Category Archives: Seafood

Don’t be crabby…

Too many smashed fingers from little wooden mallets? Still hungry after an hour of prying miniscule pieces of meat from stubborn shells? Wondering why you are surrounded by a pile of dead carcasses? Well, sounds like you need to put the mallet down and learn how to make some crab cakes!

I’ve been to my share of Maryland crab feasts. Sure, they are great for sitting around socializing and eating other things to fill up on; but lets face it, I want to have a full belly of crab. Maryland blue crab cakes can be made anywhere now, thanks to hand-picked cans of crab meat bought at your local seafood counter. This saves you a ton of time, not to mention the people who pick the crabs are much better at it than you or I (this means less shells to pick out of your teeth).

After spending Labor Day weekend in Baltimore for the Indycar race, the smell of Old Bay spice everywhere I went reminded me it was time to write this post. I am pretty sure they melt the snow and ice on Baltimore roads with Old Bay in the wintertime…

Recipe for Maryland crab cakes with chipotle lime mayo sauce. Good for 4 tennis ball sized cakes.

  • 1/2 lb jumbo lump crab meat
  • 1/2 lb backfin crab meat
  • 8 Ritz crackers crushed
  • 1/4 C mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbls honey dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbls whole grain mustard
  • 1 tsp sri racha hot sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbls diced chives
  • 1 egg
  • Olive oil for basting.

Preheat oven to 450. Combine all ingredients except for the olive oil in a large bowl and gently toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least half an hour to let the flavors get to know each other. Scoop a handful of the mixture, gently form into a ball and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Remove crab cakes and drizzle with olive oil. Fire up your broiler and broil the cakes until browned and crusty on top. Sprinkle extra chives on top and serve with chipotle mayo sauce.

Chipotle Mayo Sauce:

  • 1/4 C mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • juice from half a lime

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth and incorporated.


Wanna See my Mussels?

No, this isn’t a ticket to the “gun show”… This is one of those dishes that you usually see in upscale restaurants.  But you can make this at home, cheap and easy.

The first time I had mussels was at a little French restaurant in Bethesda, MD. The salty and meaty taste of the mussels themselves, along with sopping up an entire loaf of French bread in the broth almost made my appetite for the main course go away (almost). Per usual, I decided I could make these at home for a lot less money, and just as tasty! You can serve these as an appetizer, or main course, setting the big pot you cooked them in at the center of the table and fighting over space to sop your bread in.

The most challenging part of cooking mussels is, well, buying them. This is one item that I will go the extra mile to find as fresh as possible. You may see them in plastic net bags at your regular grocery store, which I usually find many of them broken or dead. If you have a seafood counter with a guy nice enough to pick them out by hand, that is your best bet. Always cook them the same day you buy them and if you aren’t cooking them right away, put them in a bowl with a damp towel over them in the fridge. Regardless, DO NOT leave them in a plastic bag or you will kill ’em all (that is only good if you’re listening to Metallica). You can usually pick out the dead ones by their hollow sound when you tap them on the counter. Also, if they are slightly open, they should clam up when you tap on them. Before cooking, scrub them under running water and pull the little “beards” off. If any don’t open while cooking, discard those too. The good news is that these little buggers are only about 4 bucks a pound! I usually cook around 2 lbs for an entrée for two, or appetizer for four people. The most expensive part of this will be the wine you cook them in (if you buy “cooking wine” I will haunt you every time you do it). Just get wine that is good to drink too, please!

A steamy bowl of goodness

Recipe for steamed mussels: For 2 as an entrée or 4 as an appetizer.
Shopping list:
2 lbs mussels, debearded and scrubbed clean
2 Tbs unsalted REAL butter
1/2 Cup minced shallots
2 Tbs minced garlic
1 Cup dry white wine (whatever you're drinkin')
1 Cup Italian parsley chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 Cup cream
Sea salt and pepper to taste 

No silly little forks needed!

In a large dutch oven, melt butter and saute shallots until soft over medium heat, add garlic and cook 1 more minute.  Throw in the mussels, wine, cream and parsley and once it starts to steam up, put a lid on it  (a clear lid is great to see as they open up). Check them after about four minutes and take the mussels out as they open and place in a bowl. If after 9 minutes any are still closed, throw them away. Maintain heat for a high simmer until your sauce reduces a little bit (about 5 minutes). Taste it as you go and don’t add salt until the very end (the mussels are salty and reducing the liquid will also make it saltier).
Take your cooked mussels and any juice they let go along with the broth and pour it all  into a serving bowl (or the pot you cooked in). Garnish with more parsley and fresh pepper. 

Linguini alle vongole

Cutting linguini on a chitarra

A classic, if you are going to cook Italian, clams linguini is a good place to start.  The flavors of clams linguini are simple to put together, yet complex when they are together and even better when the so called “balance” is achieved. You can screw it up easily, but as soon as you get it right, you will know. I first started making this dish with my chitarra, which is a wooden frame that has guitar strings stretched across it to cut out fresh linguini. With my recipe, I give you the option to use fresh pasta and fresh clams, or canned clams and boxed pasta. I’m sure you know which will be better, but convenience is an issue as we all have day jobs too.

Clams linguini

Ingredients: Serves 4
6 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 ½ Teaspoons Dried red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
8 minced anchovy filets or 1 ½ Tablespoons anchovy paste
½ Cup clam juice
1 Cup dry white wine (I like pinot grigio)
½ Cup roughly chopped, fresh flat leaf “Italian” parsley + extra for garnish
Zest of 2 lemons (reserving some for garnish)
½ Teaspoon kosher salt
1 10oz can whole baby clams (drained)
Parmesan Reggiano for garnish
1 big pot of salted water- reserving about ½ cup after pasta is cooked in it
Either one batch of fresh linguini or a 1 lb box of dried linguini (you know which one will be better).

The recipe differs whether you are using fresh or canned clams. Instructions for the fresh clammys are at the bottom. Read the entire recipe before starting as the preparation of this recipe is the best way to get it right…

1. Get the water boiling.
2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil and red pepper flakes.
3. Once the oil is hot, add anchovies and garlic. Stir constantly until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Do NOT burn the garlic.
4. Add the clam juice and wine. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to simmer until reduced by half (about 7-8 minutes). Meanwhile, if you are using dried linguini drop it in the boiling water now. If using fresh, you want to only cook it for about 2 minutes and should wait until the wine is almost done reducing before boiling it.
5. Once pasta is al dente (slightly undercooked), and the wine has reduced, use tongs to add the cooked pasta to the sauté pan along with the lemon zest, clams, parsley and ½ cup of the water you cooked the pasta in.
6. Finish cooking the pasta by tossing with the tongs until the sauce slightly thickens and the pasta gets coated with sauce. If it seems dry, add more of the pasta water to “loosen” it up.
7. Garnish with extra parsley, lemon zest and lots of grated parmesan.

If you want to use fresh clams, before you start above:
Bring 1 ½ cups of white wine and a handful of parsley to a boil in a sauté pan. Add 2 dozen clams that have been cleaned and close when tapped (still living). Once they open, pull them out of the sauté and put them in a bowl. I will not give a time for how long they take as it varies from the type of clam and the pan used, etc. If any don’t open, discard them. Shuck clams and their juices into the bowl. Add shucked clams, ½ cup of the wine you cooked them in, and whatever juice that is in the bowl into the sauté in place of the canned clams and bottled juice from above.

Spain via Italy

Where do you get a good deal on a paella pan? The best (in my mind) kitchen store around. Fantes kitchen store, in the Italian Market of South Philadelphia is by far one of the coolest places I’ve been to in my culinary travels. Greeted by owner Mariella Fantes, she gave us a tour and shared some of the history of her family and the store. The Italian Market is the oldest open air market in the U.S. The streets are lined with produce vendors and great little shops that sell anything from freshly made mozzarella, to creamy gelato to huge barrels full of olives and other antipasti.

So how does Spain fit into all of this you might ask? Well, one of my purchases from Fantes was related to a dish I had been waiting for a long time to try, paella. In fact, I bought two small paella pans for the purpose of entertaining and having the option of two different paellas at the same time. You could have one for seafood, which is traditional for the coastal regions of Spain, or keep the meat eaters happy with chicken and sausage.

Paella is actually named after the pan itself. A low rimmed, wide cooking surface makes it easy to cook many different ingredients evenly. Original paella pans were made of terra-cotta, but now are mostly high carbon steel and stainless (which is easier to take care of). I made my first paella the day I got home with the pans. And it was all I could have hoped for! Topping the saffron rice with chorizo, chicken, clams and shrimp made it so every bite had its own character.

My first Paella

Recipe for paella: Good for 4 people

Shopping list:

2 1/2 Cups arborio rice

6 Cups low sodium chicken broth

1 pinch of saffron

1 Tbls canola oil

1 red bell pepper cut into strips

1 spanish (white) onion diced small

16 clams scrubbed clean

16 large shrimp shelled and deveined

1/2 lb chorizo sausage cut into small cubes

1 large boneless/skinless chicken breast cut into cubes

1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika

1 Cup frozen peas

Salt to taste (depends a lot on the chicken broth and clams you use)

Method: Preheat oven- 350

Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a sauce pot and add the saffron. In the paella pan or large flat skillet, heat oil  over medium heat, cook shrimp until opaque (about a minute per side), remove and set in a large bowl. Next, cook chicken and chorizo until done and put in the bowl with the shrimp. Add the clams to the simmering chicken stock and cook until they open @ 5 minutes. If any don’t open, discard them. As they open, add them to the bowl with the rest of your cooked meats.

Add onions and red pepper and saute until slightly soft @ 5 minutes. Add rice and stir. Cook while stirring until the rice is slightly toasted, another 5 minutes. Add half a cup of the chicken broth. Simmer chicken broth until rice absorbs all of the liquid. Continue adding the remaining chicken broth (1/2 cup at a time) until the rice is cooked through, it should take about 30 minutes. A small amount of crust from burnt rice is not a bad thing either by the way. Once cooked, spread rice out evenly and top with all of your cooked meats. Cover in foil and put in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes.. Serve family style at the table.

Duke’s favorite critter

"Just cook the damn thing, would ya!?!"

Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t like seafood. No, let me rephrase, I didn’t KNOW seafood. Since I moved to the D.C. area 5ish years ago, I have found a whole new love in what I consider good food, even if it doesn’t walk around on land.
Lately, a new craze has hit us in the D.C. area. Lobster rolls! We even have a lobster roll food truck cruising the streets of D.C. during lunch hours like some demented ice cream truck for adults. At 22 bucks average cost per roll around here, I figured I should give it a try myself, instead of spending what I normally would for a good filet that shows up on four legs.
Keeping a keen eye out for when lobster went on sale, I decided to have one of those giant bugs plucked from it’s watery home and come over to my house for dinner, and to meet my cat, Duke, who also now likes lobster.
A true, good lobster roll is very simple. Depending on the part of New England you might be in, there are family feuds over what goes in a good roll. And the big question is: butter or mayo? As in, what you toss the lobster with… I personally decided to go the mayo route as that is the type I’ve had, and liked. Other than that, a split top hot dog bun (I’ll get into that later), some lemon juice, paprika and a green of some sort.
So, what is a split top hot dog bun? I have no idea. I know what they look like and taste like, but my local stupermarket sure doesn’t sell them. So instead… Get a full, unsliced Italian bread loaf. Slice pieces of bread that are 1 1/2 inches wide. Then take that thick slice you just made and cut it down the middle until about an inch from the bottom. Butter both sides and brown in a hot pan. Open the split and fill with your lobster concoction.

Lobster rolls from a Midwesterner

Recipe for: Lobster rolls, two of them to be exact.

Shopping List:

1  1/2 – 2 lb lobster

Juice from half of a lemon

1/4 Cup mayonaise

3 green onions minced

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 Tbl sea salt

1 fresh, unsliced loaf of white Italian bread


In a large stockpot with a steamer basket in the bottom, add water until it is 2 inches deep. Bring to a boil over high heat and add the sea salt. Steam lobster for 8 minutes for a 1 1/2 lb, 9 minutes for a 2 lb. Remove from pot and let cool. Crack and remove meat from the claws, knuckles and tail. Put meat in a bowl and discard the body (unless you want it for stock). Gently toss the meat with half of the green onion, lemon juice, mayo and paprika. Load up your buttered and browned split buns with your lobster “salad” and garnish with the rest of the green onion. Serve with absolutely nothing else.

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