Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cape Cod Cuisine

Back from Cape Cod after a hot and humid (thanks, Hurricane Bill), but delicious trip! This year, we all took a side trip to Martha's Vineyard for the day to see the sights, ride the school bus around, and, you guessed it, eat! In fact, as we got off the Island Queen ferry in Oak Bluffs, we headed straight to Fish Bones Grille. There I ate the best damned crab cakes I've had in ages. I'm sure there were some fresh bread crumbs in there somewhere, but the bulk of each patty was tender and delicious crab meat. They were seasoned simply and presented with just some fresh parsley and a spicy mayo coulis. Yum! I'm still thinking about them a week later! The next day, the fishing enthusiasts of the group went out and caught some serious striped bass, as well as bringing back a few bluefish. We grilled the striper with an asian marinade, and also diced some of it into a fresh striped bass ceviche with lime, green pepper, cilantro, and olive oil. The bluefish was just grilled with some garlic, lemon, and tomato. What a fresh dinner!

Of course, we ate cups of clam chowda at every turn and this year they all passed Will's spoon test (when placed on top of the chowder, if the spoon sinks, it isn't thick enough, if it floats,it is a satisfactory thickness). Captain Parker's is still the best, but I believe that Land Ho is a close second. We didn't make it to The Yardarm this year, but they make a good one, too.

Well, after five days of sun, sand, and seafood, we are settled back in Brooklyn and I am still thinking about that delicious, New England-style oceanside cuisine. As a midwesterner, I had never even heard of Quahogs (ko-hogs for the non-New Englanders) until Will took me to the Cape in 2002. Now bluefish, cranberries, Old Bay seasoning, and beach plums are part of my repertoire. Over the last few years, I have grown to love and appreciate Cape Cod food culture. Here are some recipes celebrating my favorite flavors of this fresh, simple, and all-American cuisine.

Cape Cod Crab Cakes
simple and classic
If you plan on making the Chipotle Cocktail Sauce recipe below, it's best to do it first or make it ahead of time so flavors can marry.

1 lb fresh crabmeat
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 c mayonnaise
1 T dijon mustard
1 T worcestershire sauce
1 T Old Bay seasoning
Sea salt and Black Pepper
2/3 c fresh bread crumbs (or about 1/2 cup dry)
expeller-pressed canola oil for pan-frying

Drain the crabmeat and sort through it for shell and debris.

In a mixing bowl, gently combine crabmeat, lemon juice, mayo, dijon, worcestershire, and Old Bay seasoning with a fork, season with sea salt and a generous of amount of black pepper. Fold in bread crumbs until mixture holds together.

Form into 2" x 3/4" rounds, place on a plate, and chill until ready to finish (up to 12 hours)

In a cast iron frying pan, coat the bottom with canola oil and heat until oil becomes quick.

Over medium-high heat, cook cakes in batches, about 4 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned, adding oil as needed. Serve with classic cocktail sauce or my chipotle cocktail sauce (below) and fresh lemon wedges.


1/2 cup natural ketchup (I always avoid the corn syrup stuff)
1/2 cup freshly diced tomato (diced very small)
2 T prepared horseradish
1/2 t worcestershire sauce
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T adobo sauce (from canned chipotles) or 1 T chipotle powder
hot sauce to taste

Whisk together and let rest 30 minutes before serving.

Cajun-Style Grilled Bluefish

This can also be done in the oven in a regular pan, if necessary. Also, if you don't have access to really fresh bluefish, try this with some wild salmon instead.

Bluefish is a hefty and sort of strong-flavored fish with an oily texture, not unlike salmon. It falls apart easily and I like it best smoked and blended into pate, but if you are like me and don't have a smoker, this is a great way to use it when it's right out of the water.

2 lb really fresh bluefish fillets
a few splashes of extra-virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt
3-4 T cajun seasoning
freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons
1-2 large yellow and red tomatoes

Preheat grill to high or 425, depending on type of grill you are using. If you are baking fish in an oven indoors, preheat to 425 degrees.

Wash and pat dry the bluefish fillets. Prepare a grill-safe pan by tossing a splash of olive oil in it and coating the bottom. If you don't have one, use a disposable aluminum pan or make an aluminium foil pan with 3 layers of foil, crimped around the sides to create 2-3" sides. You just want to be able to lay fillets in a single layer with out losing the seasonings, veggies, and juices.

Rub fillets lightly with olive oil and some sea salt. Generously sprinkle fillets with cajun seasoning, black pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Place in a single layer with the skin-side down in prepared pan.

Thinly slice tomatoes. Sprinkle with cajun seasoning, pepper, lemon, and a bit of olive oil.
Place thin tomato slices over fillets, overlapping like scales, and alternating yellow and red, if you are using both colors of tomato.

Place pan on grill (or in oven) and cook on high for 12 minutes or so. You want the fish to be just cooked, while the tomatoes brown a tiny bit.

Serve with grilled veggies, corn on the cob, and a salad.

Roasted Corn Salad
A great summer side dish or first course to accompany the bluefish or crab cakes!

6 ears corn, husked
2 T + ¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
¼ + ½ c fresh orange juice
2 T + 1/3 c white wine vinegar
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 t + 1 t orange zest

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 c grape tomatoes, halved
2 scallions, minced
½ t minced or grated garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line up ears of corn on a baking sheet. In a bowl, whisk together 2 T oil, ¼ c orange juice, 2 T white wine vinegar, sea salt, black pepper, and 1 t orange zest.

Rub mixture generously over corn. Roast, uncovered, about 30-40 minutes, turning once.
Roast until corn in tender and beginning to caramelize. Remove from oven and let cool a

When cool, slice off kernels and transfer to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients, toss
together, and chill.

VARIATION: Add 1 lb small/medium, cooked shrimp at the end, toss together and chill. Serve
over greens.

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