Search This Blog

Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Gift For You: Three Rockstar Recipes

You can't spell celebration without e, a and t. To honor the holiday spirit of generosity and good eatin', three standout chefs from the Sardine Factory, the Preserve and Domenico's/Cafe Fina have shared unique and uniquely delectable dishes with Special Edible readers.

I was sold at "lollipop," but, like the Sardine Factory—which just added a new tapas menu and upgraded the front lounge—it gets better: You can eat the "handle." The Factory was already one of our local capitals for calamari, now they do it with even more style. And you can too.

Calamari Puff Lollipops
Bert Cutino
Sardine Factory

Serves 8

2 ½ lbs cleaned squid, filet only
½ medium onion, chopped
1 egg
1 parsley, chopped
1 bunch green onion, finely chopped
½ tablespoon granulated garlic
¼ cup cracker meal
¼ cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon salt and pepper
oil to fry

Chop squid into small pieces. Add onion, egg, parsley, salt and pepper and granulated garlic into bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add half of cracker meal, baking soda and bread crumbs into mixture. Form into little two-ounce oval balls (about 1 inch in diameter) and roll balls into remaining mixture. Lay on sheet pan with parchment paper. Let set. Fry at 350°. Cook balls in a deep fat fryer until golden brown. Serve hot with your favorite sauce.

"We’ve been eating crab at my Nana’s on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve every year since I was born,” says Dominic Mercurio, owner of Café Fina and Domenico’s on the Wharf.

Mercurio gets King Crab for his restaurants directly from the F/V Time Bandit, made famous on the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.

“King crab is so sweet and flavorful, like lobster," he says, "you don’t have to do much to it,” He usually serves it simply with butter and a few drops of lemon. Or he will crack the legs down the middle and serve them open-faced with a light scampi sauce.

When it comes to local Dungeness crab, he deploys a range of treatments: chilled with cocktail sauce and lemon; steamed with drawn butter; cioppino-style in a savory, light tomato broth; sautéed with crab butter, a bit of sweet wine, butter, green onions and a touch of hot sauce; and finally, his Nana’s Sicilian Salad-style, with an oil and vinegar-based marinade.

Nana’s Sicilian Salad-style Dungeness crab recipe

Domenic Mercurio
Cafe Fine • Domenico's

¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup of red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
¼ cup of chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl large enough for the three crabs. Add crab, stirring every 15 minutes for one hour to let the marinade saturate. Serve chilled. Preparation can be done in the morning or afternoon, as it is perfectly fine to let the crab sit for up to five hours refrigerated.

While the rain drives some insane in a nasty way, it moves local fungifiles to happy insanity. One of the most revered treasures they uncover: candy caps, a fragrant, syrupy sweet mushroom used in cooking to flavor foods like vanilla or truffles.

Santa Lucia Preserve Chef Carlton Lepine is a fungi pro who leads hunts through the ideally damp redwood and oak underbrush. When he scores these spores, the Preserve's residents and members win big. And while a lot out there off Carmel Valley Road costs hundreds of thousands, now you can eat like them without the massive mortgage.

Candy Cap Blondies

Carlton Lepine
Santa Lucia Preserve

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar firmly packed

1 cup unsalted butter
¼ cup candy cap mushroom, dried, ground fine 

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt 

2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup butterscotch chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.
Put the sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small skillet or in the microwave in a glass measuring cup. Stir the butter into the sugar until smooth, cool to room temperature.
In another medium bowl, whisk the Candy Cap mushrooms, flour, baking soda and salt together.
Beat the eggs and vanilla into the sugar mixture. Add the flour mixture a bit at a time and mix until a smooth thick batter forms. Fold in the chips, as desired.
Spoon the batter to the prepared dish and spread evenly to fill the dish. Bake until the Blondies are light brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Invert onto a rack and cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.