Goodbye, Sardinia – Chicken Wings with Celery and Bottarga

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Chicken Wings with Celery and Bottarga is not a traditional Sardinian delicacy.  Bottarga and celery, yes; chicken wings, ah no.  This dish is, in fact, the love child of two different desires, Jody’s yearning for wings and my own wish to do another Sardinian recipe before I throw in the towel, tuck my shorts away in my Camp Grenada footlocker.  Sardinian wings were the result, and just in time.  A couple of days of freezing rain have stripped more than a few trees in our neighborhood of their autumn raiment; limbs are skeletal,not festive and the uncleared sidewalks resemble the killing floor in a chlorophyll slaughterhouse.  And it got cold, provoking someone in our house to violated the First Law of Yankee-dom: No one shall touch the thermostat until November 1st.  The one good thing about cold weather is that it means a new harvest of bottarga will be soon at hand.  And with this wings recipe in hand, when this season’s bottarga becomes available in mid-to-late November or early December, you’ll be primed.  While everyone else is still fumbling with their laces you’ll be burning down the track, chicken wings and celery bundled under your arm.  Nyah-nyah-nuh-nyah-yah.  And how did we make this recipe if bottarga won’t be available for another month?  Easy, we whittled down our own two-year-old chunk of umami ambergris that has been cooling its eggs in our fridge.  No lie – I ordered it online at the end of 2012.  When was the last time you consumed something from your fridge that was two years old?  Still as potently delicious as the day we bought it.  With chicken wings and celery it was a ménage à trois made in heaven.  After Jody left at the conclusion of our cooking and shooting session, I was the only one home, not counting the Lagunitas IPA’s in the fridge.  The next morning there were no wings to be found.  Draw your own conclusions.

Easy Antipasto – Peaches and Prosciutto with Fresh Mozzarella and Mint Pesto

 

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Local Massachusetts peaches seem increasingly old-fashioned to me, meaning that you make a mess when you eat one (unless a nearby vendor gives you slices) and while they taste sweet they also have a faint counterpoint of tartness.  This makes them the ideal companion for salty prosciutto.  I suppose we could have left it at that, but we also had a raft of mint and some pistachios, so Jody upped the ante with a pistachio-mint pesto that doesn’t require much more than a quick buzz in the food processor.  Fresh mozzarella makes it a sumptuous enough to stand in for lunch, if that’s where’s you want to go.  You’ll also be relieved to know that local cherry tomatoes, now at their spectacular peak, don’t require peeling. This is the easiest antipasto you’ll even encounter, especially on a hot day when instead of cooking all you want to do is savor the last days of summer.

Pique-Nique I – Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory

 

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Fat.  Let’s not beat around the bush, shall we?  Fat’s probably the best place to begin a discussion of Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory.  Au debut, as the French say, in the beginning, rillettes meant one thing – pork.  Or rather, pork and fat.  Rillettes was pork that had been salted, cooked slowly in pork fat, shredded, then preserved in the same fat, and served at room temperature, usually spread on toast.  Rillettes* are now found all over France, and while pork is still popular, in the Southwest, the Midi-Pyrenees, extending down to the Spanish border, the technique is more often seen with duck or rabbit.  Today rillettes of salmon, tuna or other fatty fish, or even mushrooms are not uncommon on pricey menus.  It’s hard to argue with that–what doesn’t taste good when cooked slowly in fat and salt?

Tenzin’s Sha Momos with Sepen (Beef Momos with Chili Dipping Sauce)

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As the work-at-home dad, I used to pick up our son Oliver from preschool.  We discovered a Tibetan restaurant a short walk away, and you know what they say, If you give a mouse a Tibetan restaurant… he’s gonna want a momo to go with it.  Momos are exquisite little dumplings, the go-to item on a Tibetan menu.  You may order other things, but you will always order momos.  For Oliver and I, and later our daughter Roxanne, momos became a regular Friday treat.

Fast forward, ten years.  We continue eating momos, when we find them, but have never tried making them.  Then I met Tenzin Conechok Samdo, a new bartender at my wife’s restaurant, TRADE.  I thought I’d get an insider’s view on on who made the best momos locally.  After I photographed a series of his remarkable cocktails he began asking, “Hey, when are you going to invite me over to make momos?”  He knew about The Garum Factory.  Make momos?  At our house?  Um, how about this Friday?  Herewith, Tenzin’s Sha Momos with Sepen.  Beef Momos with Chili Dipping Sauce.

Grilled Sardines with Ramps and Rhubarb Agrodolce

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When our son Oliver was seven or eight and we lived within shouting distance of East Cambridge I used to take him with me to visit Courthouse Fish Market on Thursday afternoons to pick up seafood for dinner.  Courthouse is an old-school establishment.  Glass cases filled with ice and gleaming fresh fish–sardines, tilefish, snapper, salmon, flunder, bluefish, squid, swordfish and several varieties of clams, including the large razor clams you’ve seen here before.  Opposite the fresh fish display a freezer holds frozen octopus, Alaskan king crab legs, squid and fava beans and wooden cases stacked nearby contain salt cod.  On Thursdays Moray eels came in from Portugal.  One of these arm-sized monsters, dark gray with brilliant yellow spots and a ferocious set of teeth in its gaping jaws usually occupied pride of place in the front window.  We stood in front of the window and stared.  People ate that?  We no longer live within hailing distance of this venerable Cambridge institution, but when I pass through the neighborhood I try to stop by.  For this week’s Sardines with Ramps and Rhubarb Agrodolce I made a special trip.

The L Word: Lobster-Andouille Stuffies

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A “stuffy,” just in case you don’t know, is the Rhode Island term of art for a baked stuffed clam, although I can vouch for its use as far north as southern Massachusetts.  Typically, buttered and seasoned breadcrumbs do-si-do with chopped clam, usually but not always) atop a quahog on the half-shell and baked.  It’s a filling, poor man’s seafood treat, which is not to denigrate it, just to note that it may not be the place to go if you’re looking to sate your bivalve love.  Jody’s stuffy climbs up a notch on the menu, subbing lobster for clams, and adding andouille sausage and green pepper for a Cajun twist.  Lobster-Andouille Stuffy – the stuffy for our times.

Grilled Oysters with Wasabi Mayo

Grilled Oysters with Wasabi Mayo-1

One charmed fall weekend Jody and I were asked to judge the oyster shucking competition at the annual Wellfleet OysterFest.  A free weekend in Wellfleet.  Close proximity to more straight-from-the-ocean bivalves than I could ever reasonably consider eating.  Bring it on.  Watching pros shuck oysters inspires equal parts terror and admiration.  The goal is to shuck a couple dozen oysters as fast as possible.  Winning times are usually around two minutes – that is, an oyster every five seconds.  Chipped shells, mangled oysters, debris and, oh yes, the occasional splash of blood, are all penalized.  Everyone who competes professionally has a story about watching an inattentive shucker putting the the blade of an oyster knife through a palm or the base of a thumb.   And that’s the rub, isn’t it?  As someone who has shucked a fair number of oysters in his life, I still take a deep breath before I do it and I make damn sure I’m paying attention.  Here’s a tasty alternative: Grilled Oysters with Wasabi Mayonnaise.

As a recent presidential candidate might have said, had he been a cook, which seems doubtful: Grilled oysters self-open.  

Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-1

This is a recipe for the 5th, 6th or 9th of July, but not the 4th, when the grilling train pulls into town with its freight cars of steaks, lobsters, salmon filets, pork shoulders, eggplant, roasted peppers, whatever.  Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto is easy–you could do it–but it will get lost amid the fanfare over Aunt Sophie’s famous deviled eggs, and the potato salad made with diced fermented sour pickles from Brooklyn, and the story about your brother Bob who almost blew his thumb off with an m-80 when he was a kid.

Save it for a quiet day this weekend, when a meal with just one main course and only one or two sides or a salad sounds great, when there’s a bit of culinary light left to shine on a rare seasonal treat.