Little Italy section of Manhattan, NYC.  It’s name was LITTLE CHARLIE’S CLAM BAR and it was famous. I know, everywhere is famous, but this place was.  It was pure Goodfellas with a touch of Rat Pack and Godfather and Pope of Greenwich Village thrown in for added effect.  Call it a “Red Sauce” joint if you want (I don’t want, I hate that term) with seafood as it’s specialty.  Little Italy seafood restaurants were /are a subset of all other seafood places.  They of course have the requisite Raw Bar, but they also have this Napoletana influenced fried seafood assortment.  Shrimp and calamari are lightly dusted in flour, quick fried, then placed in a platter, a FRISELLE (hard Italian Black Pepper Biscuit) on the bottom, and your choice of 3 sauces..these hard core garlic laden tomato sauces which come in varying degrees of heat. Sweet, Medium, or Hot.  Get your choices straight or you are in for trouble. The sauce is then poured over the top with lemon on the side and this is the stuff Italian-American food dreams are made of.  This is a picture of Little Charlie’s which closed about 5 years ago. The name is still up there but it’s not the restaurant it was:461044384_b40cc290fe  The cooks and chefs walked over the Manhattan Bridge and resettled in hipster trendy central, Williamsburg, Brooklyn and opened Desy’s Clam Bar.  You can find some of the old flavors there including these SHRIMP BALLS which when we used to order out or in at Little Charlie’s we would get extra.  They are that good.

MAKES: ABOUT 20-25 SHRIMP BALLS                                      TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS

1 1/2 LB CLEANED, DEVEINED MEDIUM SHRIMP (DO NOT USE LARGE OR JUMBO BECAUSE IT’S A SHAME TO CHOP THEM  UP), THEN CHOP THEM INTO SMALL PIECES

1 1/8 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

3 FINELY MINCED (ALMOST INTO A PASTE) CLOVES OF GARLIC

3 TBS. CHOPPED FLAT LEAF ITALIAN PARSLEY

1/2 TSP. PEPERONCINO (LESS IF YOU ARE NOT A FAN OF THAT SPICY KICK)

1 TBS. WHITE WINE

2 BEATEN EGGS

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

1/2 TSP. DRIED OREGANO RUBBED BETWEEN YOUR HANDS

First mix all the dry ingredients.  Then add the eggs, oil, lemon juice then the shrimp.  Blend well.  Form as many golf ball sized Shrimp balls as you can.  Place on a baking sheet you have covered with a piece of waxed paper then loosely cover and chill them in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour.

In a heavy skillet add 1/2inch of olive oil.  Bring up the heat and fry the balls off till nicely browned on all sides.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Aren’t they beautiful??  And they taste even better than they look. This process should take no more and 8-10 minutes but LET YOUR EYE BE YOUR GUIDE!!!  A recipe is a guide which sometimes needs adjusting.  You may follow my instructions but have your heat too high, or too low and it will affect the final product.  You want to make sure that the balls are cooked through and no more.  Cook  in batches and drain on Brown paper bags or paper towels.

THE SAUCE:

This is important…it’s what makes something “Little Italy” style in my eyes.  It’s not a Marinara or Sugo di Pomodoro that you generally have with a vast array of pastas or using as a dipping sauce.  One day I’ll find out the genesis of this sauce and be very happy with that knowledge. Till then, just make it, it’s intrinsic to the dish.

You will notice my departure from the San Marzanos. SHOCKING! Here’s why, this is a thick sauce and I’m thinking that this sauce may have been devised in the kitchens of early immigrant Italian cooks to the U.S. Tomato puree and paste are best for this.

1 can Tomato Puree

1 can tomato paste

5 (yes~another reason I think the sauce is a made in  America version of an Italian sauce) CLOVES OF SLICED GARLIC

3 TBS OLIVE OIL

1/4 TSP PEPERONCINO for a SWEET version

1 TSP. PEPERONCINO FOR the MEDIUM version

2 TBS.PEPERONCINO FOR the HOT version

2 tbs. WHITE WINE

SALT, PEPPER

Pay attention to those amounts…you will kill your dish if you don’t pick which heat intensity you are comfortable with.  the Hot version is REALLY hot.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil..then add the Peperoncino right into the oil..this is going to carry that heat and chile flavor through the finished sauce.  Now add the garlic and let this sizzle JUST until it starts to get golden…work quickly here..then add the wine  and then the tomato paste.  Mix in the paste with the hot oil (at this point lower the heat a bit) and cook for 2 minutes, stirring while you wait.  Then add the tomatoes and 1/2 can of water (using the tomato puree can). Salt and Pepper to taste. Stir well then bring to a boil. Now lover the heat to a simmer and let this cook until it’s about 1/2 reduced.  This should take about 1 hour 15 minutes.  Just keep on low(simmer) and keep stirring.  It’s a hot, spicy, deep colored sauce.   Serve the sauce over the balls or in a small bowl for dipping.

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There’s a bit of dried oregano in the sauce, but that’s  not a good garnish.  Instead I’m using fresh oregano sprigs from my garden.  A note on garnishing, always use something that’s an ingredient in the dish (flowers are exempt from this rule).  Now you must be saying, there’s dried oregano in the sauce and fresh as the garnish. WHAT the hell???  It’s the same herb,yes different tastes but it looks good without throwing you off.  Don’t like that logic?  LOL…sorry, pull up a chair , squeeze some lemon over the balls and dip into that sauce.

By the way I didn’t miss the step where you bread the balls…they do not get breaded.