Tag Archives: seafood

Tuesday Dinner: Orecchiette With Shrimp, Spinach, and Mushrooms

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I would just rather buy raw shrimp that has already been peeled and deveined (SIDE NOTE: It should be stated that I was far too lazy to drive to Price Chopper for this variety of raw shrimp. Instead I just bought what Wegmans had in the case. So, in the grand scheme of things, this is my fault.). They are far too hot to peel after they have been sauteed. The tails are not as much of the issue as the skin. I find myself giving up trying to peel everything down to the tail, forfeiting the sweetest meat in the shell, and settling for whatever white fish I can get.

Tuesday was another one of those cases. The Father-In-Law had dinner with us on Tuesday and, for some reason, we ate at our little table in the kitchen. So, in addition to burning my fingers on the shrimp, I was squeezed into a small corner of a square table. I think part of my quitting was a function of wanting to finish dinner and get into a room that wasn’t so crowded or warm.

Now, I know that you are supposed to cook shrimp with their outer shell intact, as this adds more of that rich seafood flavor to whatever meal you are cooking. That is very true, but it still doesn’t make me want to deal fingertip burns. And since this had 32 oz. of chicken stock involved, you weren’t really going to get a lot of seafood flavor anyways. I digress… Continue reading Tuesday Dinner: Orecchiette With Shrimp, Spinach, and Mushrooms


Saturday Dinner: Mediterranean Fish Stew

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Every culture has a fish stew attached to it and, for the most part, they are the same. The most famous comes from France: bouillabaisse, a combination of fish filets and shellfish with its origins in Provençe. The bouillabaisse is typically made with fennel and/or a shot of pernod, and served with the fish on the side and its broth topped with rouille (a type of aioli). The Spanish come in with the zarzuela, a Catalan dish of seasonal seafood caught off the Spanish coast that is cooked with tomatoes, saffron and almonds, the latter of which is pulverized until it resembles breadcrumbs. Cioppino is actually a California invention, but brodetto and cacciucco are the authentic Italian fish stews loaded with clams and shrimp.

When The Wife announced that she wanted fish on Saturday evening, I thought this would be the way to go. I thought about doing two or three different styles of steamed mussels, and I’m glad I didn’t. Less than half of what I purchased opened up when cooked and half of those that did were bloody inside, which didn’t seem right. So, I went with a Mediterranean fish stew. Continue reading Saturday Dinner: Mediterranean Fish Stew

Al Dente Express: Some More Local Love (Side Hill Farmers + Fins & Tails)

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NOTE: Al Dente Express is my answer for what to do when I want to talk about a place or places I visited, but it doesn’t warrant a full-on, exhaustive review. Here is a wrap of two Central New York retailers that I recently visited.

Friday night’s story from The Tampa Tribune was affirmation for everyone that bemoans Big Agriculture and our nation’s broken food supply:

The family of four, two of them elementary school-age children, had dinner on Monday night, a nice meal of bottom round steak. 

Then they began hallucinating, so bad they called 911, then rushed to the hospital themselves.

On Friday, Tampa police announced why: The meat had been laced with LSD.

The family bought the meat from the Wal-Mart at 1501 N. North Dale Mabry Highway, just north of Interstate 275, but police said they don’t yet have any idea when or where the meat became tainted with the hallucinogen.

So, there are three possibilities here: 1) The meat was tainted at the processing plant, which is not good. 2) The meat was tainted at the store, which is really not good. 3) Someone at home tainted the meat, which is really, really not good.

This is an isolated case, but assuming that we are not dealing with option three, it’s another case to be made for local purveyors. Pink slime, GMOs, and poorly-sourced fish are just some of the phrases that haunt those of us concerned about the purity of our food. It costs a little bit more to guarantee the quality, but in the end it pays off.


Tucked behind Manlius’ venerable Sno-Top ice cream stand is a small plaza with a Subway, a national drug store chain, a European chocolatier and a cooperative owned by a handful of Madison County farmers. In July 2013, Side Hill Farmers opened its doors as a storefront for a handful of farmers to move their product. My visit a couple of weekends ago found a busy, rustic-looking meat market with a wide open area in the rear of the store where meat is butchered on an open-air stage. Beef, pork, chicken and homemade sausages pack the display cooler, while an open dairy chest is packed with cheeses and milks. A freezer carries homemade sauces and stocks.

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Kevin McCann, the butcher-on-duty, gave me the nickel tour after convincing me to visit the store on Facebook. My introduction pulled him away from breaking down a dry-aged hunk of beef that had just emerged from the refrigerator. It was pretty glorious looking. Kevin said that the response to the store has been explosive, so much so that they are looking to expand to the open space next door, where they would have more room for produce and charcuterie. They already produce their own salami, filetto (cured pork tenderloin) and speck, but he was looking to get a space where he could expand the in-house production of cured meats.

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McCann and the other staff butchers break down the meats that come in from the farms from Onondaga County’s eastern neighbor, using everything that comes in the door. Steaks, chops, roasts and offal go into the cooler or the CSA bundles available. Bones are cooked down for homemade stock. And what little else that is left gets flipped into dog treats. The cooler was slowly emptying on this particular Saturday afternoon, steak-by-steak. Kevin mentioned that their major issue surrounds supply. Unlike a grocer, Side Hill doesn’t have a warehouse or wholesaler that it can get more product from at the drop of a hat. “One cow in, one cow out,” he said.

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All steaks and roasts are tenderized on the spot before being wrapped. Most of the staff has culinary training, so cooking tips and recipes are not lacking. The three Denver steaks (below) I procured were well-marbled and Kevin even trimmed some exposed fat from the edges for me. I pan-seared the steaks and finished them in the oven to medium/medium-rare, finding them to have a rich, almost creamy flavor. The steaks were not wet- or dry-aged. They were carved and left standing in a refrigerator case, so none of the tendons had the chance to break down. For a cheaper cut of meat from the flap, they were amazing.

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While I’m pretty loyal to Bostrom Farms for pork, I think I’ve found a winner for local beef. And, to my knowledge it’s the only place in the area to buy Stoltzfus Family Dairy chocolate milk. It’s creamline milk, which means that it hasn’t been homogenized. Homogenous milk has gone through processing to break up the fat into dissolvable pieces. Creamline is like the old school milk with the cap of cream at the top. It’s amazing on its own, though The Wife reports that it is enhanced with a heavy-handed dose of Bailey’s Irish Cream.


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Fins & Tails has been around for about 200 years now (okay, so 27 this summer). It’s the type of fish market that you would expect in a larger city or closer to the shore, not on Erie Boulevard East near Thompson Road.

It is just about the only place in town where you can count on sustainably fished products, served by people who know the fish they are selling. Wanting to make a fish stew over the weekend, I knew that I could probably find the shellfish I wanted and probably a mild filet of something to toss in. I was right. The cooler had a bucket of mussels that had arrived that morning, as well as Gulf shrimp, littleneck clams, salmon, cod, and bluefin. A second cooler had a host of homemade seafood salads and soups that one of the co-owners works in a kitchen area behind the counter for takeaway. I grabbed clams, mussels and cod, as well as their best kept secret: fish stock.

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Kitchen Basics makes a decent fish stock, but homemade is always better. F&T uses fish bones and shrimp shells to make their stock, extracting the marrow and collagen to construct a rich broth. Parking isn’t the easiest and I’ve always thought the plaza was kind of dodgy, but there is no better place in town to buy fish. Its reputation precedes itself so much so that for a while, F&T provided and managed the seafood counter at local grocery Green Hills Farms.

Yes, they are more expensive than your average supermarket but if you want quality, you pay for it. When F&T says it has red snapper or sole, you don’t have to worry about DNA testing when you get home. That’s worth paying for.

Side Hill Farms is located at 315 Fayette St. (Rt. 92) in Manlius, just behind Sno-Top. It opens Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m. Fins & Tails is located at 3012 Erie Blvd. East in Syracuse, near the Thompson Road exit from I-690 in the former Liquor Square plaza. It is open Tuesday through Saturday.

Last Week’s Dinner: New England Clam Chowder with Pancetta and Herbs

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I’m not all that picky when it comes to Manhattan vs. New England Clam Chowder. Frankly, I would just assume have a bunch of fish thrown into a pot with some tomatoes and eat the result. But, when it comes to clam chowder, I lean towards Manhattan but don’t discriminate. That said, if I am going to eat New England Clam Chowder, I want it to be thick. I want it to be slightly thinner than wallpaper paste. Runny New England Clam Chowder just doesn’t cut it. And that’s what this recipe yielded. Yes, it was designed to include corn, so I actually cut back on the liquid. It didn’t matter. Actually, adding frozen or canned corn would have only made it worse as the veggie would likely drop its liquid and thin the soup out further.

Continue reading Last Week’s Dinner: New England Clam Chowder with Pancetta and Herbs

Cuba Libre, Washington, D.C.

NOTE: Rather than write a second review, I am reposting my visit to Cuba Libre from 2012 to mark my Sunday evening visit. It was just as good as last year, though this around we ordered a number of small plates.



Sometime Thursday, I mentioned to my boss that there was a Cuban restaurant near our hotel in Washington. She gave me the “Hmm” of intrigue and didn’t say much more.

Today on our plane ride, she asked me if I thought the restaurant would be open today. We had a winner on a day when the weather was a loser. Sheets of rain poured down as we walked the block from our hotel on Ninth Street NW to Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar. Seating was immediate in the half-full restaurant, which I’m sure is par for the course on a rainy Sunday night when the local hockey team is playing down the street.

The decor replicates the streets of pre-Castro Havana. Classic Spanish architecture with faux balconies overlooking the dining area. The bar is cut in a way that it looks like a streetwise cantina. Our waitress trumpeted the 14 varieties of mojito, made with the house label rum, sugar syrup made from fresh pressed sugar cane and Cuban mint. The boss fell victim to the grilled pineapple variety; I went for the white sangria and it’s five different favors of rum. Neither disappointed. I’m certain that the 100 rums at the bar and the various rum flights would have also sufficed, but I had aspirations of walking back to the hotel after dinner.

Continue reading Cuba Libre, Washington, D.C.

Saturday dinner part two: Creamy shrimp orzotto

2013-03-23 at 17-37-16There’s really no storyline here. Truth be told, I didn’t think that the steamed mussels would be enough for dinner, but I also didn’t want to do pasta. So, I thought a risotto would work.

When I buy seafood, I tend to do so at Price Chopper. There product is equal in quality to Wegmans, but significantly cheaper and always in stock. Of course, what I gain in fish, I sacrifice in other things. After 15 minutes of looking, I could not find arborio rice. Now, I could have gone to the Wegmans across the street from the store I was in, but laziness won out. I bought a pound of orzo and decided we would have an orzotto. Continue reading Saturday dinner part two: Creamy shrimp orzotto

Saturday dinner part one: Beer mussels (plus marital advice)

2013-03-23 at 17-37-01AL DENTE’S TIPS TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE, NO. 15: Listen to your wife when she says that she does or does not like something.

For years, I’ve skipped ordering mussels at restaurants as an app or cooking them at home because I thought that The Wife did not like them. The Sister was home a couple of weeks ago. After years of eschewing seafood, she has fallen in love with it and is eating any fish she can get her hands on. During her visit, she asked what mussels tasted like. We talked about them and I mentioned that The Wife didn’t like mussels. Imagine my surprise when she said that she did like them.

AL DENTE’S TIPS TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE, NO. 22: Ask your wife if she likes something or whether she is willing to simply tolerate it.

2013-03-23 at 16-59-14How was that possible? How was it that for 10 years of marriage and the seven years of dating prior I believed that she didn’t like something. I could have sworn that she told me that she didn’t like mussels. It turns out that she likes them, but not as much as she likes shrimp, clams or scallops. After 17 years, we had broken new ground.

AL DENTE’S TIPS TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE, NO. 23: Stop trying to understand the difference between disliking something and simply not liking it as much as something else.

So on Saturday when I asked The Wife what she wanted for dinner and I got the response, “I wouldn’t say no to fish,” I sprang to action. Okay, so maybe not “sprang.” I’m not sure I’ve ever “sprang,” “sprung” or any other derivative of the verb “spring” before. I digress… Continue reading Saturday dinner part one: Beer mussels (plus marital advice)

Saturday dinner: Pan-fried shrimp with roasted tomato orzotto

“I feel like this is the last chance.”

There was a forlorn tone to The Wife’s voice as she realized that Saturday evening dinners for the next couple of weeks would likely be in the form of takeout. September means Walk To End Alzheimer’s fundraisers every Saturday and Sunday. My Saturday mornings start sometime between 4 and 6 during Walk season. After shower and nap, I’m not good for much more than giving a delivery address before having to wake up at 6 or so the next morning.

With that in mind, Saturday’s trip to the CNY Regional Market was more than just produce. I was on the hunt for a main dish. One of the cool parts of the market is that more and more animal farms are bringing their beef, pork and other meats for sale. I’ve picked up steaks and bacon, with no complaint. Today, I went in another direction: fish.  Continue reading Saturday dinner: Pan-fried shrimp with roasted tomato orzotto