St. Elmo’s Shrimp

The two-week hype leading to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis was in full swing. About the fourth time somebody mentioned having the world famous shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s Steak House, I said to Carol, “Eric and I ate there on our cheese road trip in the summer of 2008. We had the shrimp cocktail and it was good, but I don’t remember it being SO SPECIAL.”

That same day I got an email from Eric on that very subject:


On Eats, in honor of the Super Bowl in Indy, you should reprise our meal at St. Elmo’s, or maybe try to replicate the cocktail sauce at St. Elmo’s as one of the tapas at your SB party, and write about that?


Well, here’s the story:

Friday Dinner

St. Elmo’s Steak House Indianapolis, Indiana


I suggested we stop in Indianapolis for the night, about two hours to the southeast [of Chicago]. Maybe we could get a tour of the new stadium for the Colts that will open this fall. Besides, I’ve never been there — except passing through on US-40 on the way to an OSU v. Illinois football game in 1960. Stephanie, the Hilton desk clerk, told us we would find plenty of places to eat on Illinois Street, the street just outside. Indeed, McCormick & Schmick’s was in the hotel and we passed at least four steak houses, including Weber Grill Restaurant and the ubiquitous Ruth’s Chris and Morton’s. St. Elmo’s Steak House was about three blocks down and looked local, maybe because of the plain, old time sign. Lots of cops were on the street — something about a Black Congress rally on the weekend — so I asked a cop about St. Elmo’s. “Great,” he said. “Be sure and have the Shrimp Cocktail.”

the cops and yours truly

the cops and yours truly

Our waiter Billy, sporting muttonchops, was really nice and very thorough. But once he had started his spiel, there was no stopping him. That was okay with the “world famous shrimp cocktail we grind our own horseradish daily,” because we weren’t familiar with that and contemplated ordering it. But the, “Founded in 1902 as the country’s first Steak House. Although we are a steak house, for those of you who are not fans of red meat,” I said, “Billy, you can stop there, we love red meat.” But he continued, “,we have a terrific selection of seafood, flown in daily. Our vegetables are fresh, not frozen, from local Indiana farms.” Billy gave good spiel, and good service.

world famous shrimp cocktail

world famous shrimp cocktail

Continue reading

Another heavenly black cod

I wrote about Siren SeaSA and Black Cod back in September.

Here we are in January and Anna supplied Black Cod again for a stew as hearty and complex as the Hacked Soux Vide was pure and simple.

Still sitting at the table, I wrote down my observations because I knew I would be writing about this marvelous dinner on eats… even though Carol did the actual cooking. (Hey — it’s Saturday, C likes to cook on the weekends, and besides, this dish doesn’t use a chopped onion, a process that drives C into a teary frenzy.):

“The pristine, sweet, white, velvety fish as a counterpoint to the rich picquent sauce and earthy potatoes is purely heaven in a bowl.”

So… guess what? This post is about Black Cod and Chorizo Stew.


Here’s what Anna had to say:

It’s rainy! Finally! My reaction to the first big storm of the season is to crank up my fire, put on some good music, and cook cozy food. The past few Tuesday nights I have had my dear friend Emily over to my house to test out recipes for Siren… We were testing out this stew with the impending rainstorm on our minds, and I had the very strong suspicion that it would taste even better when it was actually raining. Being a scientist at heart, I needed to test my hypothesis. I gave a healthy portion of Black Cod and Chorizo stew to some fish plant buddies this afternoon as it was starting to pour. Raves. Freak outs. Marriage proposals. Either I’m a real charmer, or this stew is GOOD.

So Carol and I heartily agree. The recipe says it serves 4, but we two had it for dinner Saturday and leftover last night and there is still enough for a generous lunch for me.

You can get the recipe on the SIREN SeaSA website. It’s so simple to make, that I have no tips or tricks to share. Just make sure your fish is fresh and fine.


Enjoy. And pray for rain. We surely did.


…among others

We missed the Fish Club while we were traveling up north, but the next Saturday we were treated to albacore.

Anna, of SIREN SongSA wrote,

“WE HAVE ALBACORE and I am more popular than ever.  I have been asking my fish plant and fishermen buddies what they like to do with crazy fresh albacore when they can get their hands on it. Nearly every person who answered started out with, “You cube it up, wrap it in bacon, then soak it in…” The … is the variable here. Wrap it in bacon is the rule. Duh.

We wrapped it, soaked it and grilled it and it was good. It would have been excellent, had I not overcooked it. On the next albacore, I’ll do it up proud and write about it, but the point of this story is about what I did with the wonderful fresh albacore that I didn’t wrap, soak and grill. That brings us to bouillabaisse.

Thanks to Brian and his Reno wedding, I have an easy and tasty go-to fish soup recipe.

Back in May 2010, Amanda Hesser wrote in the NYT Magazine about bouillabaisse. It was one of her “Recipe Redux” columns where she unearths an old recipe and asks a chef to suggest an updated version. When I got that issue, I couldn’t wait to try the updated 2010: Olive-Oil-Poached Cod With Saffron-Blood-Orange Nage, the “new fangled” version of the lead 1904 Bouillabaisse, and I did cook that.

poached cod

olive oil poached cod with saffron blood orange nage

I might never have gotten around to the 1904 version but when we were at Brian’s for the Saturday wedding in Reno:

“The limo was to pick us up at three o’clock at the Vista Restaurant, a five minute drive away – Limos are not allowed to pick up at private residences – the morning was open for hair, nails, pick-up-the-cake and Brian’s list of errands.
Brian planned bouillabaisse for lunch Saturday. He said its so easy, he has it often. As it turned out, it was a “Recipe Redux” Amanda Hesser does in the New York Times Magazine from time to time. I had made the 2010 version: Olive Oil Poached Cod with Saffron Blood Orange Nage. Brian can’t do citrus, so his go-to is the 1904 Bouillabaisse. He pulled out the tattered, stained Magazine page and handed it to me. We went and got some fish for it and I walked back from Scolari’s Supermarket — It is possible to walk in Sparks — while Brian went off on his errands. I started prepping… time passed and nobody came back from their stuff. Little did I know I’d be cooking lunch alone in a strange kitchen with a deadline. Soup was great!”

What else would come to mind when I had lovely chunks of fish to use?

my unused chunk of albacore fillet, lovely

my unused chunk of albacore fillet, lovely

...cut into chunks for "souping"

...cut into chunks for "souping"

In addition to the fish chunks, it takes scallops and shrimp — but only a few of each. Lucky for me, I can go to Whole Food and get six shrimp and four scallops, and I did.

six shrimp

six shrimp

four scallops

four scallops

The first order of business is to make the broth. That’s a matter of assembling and cooking olive oil, tomatoes, thinly sliced onion, thinly sliced carrot, saffron, a bay leaf, sprigs of parsley and cloves of garlic.

broth for the bouillabaisse cooking to the goodness stage

broth for the bouillabaisse cooking to the goodness stage

Once that’s all cooked until everything melts into goodness, add fish broth and wine and bring to a boil.

wine and broth added, ready for the fish and seafood

wine and broth added, ready for the fish and seafood

Now, you can add the fish or turn it off and wait for dinnertime.

When you come back to your broth, reheat, add the fish and cook for about 5 minutes until its done.

fish and seafood further cut into bite-sized pieces

fish and seafood further cut into bite-sized pieces

1904 bouillabaisse served

1904 bouillabaisse served

This is not such a far cry from the Bouillabaisse Mark Bittman expounded upon in his NY Times blog in 2009, adapting Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse to his Long Island sensibilities. That one I did make and write about.

So I guess — after all that — my point is: If you’ve got a great piece of fish, make a bouillabaisse; it’s not hard, and you’ll thank me for reminding you. Continue reading


The black cod of FISH CLUB fame was fabulous, as noted. The extra bag of fish, sous vide, we put on a plate and into the refrigerator, where it patiently waited until Friday. No hurry, no worry… the fish is cooked and in its juices, it can only get better.ff_bag_o_fish
I had this idea of using it in a fish soup, where I could make a soup base and just lay the cooked fillets on top to warm.

A few years ago, I found a recipe in the NYT for Fish Soup With Fennel and Pernod. It is written in two steps:

make a broth,
add the fish.

Just what would seem to work for this occasion. The reason it was written in two steps had to do with noisy cooking before the writers put their baby to bed and quiet warming after. (What newspapers and mags won’t do to concoct a fresh and plausible story.)

In any case, this recipe will work for me.

  1. Prep before Carol gets home,
  2. take a break for a cocktail with C,
  3. concoct an accompanying dish,
  4. finish the dinner.

Carol has been on my neck to use the three ears of corn in the refrigerator hidden on the very shallow shelf over the vegetable crisper; out of sight, out of mind. Now what to do with corn to go with a fish soup?

I found a recipe for “Skillet Corn” from 2005 NYT Magazine story about David Halberstam in my TO COOK folder.

Put an oiled cast iron skillet in the oven at 425° for 30 minutes. Cut and scrape kernels from 8 ears of corn. Add 2T cream and 1/4 cup flour, mix and dump in the skillet. Bake for 40 minutes.

Sounds preposterous. No wonder I haven’t used it in over six years. No time to experiment now. But I do like the idea of scraping all the corn goodness off the ear.

“Real Creamed Corn,” — a playing with corn essay by Edward Schneider and appearing on Mark Bittman’s NYT blog — sounded doable and fun. I especially liked the part about “it made… a mess (yay!) and yielded a nice wet mass.” So there’s nothing to do but get started.

A two-step deal, as noted above… and the first step has a few steps of its own —
On the right, onion, celery, garlic and fennel pulsed gently in my little Braun Multimix, until chopped into a coarse paste.
On the left, the recipe called for:

1 cup canned tomato purée, prefer San Marzano
4 whole peeled canned tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, rinsed and chopped.

What the hell… I happen to have a flat of actual San Marzanos for my upcoming Tomato Saturday. I peeled and chopped four of those fresh babies. For the puree, I threw four more in the aforementioned Braun Multimix and whipped their ass into shape. This dish looks good already. Continue reading


Hacked Sous Vide Black Cod
I never thought of a fish club until Carol sent this Tasting Table entry to me, promoting SIREN Sea SA.

We’re in a few wine clubs, and get the Mariquita Mystery Box, and shop at the Farmers Market religiously, but there’s always been this problem with fish. I want it fresh when I eat it, so I don’t usually buy it at the Farmers Market when I shop on Saturday, I buy it at Whole Food on the day I want to serve it. But I don’t know how long Whole Food has had it or where it comes from or what’s really in season. This fish club would seem to answer those questions, with the caveat of having to pick up the fish on a given day and at a given place and time. (Turns out to be early Saturday afternoon.) Oh well, we’ll plan our fish eating around it. So I joined up.

Now, we’ll look forward to a mystery fish each week, but hey, Anna Larsen, the “fish lady” promises a recipe to go with the fish. So I joined on a Wednesday and on Saturday picked up my Black Cod and true to form, there was a recipe on their web site.

Not only that, Anna gave me this swell soft cooler and ice pack… the better to transport the fish. With short notice and so on, I stored the fish as directed and planned for Monday dinner.

Hacked Sous Vide Black Cod w/Tomato & Brussels Sprouts Ingredients (one serving)
– Black Cod w/skin, 6oz
etc. see recipe at

Oops… when I first read the recipe, I thought it was for the whole “shipment.” (Hey… my first *fish club* experience) Reasoning and pictures prevailed and I realized the recipe was for One Serving, so I doubled the recipe and cooked all the fish while I was at it.

skinning the cod

skinning the cod

Since I was cooking this on Monday night and had to deal with my beloved Patriots on Monday Night Football, I made a cooking schedule. Lucky for me, I got anxious and started early. Continue reading

Summer Stew and Le Creuset

Events and Discoveries

This just started out as Monday dinner. I bought this wild caught shrimp at Shogun at the Market on Saturday, and needed to use them. Since I found this recipe for Summer Shrimp & Corn Sauté last week and had it on my mind, I bought the fresh corn, as well. In this season, I always have lots of fresh tomatoes on hand.

I did the recipe straight and was not disappointed. So why write about a straight, easy, darned good recipe?

summer stew cooks

summer stew cooks

When I transcribed the recipe from the SF Chronicle (ok, copy and paste from the “e-edition”) I made a note to serve with grits, since I had a hankering for grits at the time. Today, I had a hankering for polenta (largely because Carol got a tube of store-bought polenta to serve with pesto last week, and I ate it a couple times for breakfast and lunch). I haven’t yet perfected my go-to polenta recipe, foolproof, good tasting, EZ making. Although I have evolved beyond the stand over the pot and stir for a half hour stage, I still haven’t reached the tried and true ingredients + method = results stage. Good time to work on it.

polenta cooks

polenta cooks

This time, I combined a Mark Bittman “Polenta Without Fear” (3 to 1, liquid to cornmeal) recipe with a recipe I transcribed from a Cooks Illustrated video (4 to 1, liquid to cornmeal). Basically, I added a cup of milk to the Bittman recipe (2C milk, 2C water; CI uses all water) and used the CI method: “Bring liquid to a boil with lid on, sprinkle corn meal into water while whisking vigorously…” I interpreted “vigorously” as “in a frenzy” from the video. Cover (Bittman doesn’t cover) and cook over low low heat for 1/2 hour, whisking every 5 minutes. (Note: you see a wooden spoon in the picture. That was for final stirring, I used a strong whisk for the initial whisking.) Continue reading

One Pot Cod Left Over

…and a beet stack.

Three days later:


“She says she does a smaller version for, “herself and a friend,” but I prefer to do the whole recipe using less fish, then I can eat the leftovers with sausage or something as a change of pace.”

From my original One Pot Cod dinner I had one piece of cod left, plus enough vegetables for two. If you look at the plate upper left, you will see shrimp served with the vegetables for Carol.


Saturday being market day, I had some nice fresh roasted beets. They would provide a nice contrast to the meal. (It’s really hard to take a good photograph of red beets. They just suck up the light.) I sliced a spring onion thin and marinated the slices in a tablespoon or so of verjus while I was heating the one pot cod. When it was about ready, I sliced a beet, keeping it together, put the bottom slice on a plate, a slice of onion on top of that, slice of beet, slice of onion, etc, repeat. Over that, I spooned Marie’s Dijon Herb Potato Salad Dressing until the beet stack looked pretty.


Just right.

One Pot Cod

Shopping at the Farmers Market on Saturday, my head was all over cooking for the Super Bowl, so I limited myself to the bacon and sausage I ordered at Fatted Calf for the Bacon Explosion, eggs, and some pea greens and Bok Choi shoots that I came across. I was well stocked with onions and potatoes.

cod recipe

Wednesday afternoon, I looked up from working on my Income Tax and posed the magical question, “What’s for dinner.” The answer at a time like that is most usually, “fish.” Fish is easy and quick to prepare and I like to buy it fresh on the day I’ll cook it. Looking for inspiration in the Fish and Seafood zone of my cooking files, I came across “cod potatoes greens.” I have potatoes and greens so all I need is the cod. I especially liked the idea of using my unusual greens with this simple dish.

I got the recipe from the Boston Globe back in ought-eight… I think son Brian emailed it to me as he reads the Globe on line pretty regularly for news of the Red Sox and Patriots. It was in a group of recipes called “One Pot Wonders.” Here’s what the introduction had to say:

Alice Miller’s two boys don’t like fish. But the real estate agent, who lives with her sons in Beverly Farms, loves to cook and to experiment with recipes; she has made this one with scallops and with lobster, as well as cod. The reason she finds one-pot cooking appealing is simple: “I hate to do dishes.” Miller makes a smaller version of this recipe, usually for herself and a friend. With only two plates, there’s even less cleanup.

Now I don’t really hate to do dishes, but I do like the simplicity of one pot cooking. She says she does a smaller version for, “herself and a friend,” but I prefer to do the whole recipe using less fish, then I can eat the leftovers with sausage or something as a change of pace.


Start by getting out your Black Cod. Rinse it and season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. While you’re cooking, it will come to room temperature. I was lucky enough to find Black Cod at Whole Food –  in fresh today. Love Black Cod. I did a Mark Bittman recipe for Black Cod broiled with Miso last week, but they didn’t have Black Cod then, so I used what they call True Cod; good but not great. (More on that later.) Continue reading


Scallops with Pimento Relish and Red Bell Pepper Oil

This was a quick dinner, but oh so good. It came down to about 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration. I like that ratio.

The Inspiration (90%)
1 – Shopping at the Saturday Market, I couldn’t resist the lovely scallops at the Shogun Fish Company stand. You can’t beat fresh sea scallops… as for supermarket scallops, just fuggedaboutit.

2 – Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef, Clarkson Potter, 2000 (before he was all over TV) and Jacques Pepin’s Fast Food My Way, Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Both of these books are about technique and simplicity in cooking; ones to which I refer often.

We didn’t do any cooking on the weekend as we paid a visit to the Carneros wine country. We had a late lunch at the Boon Fly Café on Sunday, so we ate ad hoc from the fridge that evening.

Boon Fly Cafe, Carneros

Boon Fly Cafe, Carneros

Monday, we were ready for those scallops.

The Perspiration (10%)
Sear the scallops and place on a warm plate in a pool of Red Bell Pepper Oil, served with two slices Acme green onion slab fried in butter and olive oil, one topped with Pimiento Relish. Damn fine meal.


To do: Continue reading

Scallops Onna Plate

Scallops Cooked Onna Plate with Tomato Coulis

After a day at the Giants game (Giants 2 Astros 1), neither Carol nor I felt much like doing real cooking. “Why don’t you do those scallops on a plate in the oven… that’s easy,” she said. Good idea, that’s super easy. I had two Zip-Lock bags of plump super-fresh scallops from Shogun Fish Co., purchased that morning at the market, each bag containing four scallops. (Don’t try this with supermarket scallops!) As luck would have it, I had a jar of Fresh Tomato-Basil Coulis in the fridge, made on Thursday because my tomatoes were going south.

tomato coulis and fresh scallops

tomato coulis and fresh scallops

I started using what I call the “onna plate” method of cooking thin sliced fish when I found a recipe for Alaskan Halibut Cooked on the Plate with Tomato Confit* in 2004 by Olivia Wu in the SF Chronicle. She described it as an “utterly simple and almost instant dish.” Slice your fish thin across the grain, put it on an oiled plate and into a 500°F oven for two minutes. I’ve cooked that way several times, usually with halibut or salmon, but I even did it once with thin sliced hanger steak.

I got out the jar of Tomato Coulis to come to room temperature while we put our feet up and had a drink and some cheese and crackers. We watched the six o’clock news and At The Movies with the NY Times’ A.O. Scott and Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips. That’s a pretty good show, by far the best attempt to replace Siskel and Ebert. (It only took about 10 years. Roger Ebert teamed with this guy Richard Roeper for a while before Ebert’s extensive throat cancer treatment, but Roeper was a jerk, in my opinion.) Peas would be good with the scallop dish, so I shelled about eight pea-pods from the morning market while Scott and Phillips discussed movies I won’t see.

sliced scallops on the plate

sliced scallops on the plate

That was a good and necessary respite. I got out the scallops and pre-heated the oven to 450°F – as hot as my oven will go. I found that if I held the scallops on edge it was easy to slice a scallop into four equal pieces – I got a Chef’s Choice knife sharpener for my birthday, so I’m able to keep my knives very sharp with ease. I arranged the slices on two oiled plates and dropped a few peas in the center. While I was doing this, Carol washed, cut up and sautéed some chard to go with. We generally don’t work well together in the kitchen, but in this case, we had our own little space and task so it worked out well and we saved some time. I opened a bottle of Bonny Doon 2009 Paso Robles Viognier I’d been saving for a special meal. Hey, in spite of the simple preparation, this was becoming a special meal. Continue reading