by Alicia Lieu
Recipe at the end of this post.
Having grown up on the West Coast, fresh seafood was often a part of family meals. From fresh Dungeoness Crab, fresh from the fishermen in Half Moon Bay or Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, to the famous chowder and crab boils of Pismo Beach, or the plethora of dishes found on a dim sum menu, most special occasions growing up involved seafood.
Fresh seafood is also bountiful in New York. New York City is surrounded by water and Long Island provides the city with fresh fish, shrimp, scallops, clams, and lobsters. Fresh seafood can also be found at the Green Markets around town, making it very accessible to New Yorkers.
I live in a neighborhood called Jackson Heights, which is home to the most diverse zip code in the world. The cuisine is seriously amazing, boasting authentic Colombian, Korean, Chinese, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Mexican, Tibetan, Laotian, and South Asian restaurants but Astoria is also one of the last few affordable neighborhoods with almost as much diversity. There is Colombian, Halal, Greek, Italian, Balkan, Bohemian, burger joints, beer gardens, Mexican, Ramen, fusion, and just about any trendy cuisine imaginable. When it came time to plan a lunch meeting at the end of the year, my friend recommended a Greek restaurant called Psari. Psari simply means fish in Greek and the menu is full of fish and seafood. The lunch specials are an amazingly good deal. For $13 per person, we had salad, garlic bread, and entrée, and a side. The entrees are generous portions, not for dainty eaters. We added the octopus appetizer, and their coffee is wonderful, too. A similar lunch special would have easily set you back $25-$30 in the city, and that’s on the low end of the spectrum. We also had a nice, clear day with sunshine as opposed to the snow, wind, and rain in the following days. It was a truly wonderful way to end the year.
My friend Yui and I met as music composition students in Paris a very, very long time ago. Although we will probably never be back in Paris together again, I can think of no better alternative than Astoria, Queens. In the words of Rachel Ray, whom I recently saw a live taping of her show, “Dee-lish!”
I twice had the unforgettable experience of having Maryland Crab Cakes in Maryland. I believe the next best thing to that would be to have Maine Lobster in Maine. It is really difficult to find anything even close to a crab cake in Maryland but you can recreate the experience at home.
Maryland Crab Cakes
½ cup mayonnaise
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Lemon wedges (optional)
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise with the egg, mustard,
Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce until smooth.
2. In a medium bowl, lightly toss the crabmeat with the Panko bread crumbs. Gently
fold in the mayonnaise mixture. Do not over mix. Cover and refrigerate for one
minimum of one hour.
3. Scoop the crab mixture into eight 1/3-cup mounds; lightly pack into 8 patties,
about 1 1/2 inches thick. In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium high heat. Add
the crab cakes and cook until deeply golden and heated through, about 3 minutes
per side. Transfer the crab cakes to plates and serve with optional lemon wedges.