Seafood stew with the Lyonses
Emily and her Mom: Co-chefs
First of all Leland, a special thanks for suggesting that we blog on your site. We had a lot of fun both planning and preparing dinner together and even more fun serving it to four special people.
OK, lesson learned: never divulge what’s for dinner until you’re carrying it to the table. Although we had hoped to serve soft-shell crabs, we quickly discovered while shopping on Saturday that the season was over. The only ones we were able to find on the whole Upper East Side were at Citarella, and they looked small and sickly.
Undaunted, we backtracked to Agata & Valentina, deciding to keep crab on the menu by making a seafood stew. Besides the crab, shrimp, and mussels for the stew, we also picked up some fresh salad greens (the “no spinach included” sign calmed any fears we had and, yes, we did wash them thoroughly once we got home), a wedge of blue cheese from Agata’s overwhelming cheese selection, and a rich chocolate cake we had enjoyed many times before from the bakery department. Our next goal was to find some fresh figs for an appetizer. The local produce men who dot just about every corner were no longer carrying them. We decided to try Food Emporium since we needed olive oil. The produce man in Food Emporium, however, told us that they didn’t have any either but suggested we try Gristedes. He worked there as well, he explained, and told us exactly where to find them. Apparently Gristedes isn’t aware of what the going rate for figs is—they charged us just 99 cents for a full basket!
Finally, after a fun afternoon of grocery shopping, we headed home to start cooking. Making the stew was a lot of fun, as we had no specific recipe to work from. The only ingredient besides the shell fish that we knew we had to use was Old Bay Seasoning. This combination of spices and peppers is an absolute must in any Delmarva recipe involving crab. We decided to steam the seafood liberally sprinkled with Old Bay separately in order to insure that the pungent flavor didn’t get lost in the sauce. While the shrimp and mussels bubbled away on the back burner, we created a roasted tomato sauce with garlic, parsley, and a little bit of sugar. Just before our guests arrived we put together our salad. Emily bathed the figs in olive oil and cut an “X” on the top of each one. After roasting them in a 350º oven for about 15 minutes, she stuffed each one with a small hunk of blue cheese. We poured yellow rice into the boiling water, tossed together our secret salad dressing, and washed our strawberries. We were ready!
Rob had arrived earlier. He and Dad had been encouraging us while enjoying some gouda cheese and crackers, but they were more than ready for dinner when Leland and Nathan arrived at eight o’clock. It was great fun to see them again. While modesty prevents us from saying how good dinner was, everyone seemed to enjoy the evening. We both concluded later that cooking for family and friends is really a wonderful way to spend a Saturday. It’s so much better than going out to a restaurant—you know exactly what you’re eating, you’re not served by a surly waiter, and you’re not rushed out the door. So, thanks again, Leland, for the suggestion. You and Nathan are welcome anytime.