Tag Archives: NYC STYLE

STEAK TIDBITS OVER BUTTERED TOAST POINTS, CLASSIC AMERICAN CUISINE

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Down in the old canyons of Manhattan’s Financial District known as “Wall Street” small business owners catered to the thousands who worked at every income level and from janitor to CEO. Downtown as we called it was a place where people made their livelihoods and commuted in and out of the city. Today’s Downtown is a mix of the old financial center and a buzzing residential and retail community. This dish in the picture is my “ode” to the places that used to feed all of Downtown’s workers. In 1978 I started working in a Brokerage firm on Broadway, 61 Broadway to be exact. When you exited out the back of the building on its lower level you were on “Trinity Place” at the corner of “Exchange Alley”. That still exists. Opposite was the German American restaurant and bar called VOLK’S…food memory here…Their burgers were amazing, char grilled. Their drinks were big. And their Black Forest Cake was fantastic. At the corner of Exchange and Trinity on the south side of 61 Broadway was a parking lot. And next to that was a place that was the “best place ever” to a college kid working in a a financial firm in NYC. MICHAEL’S ONE was the name of this bar/restaurant and it was where the brokers and traders of the firm along with the back office and clerical workers went after the market closed to have a drink and/or something to eat. Well, the drinks were the usual suspects but at the center of this black leather, polished wood, modern dining space was a central grill and cooking space manned by the Chef known as Sylvester. His steak tidbits were a thing of beauty. Sirloin tips seasoned with salt and pepper, then sauteed in a pan with butter…garlic was added then finished with Worchestershire Sauce…cooked only till medium rare, then poured over buttered white toast points. Amazing. They left a lasting impression on this college kid working for the summer. I wound up sticking with that job and making steak tidbits to this day!!

STEAK TIDBITS

TIME: 1/2 HOUR FOR : 2 SERVINGS

1 1/2 LBS SIRLOIN STEAK TRIMMED OF EXCESS FAT. CUT INTO SMALL DICE/CUBES

1 STICK UNSALTED BUTTER

KOSHER SALT

CRACKED BLACK PEPPER

3 MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TBS WORCHESTERSHIRE SAUCE

1 TSP MINCED FRESH FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

2 TRIMMED SLICES OF GOOD WHITE SANDWICH BREAD TOASTED THEN BUTTERED THEN CUT DIAGONALLY

Season the meat in a stainless steel bowl with about 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. In a heavy pan (cast iron is wonderful) heat 1/2 the butter just till sizzling. Add the meat in a single layer and let it sit for at least 3 minutes, then give the pan a shake and let the other side cook for about 2 minutes. You may need to do this in 2 batches as you don’t want to STEAM the meat if the pan gets overcrowded. When the meat is done remove to a flat platter and you’ll add it back in after you make the sauce. add the rest of the butter and let it melt into the pan. Now add the garlic and once you can smell the fragrance (isn’t it really a fragrance? Does anything smell as good as garlic in a pan of butter or olive oil? I told you…)then add the Worchestershire Sauce (L&P is my preferred brand, no, i’m not a paid influencer, it just has the best taste for me). Swirl the pan a few times and let this sizzle. Season the meat with the black pepper and remaining salt and add to the pan and JUST WARM IT THROUGH, like under a minute. Divide the steak cubes in 1/2 and pour over the buttered toast points drizzling the remaning pan sauce over the servings. Garnish with the parsley. Enjoy each bite of the juicy and saucy tidbits with the buttery toasty bread.

POTATOES O’BRIEN…IRISH-AMERICAN RESTAURANT FOOD

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I appreciate the potato only as a protection against famine; except for that I know of nothing more eminently tasteless.Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Hmmm…while Brillat-Savarin is one of the culinary world’s historical icons, his view of the potato was pretty low.  Don’t always follow everything an expert tells you is the message to be learned here!  Is there any food that you could possibly think of that is more deliciously nutritious, universally loved, accessible to all, and easier to cook into more recipes than there are days in the year?  A native of the Americas, this potato is grown all over the world and factors in every cuisine.  That’s quite unique to most foods so I like to give it a little praise when I can, sorry Brillat-Savarin,  you’re wrong on this one. Today we will talk about a favorite Potato dish of mine, POTATOES O’BRIEN.  Google it.  There are thousands of recipes and stories about it.  Let’s get to the heart of this delicious American dish, starting with…point of origin.  It’s a  story lost in the annals of American food history.  Could be Boston.  Might be New York City.  Most legends name Manhattan as the point of invention so I’ll run with that premise.

The dish is not Irish but does work well into an IrishAmerican St.Patrick’s Dinner, or any time of the year since a restaurant cook nicknamed “BEEFSTEW  O’Brien” is said to have created it in the late 1800’s at a Manhattan restaurant he worked in.  Legend states that he was tired of serving the all brown HASH BROWNED POTATO and decided to throw in some BLING for color and additional flavor.  Green Bell Peppers and Pimentos along with onions were tossed in the skillet with the browning potatoes, cooking in bacon grease.  Sidebar here…animal fat creates the best crisp texture and color in a fried potato…think fries cooked in duck fat..lush, crisp, fantastic.  But, go one step further, and add some diced bacon to this dish.  Now we are talking.  OK, note to my vegan and vegetarian readers…remove the bacon and bacon fat from this dish and using a vegetable or coconut oil you can create a wonderful meatless O’Brien.  See, Potatoes are for everyone!

This potato dish is quite versatile as well, perfect as a breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner menu item.  Make it when the mood strikes and it works great for outdoor grill/bbq meals, with meat, vegetables, or seafoods.

TIME: 1 hour                           SERVES: 4

3 tbs. bacon fat or vegetable oil
1/8 cup diced  bacon (optional, but WAY better when added)
1 12 lb. boiled and cooled  potatoes, cut small cubes or chunks
1 small onion, DICED
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, DICED
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, DICED
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper seasoned to taste
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat 2 tbs.bacon fat in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron for nice heat conductivity. Add the diced bacon and let this take on some color.  Give this at least 5 minutes. Now add the onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper, and let them cook till soft, about 10 minutes.  With a slotted spoon remove the bacon, pepper, onion from the pan and reserve in a bowl.   Add the last tbs. of bacon fat to the pan and when it is hot again over a medium flame/heat toss in the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and LEAVE THEM ALONE for at least 8 minutes.  Now give the pan a gentle shake, with a spatula turn the potatoes over and let them brown an additional 8 minutes on the other side. Don’t panic..not an exact process, you are just trying to get a nice crust on all sides of the potatoes best as you can. Now add the bacon, onion, and peppers gently into the pan and mix with the potatoes and sort of press the whole thing down into the pan with your spatula without smashing the potatoes. Let this cook for 5 minutes. Turn onto a serving plate and garnish with the parsley, and a light seasoning of salt and pepper.  Done. It’s amazing…
    Want an eye catching dish?  fry or poach a few eggs and top them on the finished Potatoes.  I think we are doing Beefstew O’Brien’s dish justice here.  Happy Cooking!!  BTW, some full disclosure here..the day I took this picture, there was no parsley (shocking) and green pepper in the house, so, that’s why the picture is missing the GREEN.  Just imagine it’s there, work with me here…LOL.

 

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.