Archive for March, 2013

A Salon at Howlets

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

 

When Sarah Kelly from The Roving Home calls and says, “you got a minute?” she really means, “Heather, you got two months?”  And it’s always, always the beginning of something wonderful.

Once this kind of call ended up as a tent set up at the end of White Wharf in Rockport with a bluegrass band, a hotdog machine, and a bunch of people holding artwork they own.  At the start of an hour, art-holders started swapping with each other.  Bluegrass played.  Waves lapped.  Tourists holding ice cream cones wondered what was going on.

Every time someone asked to swap a piece of artwork, a mark was put on the requested piece.  The work with the most requests at the end of the “game” won.  It was a sort of Yankee Art Swap in which the value of the item was actually charted; a work’s value wasn’t in dollars but in recorded demand.

Another time Sarah called me to say, “Rockport needs a summer-time farmer’s market – right downtown.”  That’s happening.  Watch for it.

Welcome to Sarah Kelly’s Rockport, a blended allegiance to the town’s quirky history of artists, quarrying, lobstering, and Nisu, and to a new vibe in which arty becomes multi-generational, edgy, provocative, thoughtful and gets a fabulous view with something authentic if not delicious to eat.

Sarah, along with an equally talented group of Rockporters, runs Rockport Festivals:  Motif #1 Day and HarvestFest, which in the last two years attracted over 5,000 visitors to town.  When Sarah calls, I say “yes” before she’s finished talking.  This time, the call went like this,  “Heather, why don’t we do a lunch, and invite a bunch of people we don’t know…”

That was vaguely the idea, but more specifically the plan was to invite people from the art and design world “over the bridge,” who know little of Cape Ann’s history and culture.

 

Lunch at my house, at Howlets, would mean a lesson in Folly Cove’s and Lanesville’s artistic traditions – as deep as the quarries that blacken the Lanesville woods – Walker Hancock, Paul Manship, the Folly Cove Designers, and the Finns who settled here.   “Lunch for strangers at Howlets” would also mean a lesson in the Hale Family, the Hale artists who built my house, their daughter, Nancy Hale, who wrote for the New Yorker, and their two great aunts, anti-slavery author Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catherine Beecher, famous in the 19th century for her book on domesticity, described by scholar Kathryn Kish Sklar as “a comprehensive guide to all aspects of domestic self-management, an effort to create a female domain from which cultural power could be exercised.”  Yeah, she’s my favorite.

So, in what seems to be our matched style, Sarah and I proceeded not really knowing where this was going.  I’m pretty sure our guests didn’t know where this was going either; everyone seemed a little confused when they first arrived.  Remember, we barely knew these people and they barely knew each other.  Some, were happy/relieved to recognize a face, or be able to say, “I’ve eaten in your restaurant,” but mostly guests were simply people we thought would appreciate the quiet greatness of Folly Cove and Lanesville, or people who are part of that greatness.

 

 

 

 

I prepared the lunch – a croustade of Alprilla Farm swiss chard and spinach, and then Early Spring Soup, a bowl of tiny local root vegetables doused in hot Appleton Farms milk, and garnished with Sasquatch smoked salmon, peas and dill.  Lanesville resident Mary Lou Nye baked Nisu which we spread with Appleton Farms butter.  There were chocolate espresso cookies for dessert, and there was prosecco and Gruner wine gently poured.  This was a weekday lunch, after all.

Sarah styled.  Resistant to capital “S” style, Sarah’s is not just a bow to the seasons but a crawl along the ground hunting for that truest and best source of style, what nature gives us for free.

 

 

 

 

 

A large birch log cradling plates of mushrooms lay down the center of the table as if it had just fallen in the woods.  The mushrooms cupped clumps of moss, the dirt still shaking from it, in which fluttered crepe-paper snowdrops, handmade by Sarah.

Across the room a collection of boxes, “Joseph Cornell-like,” as one guest described them, housed small totems to spring and Cape Ann:  rocks, more moss.

 

 

Guests left with a rock and a Sarah-created folio covered by a nautical map of cape ann, a silouette of a whale painted on it, an image inside of Dogtown from the 1920s, and a poem about Rockport by Lucy Larcom, a tiny emblem of our day.

Hopefully, guests left happy and less confused.  One gentleman, standing at the door ready to leave, declared, “I know what this was; it was a salon!”  And then he turned to a female guest and said, “and you’re Gertrude Stein!”

Now that we know what this is, we hope to have more.  Watch for your invitation.

 

Cape Ann has her own poets, nightingales 

Warbling among her roses, rarely heard, 

Except by those who woke that minstrelsy ; — 

And she hath joy in other voices : hers 

Who saw and pointed to the Gates Ajar 

So earnestly, the world turned to look in ; 

And his whose rippling notes the Merrimack 

Brings down to charm the coast with, — Avery’s chant, 

Surging up from the seas and centuries 

In dying triumph, — and the marvelous tale 

Of spectral soldiers at the garrison 

In times of war and witchcraft ; and that bard’s 

Whose tender Ballad of the Hesperus 

Blooms, a sweet, pale, pathetic flower of song, 

From the bare reef of Norman’s Woe. 

Cool coves, 

That open to blue breadths of sea ; lost roads, 

Wandering, bewildered, past forsaken homes,

House and inhabitant forgotten now, 

And grass-grown cellar-hollows their sole sign ; 

Strange rocking-stones a-tilt for centuries ; 

White lily-ponds and dank magnolia-beds ; 

Sands that give music to your footstep ; pines 

Hoarse with forever answering the sea’s moan, — 

These will awaken to poetic life In hearts of unborn minstrels. 

Though too late For resurrection of dead legends now, 

Though Woes and Miseries haunt us unexplained, 

Though all the dangerous coast is lighted up, 

Safe as a city street by night, — the gleam 

Of Straitsmouth, Eastern Point, and Ten Pound Light, 

And Thacher’s Isle, twin-beaconed, winking back 

To twinkling sister-eyes of Baker’s Isle, — 

Prosaic names await romantic births. 

Man makes his own traditions ; life and death 

And love and sorrow baffle commonplace ; 

And poesy will find her wilderness 

Of fancy to grow up in, blithely free 

From pedant – theories of thus and so, 

That fence the schools around.

 – Lucy Larcom

The Wild Roses of Cape Ann

and Other Poems, 1880

Carrots, Baby! – a correction.

Friday, March 29th, 2013

 

My statement about baby carrots was corrected by Nola Anderson, who has been growing many varieties in her Manchester, Massachusetts garden for years.

“It is not true,” Anderson says, “that the ‘baby’ carrots cut for toddler’s lunches are cut from old carrots.  Some years ago a farmer with a crop of old gnarly carrots got the idea of whittling them down — thus ‘inventing’ baby carrots — but it just doesn’t make sense for farmers to do that now.  It would tie up their land too long. Baby carrots are a huge business so it is in the farmer’s best interest to turn over the crop quickly.  They typically sow the seed very thickly and then thin and harvest at the same time — or grow a quickly-maturing type that can be harvested at once.”

Anderson sites this piece from the Huffington Post on Grimmway Farms, the largest organic produce grower in the world.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dawn-jackson-blatner-rd-cssd-ldn/facts-baby-carrots_b_2162178.html  According to the author, Grimmway began as a roadside stand in 1968, and now ships 10 million pounds of carrots a week.  Read this; it has twenty things you didn’t know about baby carrots, all reasons to be giving them to your toddler or using them in dishes like the soup I just published.

Yet, Anderson reminds that confusion always swirls around the subject of baby carrots.  Even in the Huffington Post piece, she says, “the writer’s first point — ‘Baby carrots aren’t born that way’– is wrong. There are many cultivars of baby carrots.”

So, two things to know:  there are “baby” carrots, the uniform ones sold in a plastic bag, and they can be delicious, a great, effortless choice for a quick roast or saute.  Go for the organic ones.

And there are baby carrots, grown to be all kinds of slender, smaller shapes, a charming choice with their feathery fronds.

Baby and “baby” carrots are different but fine choices.  Eat your veggies; in this case the plastic bag version is fine.

I stand corrected and educated. Thanks, Ms. Anderson.

Early Spring Soup, based on Kesakeitto

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

 

This is a reprint of a recipe I love.  It looks like a painting and tastes like a spring garden.  Based on a Finnish recipe called Kesakeitto, or Finnish Summer Soup, this is a small mound of the most delicate spring vegetables pooled in a broth of hot, fresh milk, garnished with smoked salmon and peas.  My version of the dish crosses the Atlantic and backs up a season; I call it “Early Spring Soup in New England.”

 

Small parsnips, baby turnips, tiny yellow beets, broccoli florets, the tiniest baby potatoes, and a dice of carrots, all cooked quickly in boiling salted water, mound in the center of each bowl.

I looked for the best vegetables I could find.  I chopped the larger vegetables like parsnips and carrots, still looking for the smallest versions of them, into a tiny dice.  If a beet or turnip was small enough, I sliced them into rounds.   Along with a variety of vegetables, I wanted a variety of shapes, not just a pile of diced Birds Eye veggies.  The only vegetable I kept whole were the tiny potatoes.

I found a treasure of root vegetables at a Winter Farmer’s Market, but if seeking freshly dug produce isn’t on your to-do list this week, a keen eye at the grocery store will allow you a beautiful palette in your bowl, and probably a delicious one.

All the vegetables are cooked in boiling, salted water, beginning with the vegetables that make take the longest, (in my case it was the potatoes,) to the vegetables that will cook the fastest, using your judgement.  My order went like this:  potatoes cooked for two minutes, then I added the diced parsnip and carrots, then the beets and turnips, then the broccoli.

Half the deliciousness of this soup is the milk broth, simply the freshest, best milk you can find heated with a tiny bit of sugar and flour, and poured hot over the vegetables.  The thirty-eight Jersey cows at Appleton Farms in Ipswich can take a bow here.

I slit open a few snap peas, and saved the tiny beads inside for a garnish, along with some thinly sliced radishes, and fresh dill.  Rosy chunks of smoked salmon crumbled over the top.  I prefer the hot-smoked chunky kind for this, and used the locally cured Sasquatch smoked salmon available at Willowrest in Gloucester, but Steve Connolly also sells excellent hot-smoked salmon.

 

 

Early Spring Soup, based on the Finnish Kesakeitto

 

serves 6-8

Ingredients

4 cups organic whole milk, preferably local

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus 1 tablespoon for the vegetables

8 cups of tiny, fresh vegetables:  broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, new potatoes, zucchini, carrot, onion, asparagus tips, kohlrabi, beets, turnips, fennel, radishes,  and especially peas

water to cover

for the garnish:

1/2 pound hot-smoked salmon

fresh radishes, thinly sliced

fresh peas, or the tiny peas from inside 4-5 snap peas

fresh dill, chopped

fresh pepper, use white pepper if you want to retain the whiteness of the milk

 

Instructions

In a large saucepan stir together the sugar, flour and salt.  Slowly at first, stirring to blend, add the milk.  Whisk until mixture is smooth.  Gently heat the milk, whisking it occasionally to keep the flour from cooking on the bottom of the pan. Do not let it boil.

In a separate large pot, bring the salted water to a boil.

Prep the vegetables, peeling the potatoes, carrots, beets and turnips to keep them tender, and cutting all into roughly equivalent size.

When the water boils, drop in the vegetables that will take the longest to cook, like the potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, and then add the lighter vegetables like radishes, peas, and broccoli.  Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon or sieve, and distribute them evenly into heated bowls.  Pour the hot milk over the vegetables but not to cover.  Allow the vegetables to rise attractively in a mound out of the milk.

Crumble the smoked salmon over the top, and garnish with radish, peas, and dill.  Grind some pepper over all, and serve immediately.

 

Fried Redfish, or what to do with the weekly Cape Ann Fresh Catch share

Monday, March 25th, 2013

 

This is a very short post on this week’s Cape Ann Fresh Catch share, whole redfish.  I’m hoping to post each week about what happens in this particular household on Thursday afternoons when the week’s share of hake, pollack, redfish, and whatever else the fishermen are catching comes in.

I’ve been hearing a lot about redfish, the common name for members of the deep-sea genus Sebastes.  It’s also known as Ocean Perch.  They are small, deep-sea dwelling fish with enormous bulging eyes and dangerous, prehistoric-looking spikes rising out of their backs.

 

I think Nemo was a redfish.  There are supposedly lots of redfish; they are one of those fish we’re supposed to learn to love.

Along with a trove of recipes, fish information, and everything you need to know about Community Supported Fishing, the Cape Ann Fresh Catch site has a video in which Angela SanFillipo explains how to safely handle this needled, pink catch:  http://www.capeannfreshcatch.org/cooking/redfish_prep.html

I came home from picking up my weekly share with a sagging plastic bag of whole redfish and a long list of other things to do besides de-spike and gut.  Thankfully, my husband loves this kind of thing, and two days later we had a pint jar filled with gorgeous fish stock from all those bones, and these cornmeal-crispy fillets for dinner, proving that with a little time the whole fish is so much more gratifying than the sanitized fillets.

 

I missed all the gutting and filleting photo opportunities, because my husband quietly took care of everything.  I walked through the kitchen at one point, and saw a lovely pile of neat oval fillets.  The next time I saw these fish they were a beautiful pile of golden fried loveliness.  The redfish itself was white, flakey, sweet, and very easy to love, particularly when given this coating of crunch.

I should probably include my husband in this recipe success, because this week at least, I couldn’t have managed whole redfish without him.   But the other critical ingredient is the fish; I will confidently say that Cape Ann Fresh Catch is the freshest, highest quality fish available.

Here is David Rabin’s very simple recipe for fried redfish – or ocean perch – fillets.  He made redfish something to love, particularly on a very busy weekend.

 

Fried Redfish Fillets

 

5 whole redfish or 2 pounds filets

 

1 cup buttermilk

 

1 cup flour

 

1/2 cup cornmeal

 

salt and pepper

 

oil for frying

 

 

Instructions

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 

Soak fillets in buttermilk in a plastic bag for a thirty minutes.  In a shallow bowl mix together flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper.

 

In a large skillet heat 1/2 inch of oil to shimmering, or when a pinch of the flour bubbles and froths when dropped in.

 

Remove fillets from the bag, dredge in flour mixture, and lay them into the oil.  Do not crowd and don’t let them touch.  Wash the flour mixture off your hands, and by the time you return to the pan it is time to flip them, about two minutes per side.

 

Remove from oil, and place on a baking sheet.  Put that in the oven, and proceed with the next batch of fillets.

 

Serve with lemon, tartar sauce or malt vinegar.

St. Joseph’s Day Pasta

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

 

 

In the old days Gloucester school children stayed home on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19th, and workers all over the city left their jobs at lunch time to attend one of the hundreds of luncheons being prepared all over the city; some carried dishes which they would fill with leftover St. Joseph’s Day pasta.  The day was as special in the hearts of Gloucester Sicilians as St. Peter’s and Christmas; St. Joseph, after all, cared for the sick, for workers, for fathers, orphans, and homes.  It is said that if you want to sell your house bury a statue of St. Joseph upside down in a corner of your property for good luck.  To this, Emma Tarantino, the petite matriarch in charge of last Saturday’s Tarantino feast of St. Joseph, declared she would never be able to sell her house, “How could I do that to that man?!” – meaning the saint for whom at each stage of the pasta-making someone calls out, “Como siamo tutti mute?!” – What are we all mute?!

And the family responds in unison, “Viva, Jesus, Maria, Giu-seeeep-Pe!

These days March 19th falls on a weekday, and modern life makes it more difficult for everyone to stop for a saint, so the Tarantino family prepared their feast – the traditional homemade pasta with fava beans, lentils, cauliflower, and fennel – for 60 on a day when everyone could be there.  It was an adapted tradition, but no less absolute.

 

Emma never stopped smiling as one group tended the pasta in her small kitchen and she stirred the enormous pot of goranza, the Sicilian term for a pasta sauce.  Friends and family filed in both her back door and front, carrying more trays of food – fruit platters, cannolis, zeppole from Jim’s Donut Shop.  Each time a new group of guests arrived, the cry arose from some corner of the house, “Como siamo tutti mute?!”

Viva, Jesus, Maria, Giu-seeeep-PE!”

“They LOVE this!  Can you see it!” Emma beamed up at me, so deeply happy that the old St. Joseph Day tradition was revived.  Jimmy Tarantino, his cousins Annette, Pauline, Salvatore, and his wife Laurel were all there at 7:00 a.m. cracking eggs into the flour, eyeing just the right amount of water to add, and kneading the dough for twenty minutes.  When I arrived at 8:00 a.m. five or six golden pasta doughs were resting beneath a dish towel.  We all began breaking off small sections and rolling into egg-size football shapes.  Each of those shapes – maybe 100 of them – were then rolled through the pasta machine.  One person fed, and one person cranked.  And one person – usually Annette, called out, “Como siamo tutti mute?!”

“Viva, Jesus, Maria Giu-seeeeep-PI!”

 

The Tarantinos call the dough “bei-sta,” the Sicilian vernacular for pasta.  Jimmy Tarantino laughed, remembering when someone once asked his grandmother how to spell “bei-sta;”  “P-A-S-T-A-,” his grandmother answered, surprised the person didn’t know how to spell.

More cousins – Martha Moore and her children, someone carrying a curly-haired baby –  arrived, and everyone began helping to cut the pasta, racing the fresh ribbons to a bed down the hall covered in clean sheets, upon which we separated the strands.  Sal drove to Virgillio’s to pick up the St. Joseph’s rolls, returning with bags and bags of the soft rolls cut with a cross.  Jimmy left to fetch his mother, Shirley, who, even with compromised breathing, insisted on being there and having a role.  She sat quietly at one end of the kitchen assembling the bags of oranges, lemons and St. Joseph rolls that are traditionally handed to every guest as they leave.

 

“The oranges represent sweetness of life, the lemons represent the good and the bad, and the rolls mean you will never go hungry,” Annette told me.

 Someone set a beautiful bowl of oranges on the table.  Someone brought out the “Boipi,” the treasured octopus salad, not a St. Joseph’s tradition, but everyone loves it so it’s become a special dish for every holiday.  After the hours of pasta kneading, cranking, and cutting, people sat and took a break of the delicious octopus, carrots and celery in a sharp vinaigrette, into which we dipped the warm St. Joseph’s rolls.

More guests arrived.  The “Viva!” rang out.  A batch of babies, chased by parents, crawled on the floor between grown-up legs.  Wine poured.  Thirty or so saints stood assembled upon a homemade altar between the kitchen and the living room.  Long ago, when grandmother Pauline Tarantino died, the statues had been dispersed among the grandchildren, each taking their favorite saint or the one for which they were named.  Those grandchildren, all grown, had returned each saint to this altar to be together again for St. Joseph’s Day.

 

 

For many Gloucester families the St. Joseph’s Day tradition had faded for a while.  A few years ago Emma decided to make the pasta again.  When her house was suddenly bursting with family and friends, Emma realized how much everyone had missed this mid-Lent celebration.  This year, Emma’s grandson, Michael Tarantino – in his twenties – stood beside his new fiance, and watched as his aunt mixed the fresh pasta with the goranza.

“It needs to marry more,” Michael admonished Annette.  Even this young man, ready to start a family, with visions of living and working far away in Hawaii, stood proudly with his happy, laughing family, and already had strong feelings about the Tarantino St. Joseph’s Day traditions.

 

When the pasta was finally married with the goranza, rich with fava beans and lentils, softly flavored with fennel and cauliflower, the fettucini silky, Annette and Pauline served from the enormous pot;  the steaming bowls of St. Joseph’s Day pasta were passed around.  The altar around the corner sparkled.   Some things may change in Gloucester, but the love this community feels for St. Joseph, and the traditions around this saint, extend back over years and project to the future, joining this community.  St. Joseph still heals.

While no one would ever make this small an amount of St. Joseph’s Pasta, I have adapted Emma’s recipe that serves 60 for 6-8.

 

Tarantino St. Joseph’s Day Pasta

Tarantino St. Joseph’s Day Pasta

serves 6-8

 

For the pasta

 

Ingredients

 

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

6-8 tablespoons cold water

 

Instructions

 

1.  Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.

 

2.  Make a well in the center of flour.  Add eggs one at a time mixing slightly after each addition.  Use hands for this.

3.  Gradually add 6 to 8 tablespoons of cold water.  Still using your hands, mix well to make a stiff dough.  Turn dough onto a slightly floured surface and knead dough into a ball.  Knead for approximately for twenty minutes.   Allow dough to rest.

 

4.  Cut off small portions of dough, the size of a small egg, and shape them between your hands into a football shape.

 

5.  Roll each of these shapes through a pasta machine first set on #3 to slightly flatten, and then set on #6 to flatten more.   Allow to rest again on clean dish towels.  Then cut a final time into fettucini shapes.  Spread pasta ribbons out again on a clean surface so that they can dry slightly, and not stick together.

 

6.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add pasta, and cook for 8 minutes.  Drain.

 

7.  Ladle pasta into the prepared sauce, which will still have a lot of liquid.  Allow pasta and sauce to “marry,” letting it sit on a low temperature together for 15 minutes before serving.  When serving, stir up from the bottom to make sure you get all the goranza.

 

 

Tarantino St. Joseph’s Day Goranza

adapted to serve 6-8

 

Ingredients

 

1 1/4 cups dried fava beans

1 can fava beans

2/3 cups dried lentils

2/3 cups yellow split peas

1 can chick peas, rinsed

1 small cauliflower

1 can black eyed peas, rinsed

stems and fronds of 1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

 

Instructions

 

1.  Wash dried fava beans & let soak over night.

2.  Rinse the canned fava beans and peel.

3.  Drain soaked fava beans.  Cover in fresh water and simmer in a very large pot until tender.  This pot will hold all the sauce and the pasta.

4.  Wash the lentils & yellow peas and pick out any small stones.  Place in a medium size pan with water to cover, and cook until slightly tender.  Add salt, pepper and olive oil while cooking.

5.  Wash & cut up cauliflower and place in a medium to large pan covered with salted water, and cook also until slightly tender.

6.  Now add lentils with their liquid, peeled fava beans, chickpeas, cauliflower with its liquid, black eyed peas, and chopped fennel into the large pot and mix everything together. Pour in oil, and taste for salt and pepper.  Simmer 1/2 hour or until the fennel is tender and the flavors mingled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a new restaurant from The Market folks

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

 

1.  Amelia Monday (formerly O’Reilly) and Nico Monday, chefs and owners of The Market Restaurant on Lobster Cove, featured in last August’s issue of Food and Wine Magazine, have partnered with Howie Correa and Matt Cawley, familiar faces behind the counter at The Market, to open a second restaurant.

 

2.  The Market is not closing; it’s scheduled to re-open in May with Amelia and Nico in the kitchen.

 

3. Short & Main is the name of the second restaurant; that’s the address – the corner of Short St. and Main St. in Gloucester, also knows as the old Valentino’s building.

 

 

4.  Short & Main will be a casual raw bar and wood-fired pizza place, welcoming the hungry, the thirsty, the just a little bit hungry and thirsty who are looking for a quick plate of raw scallops and oysters, or maybe a wood-fired clam pizza with spring onions, pecorino, chiles and a spicy tomato sauce? An easy dinner of homemade sausage and rapini pizza, salad and a beer?  A stop after the beach for a Howie-crafted cocktail?

5.  The Tuscan Mugnaini oven will be the heart of the restaurant.  Nico is planning on having a lot of fun with it.

 

 

6.  Short & Main will be managed by Matt and Howie.

 

7.  The season in Gloucester for beautiful, fresh raw seafood and great pizza is always. Short & Main is planning on being a year-round place.  Matt and Howie are planning on becoming full-time Gloucester residents.

 

8.  The Market Gang found this fabulous section of Valentino’s history while renovating; they plan to keep it somewhere in the restaurant, a salute to the many years of pizza served here.

 

9.  The green arrow at the bottom of the Valentino’s banner points to Ed O’Reilly, Amelia’s father, who can be found almost every night between May and October on a stool at The Market Restaurant.  His image on this thirty-year-old banner is either a sign that the party is always where Ed O’Reilly is, or a sign that the Gloucester restaurant gods are smiling as the Valentino’s pizza torch is passed.

Kelly’s Roast Beef – local treasure

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

There was a time when Kelly’s Roast Beef in Revere sold more Coca Cola than any restaurant in the world.

Kelly’s Roast Beef never closed for the recent Nemo storm, or for the famous blizzard of 1978; instead loyal Kelly’s employees lodged themselves at the Revere Beach restaurant, and fed grateful plow-drivers, emergency crews, and newscasters.

Ray Bourque always orders two hotdogs with mustard and relish at the drive-through.

The Patriots stopped winning championships the day Robert Kraft decided to keep all concessions within Gillette Stadium, and Tom Brady stopped ordering Kelly’s Roast Beef for the team.

Steve Scali, chief financial officer, and Dan Doherty, director of business development, told me these stories seated at a table in the Saugus restaurant one snowy day last week.  Scali is new to the Kelly’s operations, but Doherty has worked for the family-owned business for thirty years, since he was a sophomore in high school.  I was there to talk about the restaurant’s history, how deeply it’s cherished in the community, how the family-owned restaurants, which began on Revere Beach in 1951, are a great variation of what’s best about “local food.”

“Everyone has a Kelly’s story,” Doherty said, “usually something about the first time they drove up to the Revere restaurant with their family in a paneled station wagon and ordered fried clams, or about a first date at Kelly’s; there’s almost always a story about a french fry-stealing seagull.”

“Kelly’s is a culture,” Scalia said.  “Customers are loyal to the point that they pride themselves in which restaurant they go to.”  (There are five:  Saugus, the busiest, Natick, Danvers, Medford, and the original site in Revere.)

With the faux frustration of managing a success story, Doherty added, “we can’t change anything on the menu without causing an uproar.”

 

 

By 11:00 in the morning the Saugus restaurant, a surgically immaculate galley of seats interrupted by enormous, vivid fish tanks, was already filling up with people of all ages settling into booths with their cokes and roast beef sandwiches, with brimming plates of fried clams and cups of coffee, with hot bowls of buttery-white chowder studded with clams.   The clam chowder and the roast beef sandwich recipes have not changed since the Revere restaurant opened its doors decades ago.

In 1951 Ray Carey and Frank McCarthy owned a hotdog stand on Revere Beach, but they also worked at a neighboring restaurant called the Paul Rogers House.  When a wedding cancelled at the Paul Rogers House, Carey and McCarthy brought the abandoned roast beefs to their hotdog stand, sliced them, lay the slices on bread, and began the Kelly’s Roast Beef sandwich empire.  Carey and McCarthy didn’t want their names on the restaurant, so they named the business after their friend, Kelly, who went on to be a florist in Dorchester.

 

 

Kelly’s clam chowder – minus flour or fillers of any sort  – just beautiful clams, potatoes and light cream, is still McCarthy’s recipe from 1951.  The beef, from North Dakota, aged up to 45 days, is seasoned and cooked at Kelly’s, and sliced to order for every sandwich.  Kelly’s onion rings are hand-cut, tossed in cornmeal and flour, and fried to order, a labor intensive effort for such a busy operation.  The fish for their fish and chips is North Atlantic pollock.  The clams and scallops from Ipswich Maritime, were plump, sweet, but crisply uber-fresh when I tasted them, exactly what a fried clam and scallop in New England should be.  The lobster roll was chunky with lobster, scant on mayo, served on a buttered, toasted bun, exactly how lobster roll experts say it should be.  Scali brags that all the Kelly’s seafood was swimming in the ocean the day before it is served.

A long aisle of pristine steel fryers, separate ones for fish, french fries and onion rings, stretch behind the order counter.  All the frying oil is pumped directly into the building, stored in tanks, and cleaned everyday.

Kelly’s has its challenges:  the cost of food is high, particularly seafood.  Rather than cut back on portions or quality, Kelly’s keeps its margins slim, and must make their profit in volume; Kelly’s has thus mastered the art of the drive-through window.

“We have to produce every meal in five to six minutes, and everything is cooked to order,” Doherty says.  “Forty-fifty percent of our business is drive-through; we have to be good at it.”

The Saugus and Medford drive-throughs are open until 3:00; In Revere, the whole restaurant is open until 3:30.

Of the 350 – 550 Kelly’s Roast Beef employees, 250-300 are full-time.  Forty percent of them have worked for the business for over 20 years.  Bobby Best has been slicing beef  for roast beef sandwiches in Saugus for 48 years.  He was there the day I visited.

The drive-through window has its own cache of full-time employees.

But there are shifts happening in the Kelly’s culture.  As Dan Doherty says, “when I was a kid a bucket of fried clams was $2.95 or $3.95; I grew up on them.  My kids aren’t going to run out and spend $16.65 on a plate of fried clams, so kids aren’t acquiring a taste for them.”

“A lot of our drive-through customers are getting older; they want to sit down and have dinner in a nice place now,” he added.

That coca-cola business?  Bottle water does very well at Kelly’s now.  .

Doherty and Scali say they feel subtle pressure to address the national nutrition conversation.  (Answering customer demand, they also sell salads, wraps, and offer gluten-free bread.) Fast food chains are already providing nutritional information for their products; while Scali and Doherty say they have no concerns about any great nutritional surprises in their food – they stand by its quality; they are concerned about the cost of providing this information.

“It costs $4000 – $5000 an item to get its official nutritional breakdown; if we had to do that with our whole menu that would be a huge expenditure!”

“Local food” means many things.  Kelly’s is a local business, created and still owned by the same two families.  Kelly’s uses Pantedosi’s rolls from Malden, Old Neighborhood corned beef from Lynn for their Reuben Sandwich, Kayem hotdogs from Chelsea.  The crackers that come with the chowder are made in Vermont.

Kelly’s gives back; along with the dozens of local sports teams, Kelly’s sponsors events for HAWC, North Shore Hospice, the Special Olympics, even the Massachusetts Poetry Society.  Describing one more benevolent gesture, Scali told me that the signature Kelly’s fish tanks average $75,000 a year to maintain, and yet how many thousands of children have pressed their noses to that glass, mesmerized by mysterious coral reefs and circling fish schools, sparing their parents a few extra moments of quiet while their kids are entertained?

There are all kinds of good ingredients in this family business, from the roast beef, to the onion rings, to the good will.  It might be good luck if Robert Kraft treated the Patriots to Kelly’s every once in a while.

 

 

 

Casserole Chartreuse of Fresh Salmon, a toast to the Mediterranean Diet

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

 

I published a column discussing the long history and solid science behind the Mediterranean Diet on February 8th – https://heatheratwood.com/blog/?tag=pasta-with-lemon-and-capers but, because on February 25 The New England Journal of Medicine declared it gospel ihttp://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1200303 I’m offering another recipe that mirrors the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, this one with Provencal roots.

 

 

I found La Chartreuse de Saumon Frais a la Provence in the 1973 gastronomical darling , “The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth,” in which the great food writer Roy Andries de Groot tires of answering his guests’ questions about the green bottle of liquor on his table after every meal, and flies to France to chase down the mysteries of the 130-herb liquor – Green Chartreuse –  produced by hermits in the Chartreuse mountains.  Only two monks ever know the exact recipe at one time.   Once in the Chartreuse, Mr. De Groot’s senses are hijacked by the bewitchingly faultless meals and critically superb wines presented to him each day by the two women running the small hotel – The Auberge – where he is staying.  The subject of his trip and book are no longer Carthusian Monks but Les Mesdemoiselles Artaud and Girard and their perfect seasonal cuisine of the southeastern corner of France.

 

This recipe is unusual – unusual to prepare, unusually simple and unusually delicious.  Onions, Boston lettuce, tomatoes and lemons are layered in a sauce pan, and then covered in fish fillets.  The same layers are piled on top of the fish, only in reverse, starting with lemons and ending in onions.  White wine is poured over all; it’s covered tightly, and disappears into a low oven for 2 1/2 hours.  All those vegetables, a bit of fresh fish and a bit of olive oil?  This dish could be the Poster Child for the Mediterranean Diet.

 

 

The recipe recommends that you uncover the dish at the table, allowing the fragrant steam to hit your guests in their appetites.  I prepared this with salmon, but Les Desmoiselles also recommend fresh tuna.  The whole ends up being a stewy pile of braised fish and vegetables balmy with lemon, blushing with summer.  (Yes, this would be best made in season, but I welcomed the aromatic lightness of this dinner, even made with leafy grocery store lettuces and vine-ripened tomatoes.)  Crack the baguettes, pour the dipping oil, fill your glasses with wine, and make a toast to the best diet in the world.

 

 

Casserole Chartreuse of Fresh Salmon 

La Chartreuse de Saumon Frais a la Provencale

from The Auberge of The Flowering Hearth, by Roy Andries De Groot

 

serves 4-6

 

Ingredients

 

2 pounds tuna or salmon

approximately 1/4 cup olive oil

6 medium onions, thinly sliced

8 medium tomatoes, peeled and sliced

2 medium heads Boston lettuce, washed, dried and shredded

4 lemons, peeled and cut into thin slices

salt and pepper

2 cups white wine

 

Instructions

 

Choose a tightly lidded casserole or enameled iron pot so that it can be used for frying on top of the stove and for braising in the oven, and one that is also handsome enough to come to table as the serving dish.  Set it over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and quickly brown the fish steaks on both sides, then lift them out with a slotted spatula and hold.

 

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Now put into the pot half the slices of onion and let them just gild.  Then add, in neat layers half the slices of tomato, half of the shredded lettuce and half the lemon slices.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Lay the fish steaks on this comfortable bed, then cover them with the same vegetable layers in reverse:  lemon, lettuce, tomatoes, raw sliced onions, and at the end more good sprinkles of salt and pepper.  By now the various juices will have gathered at the bottom of the pot.  Adjust the heat until you hear a merry bubbling from below and let it continue for about 5 to 10 minutes, to reduce the liquid and concentrate the flavors.  Then, add the 2 cups of wine and bring it up quickly to the boil.  When wine is boiling, put on the lid and set the pot in the center of the oven to braise, poach and steam the contents very slowly for about 2.5 hours.  When you bring the pot to the table, do not lift the lid until your guests are assembled – the first puff of the superb bouquet will raise the appetites to a fever pitch.  This dish is equally good hot or cold.

 

Saskia Nugent’s Chocolate Irish Tea Cake with Milk and Honey Ganache

Friday, March 1st, 2013

 

Slender, strawberry-blonde Saskia Nugent loves the fragrance of warm croissants with lots of butter, of vanilla and cream, of cinnamon and vanilla, of flour, yeast and butter together. Of brioche. Did I say warm croissants?

 

“Simple flavors are what I like; the smell of fresh butter is something I know a lot about.”

Nugent makes dessert – pate a choux, chiffons, ganaches, chocolates, pastries – everything from scratch – at 43 Church in Salem, formerly The Lyceum.  While she coos about the sensuality of being a pastry chef, Nugent loves the rules of pastry:

Cold butter or cold eggs in a batter will flatten a cake.

You have to be gentle mixing flour because it wants to make gluten.

Cook sugar slowly; it requires a lot of attention.

When you’re making a sauce or reduction, skim, skim, skim off the foam at the top; those are the contaminants in the sugar rising to the surface.

The amount of air you incorporate into a dough, the temperature of the ingredients, everything matters.

You have to behave, Nugent says, when you’re making pastry.

We try to schedule the Gloucester Glitterati, a small group of of bright, culinary-centered women on Cape Ann who meet once a month in restaurants or our homes, for when our Saskia has a night off, because then we get treats like this:

 

 

 

Chocolate Irish Tea Cake with Milk and Honey Ganache

 

Ingredients

 

For cake:

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup of Irish tea brewed dark, cooled

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup Nesquick instant hot cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

 

For caramel sauce:

1 cup of sugar

4 tablespoons or 1/2 stick of unsalted butter.

1/4 milk

 

For Ganache:

1 cup of Irish tea brewed dark

12 ounces of semisweet chocolate

12 ounces of milk chocolate

Two cups of milk

Half a cup of honey

Pinch of nutmeg

pinch of cloves

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350

Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch cake pan.

Cream butter and sugars together.  Add eggs one at a time.  In a separate bowl stir together all the liquids.  In another bowl mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Add liquids alternately with the flour to the butter and sugar in three steps.  Pour into prepared pan and bake cake for 20-25 minute until knife comes out clean and cool upside down on rack.

While the cake is cooling:  add 1 cup of sugar to a sauce pan and melt over medium heat.

Once sugar liquifies add 4 tablespoonsof butter to pan and deglaze. Then add a

1/4 cup of milk and stir. Remove from heat and set aside.

When cake has cooled, loosen and invert onto a platter.

Poke the top of the cake repeatedly with the tip of a knife. Be careful not to

tear the cake just poke it all over so it can better absorb the caramel sauce.

Pour the caramel sauce lightly over the cake in a zig zag pattern and then

transfer the cake to a fridge to cool for a half an hour.

 

For the ganache, combine all ingredients in a sauce pan on very low heat until the chocolate is melted completely, and a shiny consistency is reached.  Add more milk for a thinner ganache. Stir constantly.

Pour ganache over chilled cake evenly, smoothing over the edges to cover the

sides.  Chill in fridge before serving.

 

Optional:  Top with any salted nuts chopped fine. The salt goes so well  with the sweet and the crunchy nuts pair so well with the moist cake and creamy

ganache.

 

Some of our Glitterati have blogs; click on their names to follow them!

Jennifer Goulert Amero

Laurie Lufkin

Melissa Abbott

Sheree DeLorenza

Emily Roach