Category Archives: Seafood

The Italian Pantry: Anchovies

Anchovies are little fish that you find in tin cans or small glass jars in the grocery store either in the Italian section or the canned fish section. They are packed in olive oil (or should be). Usually they come from somewhere in the Mediterranean.

What is it used for? Our most popular and frequent use of anchovies is as a base for a pasta sauce. You put them whole from the can into the pan with olive oil and garlic and they will dissolve (even the little bones). And this is the sauce you use for a macaroni like spaghetti. It’s similar to an aglio e olio sauce with the addition of the anchovies.

–Dina Di Maio

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Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Vincent’s

Periodically, there’s an article about how Little Italy is dead or dying. Yes, it’s more of a tourist destination and less of a neighborhood where Italian people live. There are still some Italians there, and there are Italian-American-owned businesses there. A recent article in the New York Times made me want to write a series on Little Italy Isn’t Dead and feature some of the businesses there.

Vincent’s

In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants Giuseppe and Carmela Siano sold clams and other seafood from a cart on Mott and Hester Streets. In 1904, they created a restaurant in the same spot and named it Vincent’s Clam House, for their son. They are famous for their calamari, which they serve with a hot tomato sauce. Their tomato sauce is also famous and available at stores nationwide.

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Umberto’s Clam House

Periodically, there’s an article about how Little Italy is dead or dying. Yes, it’s more of a tourist destination and less of a neighborhood where Italian people live. There are still some Italians there, and there are Italian-American-owned businesses there. A recent article in the New York Times made me want to write a series on Little Italy Isn’t Dead and feature some of the businesses there.

Umberto’s Clam House

Umberto Ianniello, who came to the United States from Naples in 1934, opened his clam house in 1972 and the restaurant is now run by his son, Robert. The restaurant started out selling only seafood, but now it has a full menu with pasta and meats as well.

Icelandic Mashed Fish, or Plokkfiskur

plokkfiskur, Icelandic

Icelandic mashed fish and potatoes, or plokkfiskur, was my favorite dish when I visited Iceland.  It’s like American mashed potatoes with added mashed fish.  It’s a very comforting dish for cold weather.  Since the weather is changing and getting cooler, I thought it would be good.  I adapted this recipe from Cool Dishes by Nanna Rognvaldardottir.

Mashed fish, or plokkfiskur

3 codfish steaks, cooked

3 medium potatoes, washed and peeled

1 onion, chopped

1/2 stick butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups milk

salt to taste

pepper to taste

pinch chives

Boil the potatoes as you would for mashed potatoes, until they are soft enough for mashing.  Cook the codfish (I boiled it).  Mash them both together in a mixing bowl with a potato masher.  Saute the onion in the butter until soft.  Add flour and stir.  Add milk, salt and pepper.  Bring to a low boil, then lower to a simmer until thickened, stirring often.  Add milk mixture to mashed potatoes and fish and mix.  Top with chives.

Blue Water Grill

I always think of seafood in the summer time, and if you can’t get to the beach, how about bringing the beach to you?  That is, dining al fresco at Blue Water Grill in Union Square and ordering the most delicious lobster roll ever–the Maine lobster and shrimp roll with herbed mayonnaise, bacon, celery and waffle fries.

Blue Water Grill lobster roll

Sammy’s Fish Box in City Island

Now that summer is here, how about a trip to City Island?  This beach oasis in the Bronx makes for a great Manhattan day trip.

A nice seafood dinner at Sammy’s Fish Box.

Sammy's Fish Box
For starters, bread and assorted veggies.

Sammy's appetizers

I got a scungilli and calamari salad.

Sammy's calamari salad

My friend got the Italian feast with lobster, mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops and crab legs with pasta.

Sammy's Italian feast

I got the clam bake with lobster, clams and corn.

Sammy's clam bake

And of course, I can’t live without dessert–a slice of red velvet cake.

Sammy's red velvet cake

 

Dinner: Keens Steakhouse

Things are great at Keens Steakhouse.  It won a James Beard “America’s Classics” award this year, and since then, business has really been booming.  Not that the 128-year-old steakhouse needed an award–it’s obviously doing something right.  And that’s steak…atmosphere…service…and dessert.

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Speaking of atmosphere, the first thing(s) you notice when you step down the steps, besides the dark wood, is/are the thousands of pipes, yes, pipes, hanging all over the ceiling.

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The history is that travelers would check their pipe in at their favorite inn because the pipes were too fragile to be carried.  They are hard clay churchwarden pipes, and famous names like Babe Ruth, Teddy Roosevelt and Albert Einstein had pipes at Keens.  Right by the door, there’s a case, including an autographed pipe from Michael Jackson and other present-day celebrities.

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I didn’t know about this history before eating at Keens, so it was an interesting, fun history to learn.

My dinner at Keens was a belated birthday dinner with a friend.  I was instantly pleased that along with a bread basket and butter, we got veggies and spinach dip for a somewhat clean-eating snack.  (Hey, we needed some celery before this meal.)

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For appetizers, we got littleneck clams on the half shell.

clams

Tomatoes and onion salad with blue stilton cheese.  I like that there was just a sprinkling of cheese on the tomatoes and onion.  Just the right amount of flavor.

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Thick-cut smoked bacon.  My friend ordered this.  I’m not a bacon fan, but I decided to take a taste.  Oh wow, this was so smoky and flavorful.  This is definitely not your average bacon of bacon and eggs….

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Keens is known for its mutton chop, but I wanted steak.  I know I’m not a big steak eater, but lately, I’ve been enjoying it.  So I got the steamed Maine lobster and filet mignon.  The lobster was perfect and delicious.  The filet mignon was cooked to my liking.  It was very good–not as tender as the one I recently had at the Old Homestead, but still excellent.

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My friend got the prime rib of beef, king’s cut.

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For sides, we got mashed Yukon gold potatoes and creamed spinach.  I like mashed potatoes without garlic, so I was very happy with these.  I also liked the creamed spinach best of all I’ve had recently.

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We were pretty full after this meal, but our waiter talked us into a dessert.  Yes, the butterscotch sundae, with housemade butterscotch sauce made with real scotch.  They brought it with a birthday candle for me.

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OK, I usually find steakhouse desserts boring, like the standard cheesecake, chocolate cake, key lime pie…but this sundae takes the cake…er, ice cream.

This butterscotch sauce was sooooo good, we both want to come back and get our own.  I wanted to get a close-up so you could see it better.

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Yes, there is a reason Keens has been in business for more than a century, and that is because it serves classic food that is delicious.