smoked sturgeon, gold beet; soft shell crabs, haricots verts

The table was awaiting the guests, but I had forgotten the genial service plates (very large, very shallow, very plain, clear glass) that I had found at a thrift shop long ago.

Aside from the fact that this would be one of the first dinners we would be sharing with friends since the epidemic began, the dinner itself would be an anomaly: The featured star of both the first and the second courses came from places other than our local greenmarket.

Our guests couldn’t join us on a Union Square Greenmarket day (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, year round) and I wanted to serve seafood, so early yesterday afternoonI I walked a few blocks west and south of the apartment to F. Rozzo & Sons. Louis Rozzo is a fourth-generation fish broker, head of a family business with a 121-year history in Chelsea. It was started by Louis’ Neapolitan grandfather in 1900, who bought the building in 1905, and serviced New York restaurants, eventually hotels and clubs as well, from a horse-drawn cart. Until recently, when the epidemic closed down virtually every one of his customers, 9 refrigerated trucks were doing the same duty as Felix’s cart; sadly, the single box van I see parked in front whenever I arrive is probably more than enough for his delivery needs today.

Rozzo has a Twitter presence, handled by Louis’ son: F. Rozzo & Sons @FRozzoandSons.

Louis began supplying retail customers when his customer base dried up early in the Covid epidemic because of restaurant, hotel, and club closings.

The shop now announces its stock each day with sandwich boards:

And this  is the ice vitrine inside the 159 9th Avenue building (between West 18th and 19th).

When our two guests had arrived for dinner, we nibbled on breadsticks and such, and enjoyed a sparkling wine, Apollonis “Authentic Meunier” Blanc de Noirs Brut, Loriot NV .

 

The first course was assembled with slices of smoked American farmed sturgeon (9 ounces total) from Grace’s Marketplace, placed on a bed of 2 small almost impossibly-thin hand sliced (I have a great knife) golden beets from from Phillips Farms, the slices first sprinkled with small amounts of wild fennel pollen from Buon Italia, dribbled with a good Cretan olive oil, and a little white balsamic vinegar, Condimento Bianco Barricato, the sturgeon itself topped with dollops of crème fraîche from Vermont Creamery (via Foragers Market), the cream having been mixed with lemon zest and chopped fresh za’atar from Rise & Root at the Union Square Greenmarket, the dish garnished with micro celery from Two Guys from Woodbridge.

The wine with the sturgeon was Francois Dubois Champagne Brut Tradition NV (Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay grapes).

 

The main course was nine (traditional fishmongers’ eight?) 3 to 4-ounce Chesapeake Bay soft shell crabs from F. Rozzo, brought to room temperature while I  trimmed them; the fishmonger had offered to do the cleaning, but I wanted them to “save face” at least until shortly before they had to expire, I thanked Tom and told him I’d do it in the kitchen a few hours later.

The crabs were sautéed on both sides (bottom first, but in the end served with that side down) over a medium-high flame in a quarter inch of olive oil inside a beautiful large (18 inch) French seasoned oval steel pan, for about 3  or 4 minutes altogether, or until their texture went from soft to taut, removed and arranged on the 4 warm plates.

There they were sprinkled with local Long Island (P.E. & D. D. Seafood) sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper, drizzled with lemon juice and garnished with micro cressida (similar to but spicier than cress) from Rooted Family Farm.

 

Accompanying the crabs were sixteen ounces of haricots verts from Migliorelli Farm, stems removed, but otherwise left whole, blanched, drained and dried in the same pan over medium heat, shaking, then set aside in a bowl and refrigerated until the crabs were about to be sautéed, at which time the beans were reheated in a little oil inside a heavy medium size vintage well-seasoned cast iron pan, finished with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and mixed with chopped parsley from Echo Creek Farm (the West 23rd St market).

The wine was a 2017 Ponzi Vigneto Chardonnay.

 

There was a simple cheese course. There are no pictures of the plates, but they were definitly pretty: triangles cut from a small (7 oz.) wheel of a Camembert-type cheese, “G.O.A.T.”, from West Meadow Farm and Dairy, served with cubes of Marmelada quince paste, from Portugal, and a sprinkling of micro red amaranth from BK Micro.

The wine with the cheese was Patrice Grasset Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

 

We had an unusual after dinner drink, but these are unusual times, an extraordinary Barbancourt 15 Yr. Rhum, from Haiti, to which we were introduced by a Haitian friend.  The image below is of one of the glasses (short, heavy, ca. 1840’s, pressed), but the picture is from an earlier meal, and the contents then were a Sardinian digestif.

If anyone is wondering, we also drank chilled New York City water last night.

 

The music throughout the evening was from a “box set” (the equivalent of 6 CDs) of Haydn, ‘Music for Prince Esterházy and the King of Naples’

duck breast; roast turnips, leek; cabbage, juniper, balsamic

The little halved duck breast resting on the far side of the plate looks undersize here, but its wonderful, assertive flavors survived the power of turnips leeks, and cabbage, lending another understanding to the early 20th century obsession with a “balanced meal”.

  • one 12-ounce breast of duck from Hudson Valley Duck Farm, the fatty, skin side scored in tight cross hatching with a very sharp knife, the breasts both rubbed, top and bottom with a mixture of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a little turbinado sugar, then left standing on the counter for about 45 minutes to an hour, pan-fried over medium heat, fatty side down first, then turning once, inside a small oval enameled cast iron pan for a total of about 9-10 minutes, or perhaps until an instant read thermometer (which I almost never use with duck breasts) shows 135º, draining the oil after the first few minutes, removed when medium rare, left to sit for several minutes, covered loosely with tin foil, before they were drizzled with a little lemon juice and some Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, garnished with micro red chard from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • three medium purple-top turnips from Norwich Meadows Farm cut into half-inch pieces, tossed with oil, salt, pepper, and a tiny amount of crushed dried Santa Fe seasoning pepper form Eckerton Hill Farm, roasted in an unglazed ceramic pan for about 4-45 minutes at 425º, one large leak from Norwich Meadows Farm, also cut into half-inch pieces and tossed in the same mixture enjoyed by the turnips, added near the end of the cooking time, garnished with chervil from Eckerton Hill Farm      
  • the central part of a white cone cabbage (a very sturdy vegetable, it had been waiting inside the refrigerator for some time, and its outer leaves had been included in a couple earlier meals) washed, quartered, cored, sliced into one-half-inch ribbons, sautéed in a scant tablespoon of olive oil inside a large heavy, enameled cast iron pot until wilted but still a little crunchy, stirring occasionally, seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and 8 or so slightly smashed juniper berries, with a few drops of a good balsamic vinegar added as well, and stirred over the heat for only a moment, arranged on the plates and finished with a drizzle of olive oil     
  • the wine was a Washington State cabernet sauvignon, Christopher Michael, Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, from Astor Wines
  • the music was the 1716 tragédie en musique by Charles-Hubert Gervais, ‘Hypermnestre’ (the eponymous Danaid who was the only one of 50 sisters who did not kill her husband on their wedding night), in a performance by the Orfeo Orchestra and Purcell Choir, conducted by Gyorgy Vashegyi

reverse seared ny strip steak; celeriac/potato frites; kale

It was delicious, not innovative, but a take on a classic. Think steak house, a good cut of beef, maybe onions, fries, and probably creamed spinach, only here it’s a reverse seared very good local NY strip steak, topped with spring garlic; oven frites, but including celery root and some seasoning peppers; and the green is kale, simply wilted, no dairy.

 

I’m trying something a little different with this post. Instead of composing a text specifically for this post, I’m going to copy and paste the recipe narrative I used to prepare the meal, clipped above the counter last night.

This way, if anyone reading this post wanted to reproduce any or all of the meal, everything is laid out exactly for the taking.

 

STEAK, CELERIAC/POTATO FRITES, KALE

reverse-seared steak

one 15-ounce NY strip steak from Ox Hollow Farm brought to room temperature, seasoned on all sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, 

reverse seared, meaning it was positioned on a small metal rack inside an oval La Chamba pan and placed inside a 250º oven for about 35 to 45 minutes*, or until an instant thermometer poked into the center read only about 115º-120º, to arrive at a medium rare in the end, noting that the steak finish cooking inside a skillet and continue to increase in temperature,

removed, allowed to wait on a warm plate, covered with tin foil (where it could be left safely for about 45 minutes, which helps in juggling the cooking of any accompanying vegetables, in this case oven roasted frites of celeriac and potatoes, for which the temperature of the oven was greatly increased),

then seared briefly on all sides (the steak was already fully cooked, so left on the surface just long enough to impart color), inside a dry oval heavy cast iron pan, after first placing on the surface a little cooking oil with a higher smoke point than olive oil (I used Mac Nut macademia nut oil from Whole Foods Market) and immediately applying pressure in the center with a wooden spoon, to keep its middle surface from rising from the surface of the pan, 

removed from the heat, cut into 2 sections, and allowed to rest for up to 10 minutes while covered loosely with foil, arranged on 2 warm plates, some lemon juice squeezed on top, sprinkled with chopped spring garlic, white and green section, and drizzled with a Whole Foods Market Portuguese house olive oil

*they  should be checked with an instant thermometer after about 25 minutes

celeriac and potato frites  

eight ounces of scrubbed and peeled celeriac from Norwich Meadows Farm and about the same weight in scrubbed, but not peeled, “Upstate NY Abundance” and “Pan Ready Fingerlings” potatoes, also from Norwich Meadows Farm, this time the roots all cut into crescent wedges, tossed inside a large bowl with very little olive oil, a half teaspoon of Spanish paprika picante, a small crushed section of dried aji dulce pepper, some sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, then spread onto 2 Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pans (2, to keep them spaced from each other, helping the crispiness quotient), roasted at 400º until brown, crispy on the edges, and cooked through, garnished with a little chopped parsley

wilted kale with garlic

some sweet ‘red’ kale (read very deep purple) from Norwich Meadows Farm, stems removed, roughly cut, washed several times and drained, quickly transferred to a smaller bowl to retain some of the water clinging to them,

braised inside a large heavy antique tin-lined copper pot in which 2 halved garlic cloves had first been allowed to sweat in some olive oil, finished with salt and pepper, drizzled with a bit more olive oil

 

lemon/rosemary/anchovy-roasted lotte; potatoes; chard

It happened again.

The second appearance of this astonishing dish was as delicious, simply assembled, and good looking as the first.

I had used the same lotte recipe for the preparation (in the U.S., it’s usually called ‘monkfish’) just a few weeks ago, but yesterday at the Greenmarket I was seduced by two perfect ‘tails’. Then while telling my fish monger how I had cooked them the last time I bought Monkfish, I decided I had to do it again.

The basic, quite simple preparation outline, which I think I altered only with the addition of a bit of a fresh seasoning pepper, comes from the women of the London River Cafe, specifically, their book, ‘Italian Easy London River Cafe’, a brilliant guide to cooking with few ingredients, simple techniques – and spectacular results.

Even the accompaniments were similar to those of the earlier dinner, but I decided to publish it anyway, if only for the photo of the lotte inside the au gratin before it went into the oven.

  • two 8-ounce monkfish tails, which is a fish also known as Lotte in France, Rape (pronounced “rah-pay”) in Spain, Coda di rospo in Italy, or Teufelfisch in Germany, from Pura Vida Seafood Company, placed inside an a tin-lined copper au gratin pan that had first been heated inside a 425º oven, with olive oil drizzled on the surface, a number of small sections of a rosemary branch arranged on the bottom and the fish placed inside on top of the herb, covered with thin slices cut from most of one lemon (the lemon had been separately seasoned with sea salt, black pepper after it had been cut), sprinkled with a tiny finely chopped orange aji dulce seasoning pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm and given a drizzle of olive oil, each tail topped with one salted Sicilian anchovy that had first been rinsed well, then filleted, and the fish itself seasoned to taste, the pan returned to the oven and cooked until the lotte was done, meaning, until the juices were opaque [about 15, maybe 20 minutes, although it’s important to check, maybe using a reliable instant read thermometer to show a 145º temperature at the center, but using that gauge alone can be tricky with a small piece of fish], removed from the oven and arranged on two plates (again, without a garnish, because it already looked spectacular)
  • twelve ounces of Yukon Gold potatoes (described at the market as “new potatoes”, but this is January) from Norwich Meadows Farm, boiled, halved, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, garnished with micro red sorrel from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • a bunch of beautiful tender rainbow chard, also from Norwich Meadow Farms (again, this is January!), wilted in a little olive oil where a halved clove of rocambole garlic had first been heated until softened and fragrant, seasoned with salt, pepper, and a small glug [Brit.] of olive oil
  • the wine was a Spanish (Rías Baixas) white, Albariño “Xión”, Bodegas y Viñedos Attis 2019
  • the music was Vivaldi’s 1733 opera, ‘Montezuma’, Alan Curtis directing the Ensemble, Il Complesso Bar (noting that the incomplete manuscript of this opera was only discovered in Berlin only in 2002, and the ensemble’s Vivaldi scholar and violinist, Alessandro Ciccolini, restored or completed it for a performing edition)

wine-braised goat shanks; polenta; collards; fig ice cream

Esto no es una mole

There was no chocolate, and it’s pretty clearly a European formula.

The headline read, “Wine-Braised Goat Shanks with Tomatoes and Oregano“, so it just screamed holiday dinner.

It was December 25.

The recipe was new to me. I found it on a Seattle-based locavore food site, ‘Edible Seattle‘, where it was credited to an area goat farmer. It may not have been the fanciest pedigree, but it was absolutely delicious, made a great presentation, and it was almost entirely stressless (nearly all the work was done hours before it was served).

  • two tablespoons of olive oil heated over a medium flame inside a large antique (possibly 200 years old) French newly-[re]tinned copper daubière, and two perfect 16-ounce goat shanks from LynnHaven Goat Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, patted dry, placed inside and browned on all sides, turning several times, for about 15 minutes altogether, transferred to a plate resting on the flat unencumbered top of my 1936 Magic Chef oven that had already been  heated to 325º, then a mixture of one medium red onion, 3 chopped medium orange carrots from The Grandpa farm, [there should also ,have been some chopped celery in this list, but I didn’t have any, so I substituted, for no particular reason other than that I had it, one peeled and chopped golden beet from Norwich Meadows Farm], 2 cloves of peeled rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, and one small chopped aji dulce yellow seasoning pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm (me tweaking the recipe) added to the pot, the vegetables seasoned with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, until soft, and a heaping tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano from Stokes Farm, 3 small fresh bay leaves from Chelsea’s West Side Market, and 8 ounces from a can of excellent Mutti peeled Italian (Parma) plum tomatoes, crushed, one and half cups of red wine (Stefano di Blasi Toscana 2018), and one cup of a very good chicken stock, made with Better Than Bullion, added, the liquid brought to a simmer, the seared goat shanks returned, a buttered piece of parchment cut to the beautiful rounded rectangle shape of the pot placed on the top of the goat and vegetables (to reduce evaporation, making for a richer daube), the pot covered and placed inside the oven to cook, turning the shanks once, for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat was very tender, the meat then placed on a platter, or inside an au gratin and placed in the now merely warm oven (or on top of the oven, tented with aluminum foil, and the rich liquids remaining strained, discarding the solids (but retained for use in another meal, in a very substantial soup), the braising juices returned to the pot, where they were brought to a strong simmer over high heat and cooked, stirring occasionally, until reduced almost to the consistency of maple syrup, which might be about 20 minutes, the shanks then returned to the daubière, one at a time, rolled in the sauce to coat, then arranged on warm plates and served  drizzled with the remaining sauce
  • one cup of coarsely-ground Iroquois White Corn Project white corn flour from the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project stall in the Greenmarket) poured slowly, while whisking constantly, into 3 cups of water and one of whole milk, with one teaspoon of sea salt added, that had been heated to a simmer inside an enameled cast iron Michael Lax Copco dutch oven I’e had for half a century, the heat reduced once all had been added, and the mixture simmered, stirring, eventually using a wooden spoon, until it had thickened and the meal tasted cooked, probably 20 minutes altogether, the heat turned off and 3 tablespoons of rich butter, 1/3 cup of heavy cream, and 2 ounces of a gorgonzola dolce from Buon Italia, added and stirred until the cheese had melted, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, served alongside the shanks  [Note: polenta can be prepared ahead of time, kept warm in a double boiler over low heat for maybe 2 hours, then stirring in a little additional boiling water and stirring just before serving]
  • a small bunch of sweet baby December collards tender collards from Windfall Farms, leaves and stems roughly cut, washed several times and drained, transferred to a smaller bowl very quickly in order to retain as much of the water clinging to them as possible, braised inside a heavy medium size antique tin-lined copper pot in which 2 halved cloves of garlic had first been allowed to sweat in some olive oil, finished with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzled with a bit of olive oil
  • the wine was a great Italian (Campania/Montevetrano) red, Colli di Salerno 2013 (cabernet sauvignon, aglianico, merlot), from Bottlerocket

There was a dessert, also stressless, since it only had to be assembled.