Monday, June 20, 2011

"The Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant Seafood Cookbook" and "Zabar's Deli Book" - Pan-Fried Oysters and Macaroni Salad

Date I made this recipe: June 18, 2011

The Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant Seafood Cookbook
– Introduction by Jerome Brody
Published by: Crown Publishers, Inc.
ISBN: 0-517-54907-7; © 1977
Recipe: Pan-Fried Oysters – p. 17

Zabar’s Deli Book by Susan Katz, with Murray Klein, Saul Zabar and Stanley Zabar
Published by: Hawthorne Books
© 1979
Recipe: Macaroni Salad – p. 82

So today is Father’s Day and it’s the first one without my dad who passed away in March.

That said, it didn’t seem odd to me that he wasn’t here for the occasion. Maybe it was because he lived in Michigan and I live in Minneapolis, or maybe it’s because (sadly) Father’s Day isn’t celebrated to the extent that Mother’s Day is. (I mean, we’re talking, what, maybe one rack of FD cards to every 4 for mom???).

Earlier in the day, my husband and I went to nearby Stillwater, MN, to watch a pro-am bike race (as in bicycles) where there were tons of dads with their young kids, trying to make their way through the sizable crowd that gathered. As to the bicyclists, well, hats off to every single one of them who roared up one of Stillwater’s hills that is 20% grade. And they did it 20 times. Just recently I stood in some killer (as in cute) heels for two hours at my dad’s memorial service and had rubber legs the minute I sat down. Clearly some conditioning is in order.

At any rate, I think my dad would have liked watching the race with us. That man was a regular Charles Atlas; he hunted until he was 85 (he died at age 87), cross country skied, swam in Lake Superior every summer (something I won’t even do anymore) and went on an African safari with my brother and sister-in-law for his 87th birthday. You know what? This wears me out evening writing it.

And so onto the food. My dad was born in Manhattan and age three, the family moved to a farm in New Jersey, not all that far from the Jersey Shore. And after New Jersey, he moved to Michigan where I was born and raised. My dad had a fabulous garden, fabulous fruit trees and bushes and access to the freshest of lake (Superior) fish, and yet he practically salivated all the way back to New Jersey on family vacations, just waiting to have raw clams and oysters. He and my aunts and uncles and cousins would down these mollusks with lightning speed whereas my brother and I held back for many years before venturing toward the big metal tub to select our appetizers. Just like a martini, raw seafood is an acquired taste!

So I thought it fitting that I make a dish for dad on Father’s Day straight out of The Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant Seafood Cookbook.

Lo, though I have been in and out of Grand Central numerous times in my life, I never once stopped at the Oyster Bar. My bad. This cookbook is pretty comprehensive as to fish recipes and a not-too-shabby selection of sides.

After hemming and hawing for days (weeks?), it came down to oysters or clams and I went with oysters because they are meatier. In fact, some of the oysters we bought (from Coastal Seafoods) were pretty darned big.

I would be remiss (and totally out of character) if I did not take issue with something in the recipe or instructions and today is no exception. The directions were to coat the oysters in the flour and bread crumb mixture, then dip it in the egg wash, and then back into the flour and bread crumb mixture…and then fry! Right. Nooooooo! This was definitely not a Top Chef moment…or even Next Food Network Star moment. I had flour everywhere. Who.knew?!

That aside, the oysters were great and made me want to get in my car, stat, to get to the Jersey Shore for more!

So every oyster has to have an accompaniment, and today’s was out of the Zabar’s Deli Book. For those of you who don’t know, Zabar’s is a fabulous deli on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I’ve been buying my coffee beans from them for years. Not only does it taste good but it’s far less expensive than buying it locally, even with shipping (which I almost never pay because I buy four pounds at a time and so get the shipping for free).

When I’m actually in NY, as I will be in a few weeks, I love going to Zabar’s to find the latest food items I can’t find anywhere else. They also have one of the most compact but fun housewares departments I’ve ever seen. It’s all good.

Many of you might be familiar with Zabar’s from watching the movie, You’ve Got Mail. There’s a hilarious scene that rings fairly true where Sally finds herself in the Cash Only line and has to be bailed out by Tom Hanks. Let’s just say the people in line as well as the cashier were not amused that she tried to pay with a credit card.

I had my own hilarious moment at Zabar’s years ago when I was buying coffee. I was in a hurry as I had to get to the airport, and this woman tried to line-jump in front of me. So we mixed it up right then and there in the coffee bean section of the store arguing about who was there first. (She said she was and she was SO lying!). At any rate, I finally said “I was here first and I have a plane to catch” and so I won and that was that. As my father always said “First fender in….” (The semi-New Yorker also came out in me years ago at the airport when some little chickie poos in stiletto heels tried to jump the cab line at LaGuardia. Let’s just say that I and a Korean man who was sharing the cab with me prevailed that day as well. It’s a jungle out there….)

Anyway, as to the deli book, this one is fun as it gives a little food history, a little Zabar’s history and some awesome recipes. My dad wasn’t especially fond of macaroni or potato salads but he would have appreciated NY deli food. I mean, what’s seafood without a deli accompaniment??

So eat and enjoy. And Happy Father’s Day dad! You don’t need to be here to be appreciated.

Pan-Fried Oysters – serving size not noted
1 pint (approximately 28 oysters) oysters, shucked and drained (reserve oyster liquor and set aside for another use)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fine bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp. light cream
1 tsp. salt
Generous sprinkling of freshly ground white pepper
8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter

Drain oysters and pat dry with a paper towel. Thoroughly mix flour and bread crumbs in a bowl. Beat eggs with cream and salt and pepper in another bowl.

Roll oysters in crumb and flour mixture, then in egg, and then in crumbs again, coating thoroughly. (As noted above, good luck with that!).

Heat butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until just sizzling.

Fry oysters until nicely browned on one side, 3 to 5 minutes.

Turn carefully with tongs, and brown on the other side for 3 to 5 minutes.

Drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges or favorite seafood sauce.

Macaroni Salad – serves 4-6
4 cups cooked, drained, cold elbow macaroni (8 ounces uncooked)
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon grated onion (or more, to taste)
1 cup celery, chopped
½ cup parsley, minced
¼ cup pimiento, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix mayonnaise with vinegar, mustard, celery seed, and onion; pour over macaroni, and toss to coat. Add remaining ingredients and toss again. Chill thoroughly for 2-3 hours.

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