Archives for posts with tag: federal hill

I miss the ocean.  Even though I live right on (literally) Lake Ontario, I miss the ocean.  The lake isn’t the same.  There aren’t any seafood shacks like Champlin’s or Iggy’s.  Every summer in Rhode Island, we order clam cakes, lobster rolls, whole lobsters with fresh drawn butter.  The meat of the lobster is so sweet and succulent.  I always tell my husband that I hate being “landlocked,” that I need to be living on a coastline.  As usual he rolls his eyes and ignores me.  Don’t worry, one day I’ll get my way and we’ll be close to the ocean.

Trying to appease me somewhat, my husband brought lobsters from Halifax after an interview at Dalhousie University.  (Not my first choice of places to live.)  Last year, he was in Cape Breton Island on an elective and did I give him an earful for not bringing back lobsters that time.  This time, I didn’t even mention anything about lobsters and he brought them.

The Rhode Islander in me immediately thought to make lobster ravioli.  Federal Hill, our Little Italy, is the place for lobster ravioli.  Venda Ravioli makes amazing lobster ravioli.  What I wouldn’t give for a heaping plate of those beautiful pillows of flavor right now.  Once when I was at home in Rhode Island, I went to Trader Joe’s and noticed they had some prepackaged lobster ravioli.  I decided to try it out and the guy at the checkout told me that he couldn’t believe how popular the lobster ravioli was in Rhode Island and that he worked in several Trader Joe’s throughout the US and never even noticed them before coming to Rhode Island.

A pasta dish is never complete without a side of bread and garlic and herb infused olive oil.

As much as I wanted to make lobster ravioli, I deemed it as too much work.   My husband brought whole lobsters, he wasn’t bright enough to just get me the meat.  One step at a time.  I had to clean the meat out of the shell, and after that messy ordeal, we were lucky I didn’t just melt some butter and have us eat the lobster plain (even though this way is delicious in its own right).  I decided go with the Federal Hill idea and simply make an egg pasta with lobster that you could find almost anywhere on Federal Hill.  We enjoyed it and it brought me back to my Rhode Island roots and the lobster meat tasted like the ocean, almost making me feel as though I was near the coast.

Federal Hill Style Lobster with Pasta

inspired and adapted from Food and Wine and Gourmet

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

2 1 1/2 pound lobsters, cooked, meat removed and cut into large chunks, and shells reserved

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced

1 bay leaf

3/4 teaspoon crushed red chilies, or to taste

5 canned plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands

1/2 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Vermouth, Pinot Grigio)

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

heavy cream, as much or as little as you like, I used 1/4 cup but you can go up to 1/2 cup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 lemon cut into slices or wedges

1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

sea salt, to taste

3/4 a 500 g box of De Cecco pappardelle, or any egg pasta of your choice, cooked to al dente, 1/2 cup cooking liquid reserved

Method

In a large sauté pan on medium heat, heat the oil and add the chopped shallot and let it soften for a minute or two.  Next, add in the garlic, bay leaf, and crushed red chilies, and allow them to infuse the oil for a minute.  Add in the shells (from the tails and claws) and sauté them for two minutes.  Add in the tomatoes and crush them further with a cooking spoon.  Season with salt.  Pour in the wine and 1 cup of water and let the liquid reduce by half, about 10-15 minutes

Once the liquid is reduced, turn the heat to low, and add the saffron and let it infuse into the broth for five minutes. After five minutes, pour in the cream and whisk it so that it does not curdle.  Let the cream reduce for two minutes.  Once the cream has reduced slightly put the cooked lobster meat into the pan and let it warm through for a few minutes.  Add a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid until the sauce reaches a consistency you like.

Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Sprinkle in the parsley and drop in the dab of butter and allow it to melt into the sauce.  Remove the bay leaf.  Next, toss in the cooked pasta and place the lemon wedges into the pasta for some brightness in color and flavor.  Drizzle with olive oil and use shells as a garnish, serve hot. You can also carb-load and serve some nice focaccia with olive oil on the side.

If anyone is interested, here’s an article on the “seafood shack” culture in Rhode Island.

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Growing up in Rhode Island, I was introduced to a large Italian-American community.  The one that calls pasta sauce, gravy and manicotti is manigot.  Federal Hill in Providence is the hub for this community and they serve up great culinary delights.  I would not call the food authentic Italian but definitely as Italian-American as you can get.  I love Venda Ravioli, where you can get great cheeses, olives, and fresh pastas.

On twitter, Amy from Poor Girl Gourmet, mentioned that she was making Chicken Parmesan for dinner.  I love Chicken Parmesan and I was thinking about making Eggplant Parmesan for quite some time.  This twitter conversation reminded me of  how Rhode Islanders call a sub sandwich a grinder, or more accurately, grindaaa.  These local colloquialisms make up a big part of growing up in Rhode Island.  My sister and I can go on and on for hours in our fake Rhode Island accents (somehow we did not pick them up).  We banter back and forth, “Yo, Tony!”  This drives my husband mad.  We just get into a zone and forget about who is around us.

On the topic of Eggplant Parmesan, this has always been one of my favorite foods.  It is so versatile as well.  You can have it in a calzone, on top of pizza, in a “grinda,” or on its own.  My version is full of herbs and is not too far a departure from the original.  I bread and fry eggplant rounds till golden and delicious.  Who does not love fried eggplant?  Then, I layer it with herbed ricotta, marinara sauce, and provolone cheese.  I top it all off with Parmigiano Reggiano and bake it in the oven.  The result is a bubbling and gooey dish that no one can resist.

Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into 1/4″ rounds

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups Italian breadcrumbs

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

any combination of fresh herbs you like, I used oregano, rosemary, thyme, and parsley (for the breading and eggs)

oil for frying

2 1/2 cups marinara sauce (preferably homemade)

1/2 cup provolone cheese, grated

1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

1 cup ricotta cheese (I used part-skim, not that it really made a difference)

salt, to taste (extra for leaching water out of the eggplant)

black pepper, to taste

crushed red chilies, to taste

Method

Lay the eggplant rounds on a tray and cover liberally with salt.  Allow the excess moisture to come out of the eggplant, about 30 minutes.  Then rinse away all the salt and pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. Meanwhile, make the ricotta mixture by whipping the ricotta with salt and pepper.  After the eggplant is dried, in one plate add the breadcrumbs and a handful of the mixed herbs, salt, and pepper.  In other plate, combine the beaten eggs with some mixed herbs, salt, and crushed red chilies.  Dip the eggplant rounds in the egg first then into the breadcrumbs.  Heat up a frying pan on medium heat with enough oil for a pan-fry.  Fry the eggplant on both sides until cooked through.  Drain off the excess oil on a plate lines with paper towels.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium-sized baking dish, add a little marinara sauce to the bottom of the dish and then lay down the eggplant slices, then the marinara, dollop the ricotta cheese on top of the marinara (about 1 cup), then the next layer of eggplant.  Continue this until the layers reach the top, it should be 2 layers.  Top off with any extra marinara sauce/ricotta and the provolone and Parmigiano Reggiano.  I sprinkled a little parsley on top as well.  Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and light golden.  Allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Eggplant on FoodistaEggplant