Archive for January, 2014

Haddock Amandine Meuniere, from The Provincetown Seafood Cookbook

Monday, January 27th, 2014

 

Before you write off “Haddock Amandine Meuniere” as your grandmother’s favorite menu choice, know that the cookbook from whence this recipe comes is out of print.  Paperback, third-edition copies on Amazon begin at $60; first edition hard-cover editions go up to $7064.64, plus $3.99 for shipping.  The title – The Provincetown Seafood Cookbook, by Howard Mitchum – is so generic it’s hard to remember.   And yet, Anthony Bourdain declared this the “best seafood cookbook in history.”  Me, too.

Mitchum, born in Winona, Mississippi, divided his years between New Orleans and Provincetown, which says everything about this man’s vivacity, passion, gusto, and devotion to good food.    The short bios that accompany his books online all describe him as an artist, a writer, a chef, and a raconteur, who was also deaf since his teenage years from spinal meningitis.    Mitchum died in Provincetown in 1996.

To read The Provincetown Seafood Cookbook, is to hang out in Provincetown in the days when fisherman brought their trash fish into a bar, and handed it to the wife of the Portuguese owner.  She took the fish into the kitchen, and returned with a steaming skillet of monkfish, squid, clams and linguica, which everyone ate for free.  But you had to be polite – no greediness.  Only the beer cost something.

Mitchum has recipes for roasting whole mackerel on a clean shovel in a coal or wood-burning stove, and he has directions for cooking it with gooseberries.  He has recipes for the colloquial delicacy “fried codfish jawbones,” which looks like fried chicken legs, and, according to him, taste much better, and he has recipes for Lobster Bisque.

From basic to bawdy to genteel, Mitchum’s recipes for everything that comes out of the Provincetown sands or sea all have the stamp of true.  A clambake is best done in galvanized trashcans on top of the stove.  The ultimate celebration of a beautiful striped bass is  “a real striped bass party,” in which the whole fish lies intact upon the table, stuffed with a filling so copious it involves many skillets:  oysters, littlenecks,  shrimp, scallops, salt pork, seasonings and 2 loaves of Portuguese bread.

One of the goals in question is aesthetic.  You want to preserve the beauty of the bass so that when he’s laid out on the table he looks as fresh and alive as if he’d just jumped out of the water.   This is complex and involves a lot of hokus pokus.  You don’t cut off his head or his tail, and you don’t scale him; you carve out his beautiful golden eyeball, and put it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh and sparkling.  Sounds gruesome put it’s part of the rigamarole.

From “Shrimp stuffed Avacados” to “Salt Codfish Hash with Eggs,” Mitchum’s recipes are all democracy, chosen only as the best ways to honor these maritime treasures, whether it means cooking them on the scalding pipe of the ship’s engine, or cloaking them in spinach, butter, breadcrumbs and a jigger of Absinthe.

Declared his most popular dish ever, Haddock Amandine Meuniere has been calling friends to Provincetown for years.  But, the highest praise, Mitchum, admits, is that the Provincetowners themselves – mostly fisherman – love it, too.

“And, brother, when you sell a piece of fish to a Provincetown fisherman you have got it made:  when they dine out in restaurants they usually eat T-bone steaks.  I modestly advertise this on my menu as ‘probably the best piece of fish you will ever eat.’”

 

Haddock Amandine Meuniere, from The Provincetown Seafood Cookbook

serves 6

6 – 3/4 pound haddock fillets

milk

flour

1/2 pound butter

juice of 2 lemons

1/4 pound sliced natural almonds

4 fresh mushrooms, sliced thinly

Instructions

Take the haddock fillets and dip them in milk, then dredge them in flour.  Shake off the surplus flour.  Melt the butter in a large skillet, and place the fish in it.  (skin side up if there is skin.)  Cook slowly until brown, then flip it over with a spatula and brown the other side.  Remember, this is a saute, a slow cook, now a hot fry, which would destroy the delicate flavor of the fish.  Remove the fish and place on warm serving plates.  Add the lemon juice to the butter in the pan.  Add the almonds to the pan.  Add the mushrooms.  Raise the heat to medium-high and stir and scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to release any browned crumbs; these are delicious.  Stir until the almonds turn a light golden brown.  (Don’t let them get too brown or they will be bitter.); pour this sauce over the fish and serve immediately, piping hot.

 

 

“Dated” Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup & iphone styling with John Carafoli

Monday, January 20th, 2014

 

 

“A portion of the plate is all you may need to tell the story.” – John Carafoli.

There are so many dynamic, discerning, educated people in the food world that one easily goes from “nice to meet you” to “let’s go to Umbria, and shave truffles over homemade strangozzi together!”

That’s how I feel about John Carafoli, who is indeed leading a tour, named “Unexpected Umbria,” next October for those lucky enough to sign up quickly.

Carafoli lives in a piccolo blue farm house on Maple St. in W. Barnstable with his partner, John, a cat and a flock of chickens.  Seriously authentic copper polenta pots gleam from big hooks in his kitchen.  He’s got a cupboard full of his own homemade preserves, including something called “savour,” a potent compote of autumn fruits that cooks for nine days.  On the ninth day you add chestnuts.  A recipe from the Sicilian ladies of Sagamore on Cape Cod, with whom Carafoli grew up, this preserve tastes as biblical as it sounds.

Carafoli is a food writer; his most recent literary contribution to cuisine is the Cape Cod Chef’s Table: Extrordinary Recipes from Buzzards Bay To Provincetown For the vivid styling, the beautiful shots of Cape Cod greats and their “best of show,” and for the Crow Farm Blueberry Cake recipe, this book belongs on everyone’s coffee table and kitchen counter.

It’s an elite group in the food industry that can prepare a perfect proscuitto ragu, write a compelling story about it, and take an award-winning picture of it.  Also author of the seminal book on the subject,  Food Photography and Styling, for years Carafoli has been the guy to make Coca Cola look refreshing and Dunkin Donuts look freshly baked.  Carafoli is a premier food stylist, and he makes a delicious proscuitto ragu.

Epicurious recently published a blog on Carafoli’s tips for iphone food styling;   He and I were talking on the phone the other night, scheming Cape Cod and Umbrian tours, and I asked him what he was making for dinner.  Loosely, John gave me this recipe, which seemed like exactly the right meal after a day of  unexpected January blizzard.  I adapted a bit, but as I was preparing it, I considered some of my favorite Carafoli styling tips.

 

Let the food do what it does naturally. Don’t force it into an unnatural shape.

Use your mistakes to your advantage. Don’t fight them; embrace them! Wayward bits of chopped herbs, noodles that stray beyond the plate, or errant dribbles of sauce all make your food look real.

Experiment with wood, stone, cloth, grass, even paper. Avoid large clunky candles and bulbous wine glasses. Shoot with and without flatware and/or serving spoons. 

 

Sometimes the raw ingredients are more beautiful than the cooked versions. Photograph your dish at various stages of preparation to find the most compelling image.

 

The Maple Syrup Pour: Quick-chill the maple syrup in the freezer for about 15 minutes to thicken it up so that it pours more slowly.

My maple syrup pour didn’t work so well, but it’s there.

 

 

“Dated” Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup

serves 4

ingredients:

3 tablespoons coconut oil

1 large sweet onion, cut in eighths

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cinnamon stick

2 apples, peeled, cored and quartered

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut in chunks

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons red curry paste (dissolved in 2 tablespoons water)

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

juice from 2 limes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoons pepper

1/2 cup loosely chopped dates

1/2 cup toasted pistachios (or almonds or pinenuts)

maple syrup to drizzle on top

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Heat a medium sized skillet over medium-low heat and add coconut oil. Once it’s melted, add in the onions, garlic, cinnamon stick with a pinch of salt and stir.   Cook until the onions are soft and almost caramelized.  Remove cinnamon sticks.
  2.   Meanwhile, in a separate pan put the apples and squash in the chicken stock with some salt.  Bring to a fast simmer, and cook until the squash is very soft, about 30 minutes.
  3. In a small glass dish dissolve the curry paste in a bit of warm water, loosely 2 tablespoons.  Then pour the curry paste into the squash.
  4.   Add the coconut milk and the onion mixture to the squash.
  5.   Remove from heat and, with an emulsion mixer or a blender, puree the soup.
  6.   Pour it back into the pot and turn the heat on to medium low. Add in the lime juice, salt and pepper, and stir. Cover and cook the soup for 10 minutes until it’s completely warm. Taste and season additionally if desired.
  7.   On a cutting board, loosely chop the dates and pistachios together.  The dates will get gummy, and hold the chopped nuts together.   Top the soup with generous spoonfuls of this mixture.  Drizzle a small amount of maple syrup on top, and sprinkle with cilantro.

Corn Chowder from Chief Flying Eagle, lunch with Earl Mills, Sr.

Friday, January 10th, 2014

 

The many facets of Chief Flying Eagle, Earl H. Mills Sr. – Wampanoag –  sparkle like sun off the flashing Mashpee herring run in April.

One side of Mills, now eighty-five, is the simple kid who grew up in the town of Mashpee on Cape Cod at a time when mayflowers in the woods signaled spring’s start, and meant money in kids’ pockets when they sold the small fragrant bouquets for 15 cents by the side of the road.  He talks about this in both his cookbook, “The Cape Cod Wampanoag Cookbook” and in his memoir, “Son of Mashpee, reflections of Chief Flying Eagle, a Wampanoag.”

It was a time when a morning in the trout streams and ponds meant smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and pickerel for dinner.  Cape Cod herring were corned or marinated; its roe was sauteed in bacon fat and served with parslied potatoes and creamed-style corn.  (Today only the Wampanoag are allowed to fish for herring.)  Mills’ father knew it was time to smoke the herring by the arrival of the sweet fern in the woods.

Scallop season came in the fall with cranberry picking;  young Mills’ hands would be cut and bleeding after an afternoon of shucking the day’s harvest with friends, although camaraderie and ceviche sampling came with that shucking. “The Scallop Man” passed by every night during the season to collect that day’s harvest, a 10 bushel non-commercial limit.  Mills says that in those days – even hand harvesting – almost everyone got their limit.

“From the time we were eight nor nine years old my brother Elwood and I led fishing and hunting expeditions.  Like our father grandfather and uncles before us, we prepared the boats, baited the hooks, rowed for the better part of the day, and cleaned the fish for the men who hired us as Indian guides.  Our father taught us how to fly cast as well as to use a rod and reel, the clamming rake and the eel spear.  He taught us how to carry a gun safely and how to clean it.  He taught us how to use an ax and a bucksaw and showed us the proper way to clean and cook game.  He taught us skills exactly the way his own father had taught him.”

The Cape woods was flush with quail, partridge, rabbit and deer.

There’s the Cape Cod boy, and there is Mills, the high school star athlete, who went into the army after finishing high school, and from there went to Arnold College to play football and run track.  He was later Athletic director at Falmouth High.

In the army Mills first honestly connected with his Wampanoag heritage; one night at Fort Dix, a group of soldiers were sitting around, and a young Iroquois from New York State got up and started a tribal dance.  A Chippewa from Montana joined him; it was that moment, far from Mashpee, that Mills first recognized his Indian background as something to be celebrated.  When he returned to Mashpee fifteen months later, he went directly to the tribal leaders, and said “teach me.”

In 1956, in the Old Indian Church at Mashpee, Reverend C.C. Wilson and Supreme Sachem Ousa Mequin – Yellow Feather –  declared Mills “Chief Flying Eagle.”

“You receive the Name – Flying Eagle – and, as such – you are in charge of all Council Meetings held by the Indians of Mashpee, MA, and none is above you in any office.”

 

When I visited Mills in his warm cottage the other day, he made us lunch – corn chowder and lobster salad on a toasted roll.  He was taking a pot of chowder to his daughter who wasn’t feeling well.  Photographs of the recent snow and of grandchildren lay in ordered piles on the kitchen table, ready to be put into weekly letters to friends.  The phone rang a lot – more friends calling to chat.  Mills still corresponds with high school and Arnold College classmates, if not almost everyone else who has had the fortune to know him.  He has five children, many grandchildren, and some great ones.  He even gets along well with his two ex-wives; some would say that alone describes a chiefly character.

 

 

While respect for the land that nurtured his people, for his ancestors, and for the generations of family that lovingly surround him grace almost everything he does, Chief Flying Eagle is no grave Indian.  A meltingly lovely tenor, Mills slides in and out of showtunes when he cooks –  “Shoefly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy!  – Makes your heart light and your tummy rowdy!”

Dance moves are necessary to explain exactly why lobster salad (with a little extra lemon) on a toasted hotdog bun express culinary perfection. (Cool sweet lobster.  Acid of lemon.  Warm, crisp outside of roll.  Soft, sweet inside of roll.)  Dance moves – and the guy can dance – are just another verb in the Mills vocabulary.

“My name as a kid was Path Finder,” Mills told me after a flurry of hip shimmies; “I never felt like I was a Flying Eagle,” he admitted, those eyes sparkling like waters running with jumping herring.

In 1972 he opened his own restaurant, The Flume, “near the herring run” in Mashpee.  From 1972 – 2004, The Flume was considered the best place to taste beautifully prepared, honest Cape Cod foods.  Mills learned to cook from his parents, who made feathery fish cakes and a fish stew as complex and flavorful as a soupe de poisson, and working in the best Cape Cod kitchens:  The Coonomesset Inn, Wimpy’s and The Pompenesset Inn.  Far ahead of its time really, The Flume combined the best of traditional restaurant dining with supreme respect for local ingredients. Herring was on the menu, served with cucumbers.

Three of Mills’ five children live in a development he built around the old family homestead; the street is named after his mother, “Emma Oakley Mills Way.”  There are homes on Emma Oakley Mills Way for sisters and nieces, too.   Grandchildren seem to be everywhere.  At the circle, where the road rounds, is a memorial to Ferdinand Wilson Mills and Emma Oakley Mills, his parents, thanking them for their full lives of dedication to the town of Mashpee.

Cooking for Mills is love, art, and heritage.  “My ancestors are with me as I prepare or enjoy favorite foods.  I never make fish cakes and beans without feeling my father is back in the kitchen with me.”

He spent over an hour explaining the fine points of breading shellfish:  never use anything finely ground with clams or oysters; a finely ground meal like flour will absorb too much liquid and turn quickly to mush, not giving the shellfish the delicious “crunch.”  Unsalted saltines are oyster’s ideal breading.

Hold shucked clams in your hands, in a shallow bowl of a little water and the clam liquid.  Gently feel for broken shells, cupping your hands in the liquid beneath the clams.  Lift the clams, again with your hands, gently out of the liquid and into the breading.

“As you want to get the breading on, you want to get it right off again!”  As soon as the clams land in the breading lift them out and shake them a bit to get any excess breading off.  That would be the “too moist” breading that will again make the crust too mushy.

Baked or broiled scallops need only a dusting of breadcrumbs on top because they will take a shorter time to cook.  Oysters and clams need a thicker cover of breadcrumbs, basically to protect them from the heat in the time it takes to cook them.

The “milk,” the white liquid that Bay Scallops release when heated, is lots of flavor, and needs to be saved.  Broiling them is tricky, because that “milk” just runs right out.

Mills understands more about what grows, swims, and moves on Cape Cod than most naturalists.  (He told me that wild blueberry bushes are still alive under the ground, but the overgrowth is too thick to let the plants through; a controlled burn would open up this land to those kinds of Cape Cod plants again.)  He says in Son of Mashpee, “In many ways Mashpee – (the development there, the struggles of the native people to retain their heritage) –  is a microcosm of this country.  To understand Mashpee is to understand our society better.”

There isn’t much that subdues that sparkle in Mills’ eye; mention of the current Wampanoag issues is one.

“My tribe is my family; I deal only with my family now.  Those people (current Wampanoag leaders) don’t understand who we are or what we represent.”

And yet, in “Son of Mashpee” Chief Flying Eagle makes the plea, “In spite of the pain we had had to endure in the past, the Wampanoags ought to participate in shaping the future of this town, so that coming generations will inherit Mashpee with deep imprints of our heritage, our culture and our vision.”

Mills also told me this:  “I don’t know anyone who has had as wonderful a life as I have.”

 

 

Earl Mills’ Corn Chowder

serves 10 – 12

 

Mills says you can use fresh corn or corn “niblets” for this; if you use fresh corn, put the cobs into with the potatoes for added flavor.  He used Delmonte Canned Corn for our chowder; it was one of the best corn chowders I’ve tasted.

 

4 teaspoons salt

3-4 potatoes, diced

2 medium onions, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil, butter, or margarine

4 tablespoons butter or margarine

4 tablespoons flour

4 cups chicken stock

4 cups corn

3 cups milk, whole or skimmed OR 2 cans evaporated milk

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 green pepper seeded and sliced

 

Place potatoes and 2 teaspoons of salt in a saucepan with enough water to barely cover the potatoes.  Simmer until tender.  Don’t strain the water.  Set aside.  Saute onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil butter or margarine.  Cook until soft.  Add to the potatoes and water.

 

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter or margarine in a large saucepan.  Add flour and stir over medium heat until mixture (roux) reaches the consistency of corn meal.  Add the chicken stock and the water from the potatoes.  Cook until thickened, whipping continually.  Add the corn and the milk.

 

Gradually add the potatoes and onions to the thickened mixture.  Continue to simmer and add the additional 2 teaspoons of salt (to taste).  Simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Add fresh ground pepper to taste now or when serving.

 

 

 

A Voyage

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

 

As the New Year yawns open this morning I sit at my desk surrounded with stacks of cookbooks, each pile stamped with a yellow sticky: “New Bedford.”  “South Coast.”  “Martha’s Vineyard.”  “Nantucket.” –

Nine piles in all, each pile representing the way a community on the craggy-toothed Massachusetts coastline has been feeding its families, its hard-working people, and celebrating itself for as long as anyone has been writing it down.  My job in the next six months is to assemble the best recipes from these communities, and write their story for a full-color, hard-copy book to be released by Globe Pequot Press in spring of 2015.  From the Wampanoags on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod to the privateer and yachting stories of Marblehead, the treasure here is as varied as it is rich.

In the past month I’ve walked New Bedford’s gritty streets and driven along Chilmark’s lanes lined in stonewalls, stood on the cliffs of Aquinnah.  I’ve revisited Rockport’s “boom” moment – the granite industry and I’ve come to understand how whaling was the winning lottery ticket for just about everyone – English and Native Americans together – for about a hundred years.

 

Wampanoags, Cape Verdeans, Portuguese, Azoreans, Sicilians, Finns, Swedes, and the English; these are the people who have been making their version of a chowder – with quahogs, with scallops, with linquica, with kale, with cream and crackers – along the Massachusetts coast; the soups and stews are as varied as the names of the people stirring the pots:  “Fast Turtle.”  “Almeida.”  “Madeiros.”  “Dovale.”  “Tarantino.”  “Kaihlenen.”  “Johnson.”  “Cabot.”

At first I thought the common piece here was whaling.  No, I decided, it’s just fishing.  And, no, I decided later, the true element bonding them all is water.  The way each group goes down to the sea, they way they arrived here from foreign lands to go down to this particular patch of Atlantic Ocean, that is the one story from which each of their recipes arise.

Really, what a book this can be; it’s a great honor to have been asked to write it.

Melville’s Ishmael talks about his epic voyage like this; in my own little way, I sort of feel as if he’s describing the start of my own voyage in this new year.

I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way- he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. 

Happy New Year to my friends; thanks for reading, commenting and sharing, in every sense of that word!