Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie" - Pearl Oyster Bar Lobster (or Shrimp) Roll

  1. Date I made this recipe: July 29, 2007

    Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie – Three Generations of Recipes and Stories from Summers on the Coast of Maine by Rebecca Charles of Pearl Oyster Bar and Deborah DiClementi
    Published by: ReganBooks
    ISBN: 0-06-051582-1
    © 2007


    Recipe: Pearl Oyster Bar Lobster (Shrimp) Roll – p. 209-10

    Well, let’s just get a few things out of the way right now:

    1. At $30.00 plus a pound, making the Pearl Oyster Bar’s famous lobster roll was clearly out of the question but hey, if you have the money for it, you go right ahead.
    2. Luckily, Rebecca Charles, co-author of this book, said you can use shrimp. But (and she is most generous on this) the recipe calls for 2 pounds of shrimp (or lobster) to make two rolls and that’s a lot of shrimp for two people. I used one pound of shrimp and lived to tell about it.
    3. In case you don’t know, lobster does not taste like shrimp and so while the shrimp roll was good, the lobster roll is even better. How do I know this?
    4. Because I’ve eaten at the Pearl Oyster Bar, located in New York’s Greenwich Village, and it was the best lobster roll I’ve ever had. And so before I even got started, I knew that no matter what I made, it would not even come close to Rebecca’s…and it didn’t. But I didn’t care because…
    5. The story of my afternoon at the Pearl Oyster Bar is far more interesting than this recipe. Here’s why….

    It was the first week of August 2004. I had just finished taking the bar exam at the end of July and as a treat, made my annual pilgrimage to visit my friend, Susan, and her husband, Bob. I usually don’t go in August as it tends to be a little hot, but I was so in need of a getaway, and believe it or not, going to NYC relaxes me.

    So Susan and I decided to go shopping and dining and when she asked where I wanted to go, I replied that I wanted to try the Pearl Oyster Bar as I had read the cookbook and thought it sounded fantastic. And so we went to the Village and into the place for a late lunch.

    We weren’t even in the door more than two seconds when all of a sudden we heard “Susan! Susan!!”

    Turns out the person trying to get Susan’s attention was Bob’s (Susan’s husband) cousin, Debbie. Debbie was there with her father, Bob’s uncle Frank. Turns out that Bob’s cousin Debbie is Deborah—as in Deborah DiClementi -co-author of this cookbook. “It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all….”

    But we did not know this until Debbie asked us what we were doing there and when Susan said we were there because of the book, Debbie shrieked and identified herself as the co-author. She said “Rebecca will just die when I tell her how you came here” but before we could get over to talk to Rebecca, Debbie “yoo hooed” a couple of gentlemen leaving the place.

    “Oh, it’s too bad they couldn’t stay longer. Those men are the producers of The Sopranos.”

    Well, folks, our jaws about crashed to the floor. And, of course, by the time we recovered from our near-meeting with them, they were out the door. Phooey. I mean, for one second, I had visions of stardom. After all, I am half-Sicilian and my dad is a New Jersey native and his parents were from the same town in Sicily as famous mobster Lucky Luciano so there just had to be a walk-on roll for me somewhere down the line. After all, I was practically family! (In an act of benevolence, I would have gotten non-Sicilian Susan in as well, seeing as how she knows Cousin Debbie and all).

    But alas, it was not to be and so we sat down, dejected but hungry and ready to eat. But first things first as cousin Debbie was still working the room and, of course, is soon “yoo hoo”ing someone else. And I love this—she so casually says “Oh that was Boz Scaggs’ son (Boz was a popular singer in the 70’s. He sang the Lido Shuffle, Harbor Lights to name a few.).”

    Were we driving these people away? I mean really, that was two sets of famous or near-famous people we didn’t get to meet. But then to lift our spirits, Debbie said “Boz is in here someplace…” before she left to meet and greet someone else.

    Well people Boz was indeed “someplace.” In fact, Boz was sitting right behind us. And just as I caught his profile out of the corner of my eye, Susan said, in what I feel was NOT her inside voice “NOW WHAT DID HE SING?” “For God’s sake, shhhhhsh!” So I told her (sotto voce) and just then, I caught what I’m sure was an amused smirk on Boz’s face. And don’t ask me why but I tried to signal to Susan that he was behind us and of course that didn’t work. I threw my head in his direction and out of the corner of my mouth said “He’s right behind us” but she didn’t get it and so, of course, turned and practically looked him right in the eye. It was not a good “We’re your biggest fans” moment.

    But just when we thought we might want to jungle-crawl out of there, Rebecca Charles came over to meet us. I felt like an idiot as I just gushed at how I loved the cookbook and I was just so thrilled to meet her, yada, yada, yada but to my relief, she took it all in stride. After we ate her famous lobster roll, I really should have kissed her ring but that might have been taking things just a bit too far. Might.

    So anyway, after all the yoo hooing and fawning and whatnot, we rolled ourselves out of there and went shopping. Given the size of the lobster roll and the shoestring potatoes that came with it, we were not hungry until much later that night. Not really in the mood to go too far (Bob was babysitting but we still wanted to stay close by), we decided to go to a favorite neighborhood place, Gennaro’s, on the Upper West Side on Amsterdam between 92nd and 93rd.

    Now, as God is my witness, I am not making this up. We no sooner sat down when this woman with very unusual hair walked right by us.

    “Is that Cyndi Lauper?” I queried our server. (Cyndi is most famous for her song Girls Just Wanna Have Fun)

    Indeed, it was her, in the flesh…and the interesting-colored hair.

    Now, I have several theories for how it is that we had so many brushes with fame that day and the reason, I think is that I (and okay, I’ll include Susan as well) attract the rich and famous. Gotta be. Now if we could only work on that timing thing so that somewhere down the line these near-connections result in something. My latest fantasy is that I tell Cyndi that I’m a singer as well and am thinking we could do a great duet and I know she just finished a tour but if she could see her way to including me next time…….

    Pearl Oyster Bar Lobster (or Shrimp) Roll – serves 2
    2 pounds cooked lobster meat, chopped roughly into ½ and ¾-inch pieces (If using shrimp, substitute 2 pounds of shrimp, cooked, peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise)
    ½ celery rib, finely chopped
    ¼ cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
    Squeeze of lemon
    Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    2 teaspoons unsalted butter
    2 Pepperidge Farm top-loading hot dog buns (I couldn’t find these so used Pepperidge farm side-loading instead)
    Chopped chives for garnish

    To make the lobster salad, in a large bowl, combine the lobster meat, celery, mayonnaise, lemon, and salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Cover the mixture and store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve. It will last up to 2 days.

    To prepare the buns, in a small sauté pan over low to medium heat, melt the butter. Place the hot dog buns on their sides in the butter. Flip the buns a couple of times so that both sides soak up an equal amount of butter and brown evenly. Remove the buns from the pan and place them on a large plate.

    Fill the toasted buns with the lobster salad. Sprinkle with chives and serve with a salad, slaw, or shoestring potatoes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Culinary Concertos" by the Long Beach Symphony Association" - O'Henry Bars

Date I made this recipe: July 15, 2007

Culinary Concertos by the Long Beach Symphony Association
Published by: The Long Beach Symphony Association
© 1977

Recipe: O’Henry Bars – p. 119 (submitted by Maxine Foster)

Like everyone, I’ve been busy running around like a madwoman this summer. For some reason, I thought I made something in between my last posting at the end of June and no, but sadly, no.

Part of the reason I’ve been so busy is because my community band, The Calhoun-Isles Community Band, plays several outdoor concerts in the summer and last week, I had concerts on Monday, Tuesday and then Sunday. Whew!

Our band has always thrown a pot-luck picnic on one of the nights that we have a concert, and this year, it was on Sunday, July 15th, right before we played a concert at Centennial Lakes in Edina, MN. This year’s picnic actually morphed into a baby shower; one of our members adopted a baby boy named Henry from Ethiopia. Henry shows great musical promise already and we hope that when he grows up, he’ll become a full-fledged member!

So anyway…I wanted to find something from a “musical” cookbook to bring to the party but alas, there are no community band cookbooks in my collection. I did have, however, this Long Beach Symphony Association cookbook that was given to me by a CICB member so I think that counts.

And wouldn’t you know, as I was leafing through the book, I came across this recipe for O’Henry Bars. Well, people, I just had to make these in honor of little Henry (who is absolutely adorable, by the way). It's like the recipe was just calling to me....

Many of you might remember the O’Henry candy bar. I knew that the bar contained peanuts and chocolate but I remember the peanuts being rather chunky. But this recipe calls for peanut butter, not whole peanuts, and the peanut butter gets mixed in with the chocolate making it much easier to assemble.

I thought that the base of the bar might be kind of sweet given that the recipe calls for ½ cup light syrup and 3 teaspoons vanilla, but the bar was just right—and the hit of the picnic. I think even (O) Henry enjoyed them. Hope you will, too.

O’Henry Bars (no yield given but I’d say it made about 3 dozen small squares)
4 cups oatmeal
½ cup light syrup
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup melted butter
3 teaspoons vanilla

1 6 oz. package chocolate chips, melted
2/3 cup peanut butter (I used smooth)

Mix together the oatmeal, syrup, brown sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Pat down flat on cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake 12 minutes at 350.

Combine the chocolate chips and peanut butter and spread on top of baked cookie dough after bars are slightly cool (just until firm). Cut into bars after chilled. Store in the refrigerator.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

"Home Cookin' with Dave's (Letterman) Mom" & "June Roth's Let's Have A Brunch Cookbook" - breakfast items

Date I made these recipes: June 30, 2007

Home Cookin’ with Dave’s Mom by Dave’s (Letterman) Mom, Dorothy with Jess Cagle. Foreword by David Letterman
Published by: Pocket Books
ISBN: 0-671-00060-8
© 1996
Recipe: Judy’s Breakfast Casserole – p. 134

June Roth’s Let’s Have A Brunch Cookbook by June Roth
Published by: Essandess Special Edition
© 1971
Recipe: Cinnamon-Raisin Brunch Bread – p. 101

The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
Published by: Wings Books
ISBN: 0-517-18726-4
© 1987
Recipe: Baked Pineapple – p. 176

This past weekend, I invited a friend and her husband over for brunch. Initially, I was going to make all my recipes from Marion Cunningham’s book, but then with days to go, I changed my mind (and as it’s a woman’s prerogative to do so, that’s how I ended up with three recipes).

Marion’s book was great but it didn’t include a recipe for a strata and once I decided that I wanted something like a strata to “anchor” the brunch, I was on a new hunt for a dish and a new cookbook.

Home Cookin’ with Dave's Mom seemed to be a good place to find a strata-type recipe for my brunch and it did not disappoint. Within seconds, I located the breakfast casserole and actually, it worked out even better than a strata. It didn’t need to be made 24 hours in advance and it included all my favorite breakfast items – sausage, hash browns, eggs and cheese, into one dish. Perfect!

Also perfect was the witty writing by Dave’s mom, Dorothy Letterman. If any of you caught her broadcasts from Lillehammer, Norway during the 1994 Olympics, you’ll know that she is quite hilarious herself, almost funnier at times than son, Dave. One night, she quite effectively put David (always David, never Dave) in his place; when Letterman kept asking his mom about one of the star athletes at the Olympics (it might have been speed skater, Dan Jansen), Dorothy smiled at David and said in a somewhat exasperated voice “There are other athletes, David.” And that was that!

Although that story is not in the book, I think you’ll have fun reading about Dave, his siblings and his adorable mother. Oh, and the recipe really rocks as well!

The next cookbook I used was June Roth’s Let’s Have A Brunch Cookbook. I acquired this book a few years ago, put it away, and almost forgot about it until this past weekend when I spotted it on the shelf above my computer. That would have been a tragedy as I completely forgot about the note written inside the cover, under the price, that said “Good Lord, What is that on the cover?”

Once I saw that, it all came rushing back to me. I bought this book from a little retro store on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, and happened to go into the store just as the owner was putting it out for display. I should add that the owner was also gasping (or maybe it was gagging) about the photo on the front cover and that’s what prompted her to write the note inside the book. I hated to tell her, but that photo, that “what is that thing?” is what drew me to the book in the first place. I mean, anyone can have a brunch book, but a brunch book with a “that” on the front cover? Well, that was something else entirely.

Lucky for us, “that” was explained on the dust cover: “Pictured on the cover is June’s Seagoing Shrimp Salad from the Bon Voyage Brunch in the Special Occasion section. A true work of art (a less elaborate version is pictured with the brunch on page 88), this is just one of the many beautiful, as well as appetizing, dishes offered in this volume.”

Okay, you will likely not be able to tell this from the teeny photo included on this blog but the phrase “true work of art” does not go with the cover photo, not at all. Instead, the front cover looks like two layers of canned ham with shrimp serving as ears and a nose, sort of resembling Neptune only done by some contemporary artist with a vision that none of us could quite see.

To satisfy my curiosity of what a “less elaborate” version looks like, I turned to page 88 and have to admit that the less elaborate version is far less scary than the front cover, possibly because it’s in black and white. That being said, black and white did not reduce the terror I experienced at seeing a Ham Mousse mould on page 66, nor did it in any way, shape or form, help me with the photo of Chicken n’ Ham “Birthday Cake” (complete with candles, I kid you not) on page 54.

In fact, dear reader, most of June’s Brunch Book was pretty scary and most of the recipes are not what we would ever consider serving for a brunch. But hey, this book was written in those wild 70’s when anything is possible.

Lucky for June and the book, I found the recipe for Cinnamon-Raisin Brunch Bread which was not scary in the least and was actually pretty tasty. All I can say is – Whew!”

Finally, the third recipe book I used, The Breakfast Book, included the simplest recipe of them all – Baked Pineapple, requiring only one pineapple and a half cup of brown sugar. Nothing scary about that, thank God. After my June experience, I was not sure I ever wanted to cook again. This restored my faith in humanity…and pineapple.

Judy’s Breakfast Casserole – makes 10 servings
1 2-pound bag Ore-Ida hash brown potatoes, thawed
½ teaspoon salt
½ pound mild sausage (I used bulk breakfast sausage from Whole Foods)
1 small onion, chopped
½ pound shredded Swiss cheese
5 eggs
1 13-ounce can evaporated milk
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Press potatoes in the bottom and on sides. Sprinkle with salt and brown lightly in the oven. In a medium skillet, brown sausage and onion and drain. Spread over potato crust. Sprinkle with cheese. In another bowl, beat together remaining ingredients and pour onto the crust. Bake at 425 degrees (400 degrees if using a glass dish) for 20-25 minutes.

Cinnamon-Raisin Brunch Bread – makes 8-10 servings
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole bran cereal
¾ cup milk
½ cup soft shortening
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup seedless raisins
½ cup chopped nuts
2 tablespoons sugar (for topping)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (for topping)

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside. (NOTE: do not do as I did the first time I made this which is to misread baking “powder” for baking “soda.” That batch ended up in the garbage. Measure twice, cut once; read twice, use correct ingredient once.

Combine cereal and milk; let stand until most of the moisture is absorbed. Measure shortening, ½ cup sugar, and eggs into a mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Stir in cereal mixture, raisins, and nuts. Add sifted dry ingredients, stirring until combined. Spread in greased 9-inch layer cake pan. Mix 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon for topping; sprinkle evenly over brunch bread. (Note: 2 tablespoons of sugar seemed awfully excessive; try half the sugar instead)

Bake in 375 oven for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm, cut in wedges.

Baked Pineapple – 10 servings
1 fresh medium pineapple
½ cup brown sugar

Remove the rind and eyes from the pineapple. Cut the fruit into quarters lengthwise and remove the core from each wedge. Cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown sugar over each slice. Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 325 degree oven. Serve warm.

Note: Since I didn’t know how many pineapple pieces I’d have after my cutting, it seemed silly to sprinkle 1 tablespoon over each slice so instead, I sprinkled the brown sugar over the entire baking sheet. Seemed to work out just fine.