How To Make Your Own Lobster Rolls

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There’s a lot of hubbub in New York, lately, about lobster rolls. Apparently there’s a glut of lobsters (see this New York Magazine article) and new lobster shacks are sprouting up all over the city. My loyalty, as always, belongs to Pearl Oyster Bar which makes the best lobster roll I’ve ever had. But did you know that its chef, Rebecca Charles, once taught me how to make her signature lobster roll for a video Craig and I did for Serious Eats? And did you know that, since then, I’ve made several more lobster rolls–always marveling at how easy it is? Because it is, indeed, very easy. And with lobsters really cheap right now in New York ($5.99 a pound at Citarella) this may turn out to be something you’ll want to do at home too.

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Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish

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I recently downloaded the Monterey Bay Aquarium app for my iPhone. It’s a great way for those of us who want to buy sustainable seafood to know what’s ok and what’s not. Only a few fish get the designation “Best Choice”–most fish, like monkfish, cod, flounder, and skate are to be avoided, and other fish like haddock, hake, and pollock are “Good Alternatives”–but “Best Choice”? That’s an exclusive designation. And I was surprised to see, while checking the app at Citarella, that catfish–which is actually pretty cheap–is a “Best Choice” fish.

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Shrimp & Mussels

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Protein has been the subject of much debate around our dinner table lately. “You know,” said Craig when I served him pasta for the umpeenth time the other night, “if you’re trying to get in shape” (see newsletter) “you should probably serve more protein and less carbs.”

It’s a fair point, but here’s the deal: unlike most cooks who came of age in a pre-Pollan era, I don’t feel comfortable buying that mass-market plastic-wrapped factory-farmed meat you see in the grocery store. I don’t judge those who do–I’m actually envious of those who do–but, for me, I can’t shake images from Food Inc. out of my head. So it’s easier to cook pasta and rice and vegetables and beans because it doesn’t throw me into an ethical quandary (and it’s way cheaper); only, I eat so many carbs my body is now made up of 70% flour. I think that may be a problem.

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Squid and Leeks in Red Wine

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I’ve got a Valentine’s Day gift for you. It has a fancy French name–“Estouffade de Calmars aux Poireaux”–and it may be the most perfect thing for you to make tomorrow night as you try to seduce your Valentine.

What makes it so seductive? For starters, look at the color: a deep reddish/purple, it positively screams passion and romance. Secondly, the smell: there is no smell greater, in all of cooking, than the smell of red wine stewing away on the stove. And, finally, the effect: the resulting dish is quite satisfying, but not heavy at all. You’ll have so much energy for a post-dinner romp, even Cupid would blush at the result.

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Seared Scallops with Citrus Risotto

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Visions of food sometimes arrive and you wave them away like an annoying fly. “Why am I craving lobster bisque right now?” you ask yourself while castrating a horse. “Get that craving out of my head!”

But what you don’t realize, person who is reading this, is that a craving is a gift, assistance from the great beyond advising you on what precisely you are crying out for in the deepest, most desperate part of your soul.

Take the experience I had yesterday. I was leaving work at Food Network (you have to call it Food Network, not “The Food Network” or you get fired) and I walked past the seafood store down there in the Chelsea Market and I had a vision of scallops on a citrus risotto. Was I craving this? Not necessarily. Did I really want scallops for dinner? Maybe, I wasn’t sure. But that vision was insistent. “You must make me,” the vision kept saying. “Scallops and citrus risotto is what you will eat.”

Finally, I caved and bought a pound of large, diver scallops which I brought back on the subway (my lucky subway neighbors!) and when I got off the train I hurried home to look up the citrus risotto from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I also read about it online and after reading my friend Heidi’s post on the recipe (a basic risotto recipe with grapefruit and lime segments added in) I took her conclusion to heart: “god, this would be great with oranges or lemons.”

I made a citrus risotto with lime segments, grapefruit segements and the segments and juice from a navel orange. I seared the scallops Batali-style in a non-stick skillet. And friends, believe me when I tell you, this dinner was a triumph.

I know it’s a triumph because Craig’s reaction to a pretty good meal is often a head-nod; his reaction to a triumph is: “Oh my God, this is so good. What did you put in this? I love this.”

Don’t thank me, Craig: thank my vision. What follows is how you can realize my vision at home….

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Molly Stevens’ Braised Monkfish with Cherry Tomatoes & Basil

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“Now is the winter of our Molly Stevens,” I wanted to say at the start of this winter. I wanted to say that because Molly Stevens’ book, All About Braising, is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I love this book because the recipes are flawless and, not only that, the results always exceed my expectations. Craig will never think of parsnips the same way again after Molly’s Chicken Breasts Braised with Hard Cider and Parsnips–Molly can transform anything with the flick of her magical wrist. So this winter I wanted to Molly out; I wanted to braise the whole winter through, browning, deglazing, and simmering until our kitchen itself was a braise. Only it never really got that cold and, truth be told, I was often so tired from Food Network meetings and tapings that a long braise didn’t really appeal to me when I came home. (Hence the popularity, I suppose, of 30 minute meals, etc etc.)

But recently at the Chelsea Market, where Food Network is located, I met a monkfish. There’s a fish store there and sitting on a counter, extravagantly arrayed, were fillets of monkfish–a truly ugly fish–and suddenly my mind leapt over the rooftops back to my bookshelf in Brooklyn where Molly’s book rested. “Molly has a recipe for monkfish!” I recalled. “Monkfish braised with cherry tomatoes and basil.” I bought 1 1/2 pounds of monkfish fillets and brought them home and sure enough Molly’s recipe called for 1 1/2 pounds of monkfish fillets.

The recipe was a cinch to put together–the whole thing was prepped and cooked in approximately one hour–and the results, as expected, were tremendous. As I placed the plate before Craig, I felt like I was serving restaurant quality food. And, essentially, I was. “The fish is so moist and tender,” said Craig, digging in. “And the sauce is so flavorful.” Monkfish is called the poor man’s lobster, but we didn’t feel like poor men eating this. We felt like kings.

Let Molly work her magic in your kitchen after a hard day’s work. Here’s how you make it…

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A Fishy Feast

Alex and Raife are friends from college who came to stay with me last week. On the phone, the day before they came, Alex said, “Adam, my sister Lizzie wants to know if she gives you $10, will you cook us dinner?”

“No $10 necessary,” I said. “I was going to cook for you anyway!”

Here’s Alex, Raife, Lizzie and Diana gathered around the table consuming the meal I made the night they arrived:

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It took me a long time to come up with what I’d cook and, unfortunately, I’m not sure it was a smashing success. The theme of the night was: fish stew.

I’d never made a fish stew. Alex eats fish and chicken but no pork or meat and so my options were limited. For a long time I’ve wanted to make a fish soup kind of dish. Not a bouillabaisse, necessarily; just something with lots of fish–shrimp, mussels, etc. I opened my River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers and there it was: the simplest fish soup recipe I’ve ever seen. Too simple, actually. But you’ll see in a moment.

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