Branzino Made Easy

Plated branzino
Plated branzino

 

I love Branzino. It’s a sweet, delicately flavored fish from Greece that can be grilled, sauteed or roasted with minimal fuss. ShopFreshSeafood.com, the online seafood delivery company, recently sent a sampler package of Branzino and king salmon my way. It arrived smelling fresh and the Branzino was gutted and cleaned. All I needed to do was decide how I was going to prepare the beauties they sent me. The first night, I got out my large copper paella pan and heated it up, adding a couple tablespoons of olive oil and butter to the pan, tossing in a few smashed cloves of garlic and adding the patted dry fish which I had sprinkled with salt and pepper. I turned the fish only when it was nicely browned (about 7 minutes) and let it go another 7 minutes, deglazing the pan with 1/3 cup of a dry white wine, the juice of a lemon, a fistful of roughly chopped parsley and a tablespoon of capers. I removed the fish, let the sauce bubble away for another minute, and then poured that over the top. Perfection.

The next day, I had a bit less time when dinner hour rolled around. I needed to consolidate steps for my hungry crew and got my veggie sides going while I turned on my oven to 400 degrees and laid my cast iron grill over two stove top burners to heat. Once hot, I brushed the surface with olive oil and placed on the Branzino, patted dry and seasoned, along with two single portions of seasoned salmon. I let each side brown nicely enough to leave grill marks, then placed the entire cast iron grill into the 400 degree oven for  final cooking of five or six minutes.

Branzino and salmon on cast iron skillet
Branzino and salmon on cast iron grill

Cooking fish, like beef, lamb, poultry or pork, with the skin and bones intact produces more flavor and juiciness. Some people don’t like seeing a fish head or tail. I think it’s part of the natural beauty of the dish. It’s easy enough to remove the skin and bones of Branzino. (I enjoy the flavor and crispiness of the skin.) To remove the bones, start by plating the fish. It’s ok if the head and tail hang over the edges of the plate. Cut them off and tuck those pieces away for nibbling.

Next, I run my knife right down the center of the fish, feeling my way along the bone and gently pushing off the flesh to either side. The flesh on one side will be free of bones. On the other side, there will still be some bones to navigate.

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Fileting Branzino, first side

The flesh separates easily from the bone.

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The flesh near my knife is nearly boneless.

Once I am done filleting that side of the fish, I simply pick up the center bone/spine and remove it. (There is still good nibbling on this, too.)

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Pulling out spine.

I didn’t take off the tail before removing the spine. It was filled with plenty of flesh to enjoy. And what’s left underneath the bone are two lovely filets.

 

 

 

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I have had this fish stuffed with herbs and garlic and roasted as well. To me, it tastes best when it is simply grilled and then finished in the oven. So easy and flavorful. A spritz of fresh lemon juice brightens the delicate flavor of the fish.

 

ShopFreshSeafood.com delivers fresh seafood directly to consumers. The website offers a range of seafood from North American and Canadian waters in addition to the Branzino from Greece. Customizable packages are available. The business is located in the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, NY and ships nationally.

ShopFreshSeafood.com, Online Seafood Site Hooks You Up (With Fresh Fish Delivered To Your Door)

Home cooks who are seafood fans are faced with the daunting task of discerning just how fresh the fish at their local fishmonger or supermarket is. The solution to that problem is ShopFreshSeafood.com, which takes the guesswork out of fish buying through overnight shipping of freshly caught seafood to customers within one day of harvest.

We visited owner Megan Grippa at the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx where ShopFreshSeafood.com is based. Here’s what she had to say.

“With more than fifty years of experience in the seafood business under my family’s belt, my goal in creating ShopFreshSeafood.com was to give consumers access to the freshest fish with a few clicks or phone call,” said Megan Grippa, owner of ShopFreshSeafood.com. “Going online with a business that offers consumers top quality fresh fish with the convenience of next day home delivery was a natural. We are serving the entire US with next day shipping and have found that busy New Yorkers in particular are using us for delivery to their weekend homes and as thank you gifts for hosts when they are guests. We have even had requests for a fish of the month gift package for newlyweds. There’s no beating the flavor, texture, aroma and appearance of freshly caught fish.”

With three varieties of salmon, plus tilapia, bass, lobster, and crab among other offerings, ShopFreshSeafood.com sources directly from its family-operated Universal Seafood at the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, thus avoiding costly middlemen. Universal Seafood is one of the biggest salmon importers on the East Coast.

Grippa’s favorite way to prepare seafood is with multiple family members. “In my large Italian family, there can never be too many cooks in the kitchen,” explained Grippa. “Cooking together is a great way to bond, share a passion for food and its preparation, share family stories and enjoy one of the most basic human pleasures – the savory of good food cooked with love together with family.” Grippa, her father Anthony and Uncle Joe Sr. The Grippa family has roots in Calabria and Sicily, Italy and came to America in the early 1900s.

We spoke with Megan to learn about ShopFreshSeafood and the ins and outs of buying fresh fish and proper handling:

RWAF:  You are a 4th generation fish business owner in a male-dominated industry. What’s that like, considering you were formerly a fashionista in the shoe-buying department at Macy’s and you’re now a fishionista?

MG:  I loved working for Macy’s – I was proud to be a part of that team and its rich history in NYC. And now I’m proud to be a part of my family’s rich history. Americans spend so much of our lives at work – and I now am blessed to work with my family, learn more about seafood than I ever imagined and continue the legacy my family started, but with a new twist in eCommerce. What could be better than that?

RWAF:  What’s a typical day like for you? What time do you wake up and go to sleep?

MG:  Lol – It’s a long day. The market is open from midnight to 8 am. I’m up at 3 checking emails and orders from my phone and I call in what fish I need, this way when I get to the market I know what I have to start with. What came in. what might be in tomorrow. We try very hard to get all orders out with 24 hours. But a lot depends on what is in the Market. We picked species for the website that we have on a very regular basis but sometimes there are still issues you cannot control, weather for instance.   Most of the morning is spent packing boxes and fish. Then I head up to the office to do all the paperwork. At noon it’s time to head back home and from there I handle customer service phone calls and emails. Until it’s time to call it a day, which in the summer is around 9:30. In the winter it’s easier to go to bed earlier.

RWAF:  ShopFreshSeafood.com offers multiple types of salmon. What are the differences between them and what’s your favorite?

MG:  All salmon has omega 3 fatty acids – that is a great reason alone to eat it besides it tastes so good! Omega fatty acids help maintain healthy heart function. Also maintains healthy brain activity. Fresh salmon that is simply prepared is simply unbeatable in terms of flavor, texture and versatility.

RWAF:  What’s the biggest myth about seafood?

MG:  Seafood is difficult to prepare is the biggest myth.  It is so easy to prepare seafood, especially if you have a good, fresh piece of fish. We have lots of easy recipes on our site, www.ShopFreshSeafood.com, but remember, less is more with fish. Let the natural flavors shine through by using simple preparations like grilling with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and squeeze of fresh lemon. Minced herbs and a drizzle of oil are ideal for some fish and other fish welcome an assertive salsa on the side. Our website has several inspirational recipes and tips to check out.

RWAF:  What makes fish smell “fishy?”

MG:  Bacteria is the culprit.  Every food smells with age. Bacteria gets in and decays protein. What about old milk – yuck!  Have you ever smelled old chicken? That’s 10x worse than fish. Fresh fish has very little aroma before and after it’s cooked. The scent is distinctive but good quality, fresh fish does not have an offensive aroma.

RWAF:  Is the smell of old fish a primary reason people don’t want to try or prepare seafood at home or in restaurants?

MG:  I think a good answer to that question is that people should eat at restaurants that smell good when you walk in. Even a seafood restaurant should not have an overpowering seafood smell. At home, people who aren’t buying fresh seafood will experience a strong aroma when handling or after cooking the fish. I wouldn’t eat at a restaurant that had smelly anything. Buying fresh seafood ensures your home will not smell fishy when you prepare the fish promptly after it’s purchased.

RWAF:  What are the biggest mistakes people make when they prepare seafood?

MG:  They overcook it and dry it out. Seafood is the original fast food – it doesn’t take long to cook.

RWAF:  What is your favorite seafood and how do you prepare it? MG:  I like everything we carry. Our Barnegat dry scallops are especially good.  We like to bake them oreganata style, with a little lemon squeezed over.

RWAF:  Will ShopFreshSeafood offer other types of fish and seafood in the future? If so, when and what kind?

MG:  Yes, we are slowly expanding our offerings. I’m working on adding oysters to our offerings next! Check our website regularly for updates and know that we customize orders upon request. We have had customers request our fish of the month club for a bridal gift. We also offer seasonal packages, like our incredible Feast of the Seven Fishes offerings which will be offered during the holiday and are hugely popular. We sell this package in three varieties so people can make as much or little as they like for their entertaining purposes.

RWAF:  Do you plan on expanding your business to Canada and other countries?

MG:  No, not at this time- The US is a big place.

RWAF:  How is your fish packaged to ensure it stays fresh from the time it is packaged to the time it is delivered?

MG:  Our shipping containers are made of Styrofoam and put into a corrugated cardboard box. Reusable Cold packs are included and your order is packed in a 38 degree environment to ensure freshness. We used recycled materials when available

RWAF:  Once a customer receives their order, what is the expected shelf life of the fresh fish?

MG:  Your fresh fish can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. We recommend putting it in the coldest place, usually the crisper. If you want to save it for longer, you can absolutely store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Do not run the fish under water as that may inadvertently start cooking the fish.

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Canadian salmon packed for delivery

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Megan Grippa placing fresh Barnegat dry scallops into special packaging to maintain proper temperature before fed ex delivery

  Grippa encourages home cooks to enjoy the benefits of preparing fresh caught seafood with the following grilling tips:

  • Try Planking: In the grilling world, “planking” uses aromatic planks of wood, typically cedar or oak, to infuse the protein with a smoky perfume reflecting the wood’s nuances. In between the fish and soaked plank can be a combination of oils, salts, spices or herbs. Start with the basics – salt, pepper, and olive oil – or create a different concoction based on fresh garden herbs like basil, chervil, chives, parsley or dill.
  • Go Fresh: Fresh caught seafood, whether uncooked and cooked, has a soft, delicate aroma. When fish has a strong “fishy” smell, it’s past its prime. Buying direct from fishermen or ShopFreshSeafood.com eliminates any question about freshness.   
  • Add Some Zest:     What goes better with grilled fish than citrus? Lemons, limes, or oranges pair well with fish and grilled fare. Wash lemons and limes, cut into thin slices and place slices on top and underneath fish during grilling, or simply squeeze the juice on after grilling. The bright citrus flavors will add a pleasant lightness and acidic balance to seafood.
  • Eat Dinner on a Stick:       Not only are kabobs convenient for eating and clean up, they allow for endless combinations. For an easy summer staple, sandwich shrimp between summer vegetables (peppers, onions, cherry tomato, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant) or fruit (nectarine, peach, pineapple are good choices) and place on the grill. Scallops and firmer flesh fish like swordfish and salmon work well for kabob threading.
  • Fish Tacos:  The individual customization of fish taco creation is good for large groups. Grill a few different types of seafood like tilapia and shrimp, put out bowls of toppings (think basil and mint leaves, baby lettuces, pepper strips, guacamole, homemade tartar, tahini etc.) and set out taco shells for a delicious way to please everyone. 

“My family’s long legacy in the seafood industry is too important to not use. I wanted to create something different that would allow me to nurture my love for fish and educating people about fish as a nutritious, delicious and easy to prepare protein. Shopfreshseafood.com makes the best fish available to people with a few clicks or a phone call,” explained Grippa.  I want people to look at fish as an integral part of their diets and the perfect center of family gatherings, like it always has been in our family.”

About ShopFreshSeafood.com

ShopFreshSeafood.com is the premier online source for supremely fresh seafood delivered direct to the consumer within hours of being caught. Operating out of the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, ShopFreshSeafood.com contracts with fishermen using sustainable methods to harvest the most delicious, nutritious seasonal offerings from U.S. and Canadian waters. A family-run business for four generations at the Fulton Fish Market, ShopFreshSeafood.com offers varieties of salmon, scallops, crab, shrimp, and branzini along with lobster. The company offers custom orders for special sizes, cut or species. For more information, seasonal charts, how-to preparation guides and recipes, visit www.ShopFreshSeafood.com.

Call 718-842-8850 to reach ShopFreshSeafood and to place an order. First time online orders receive 10% off.

http://www.shopfreshseafood.com/

8 North Broadway – Nyack, NY – Mediterranean Fare

8 North Broadway, Nyack - Melanie Lust photography
8 North Broadway, Nyack – Melanie Lust photography

Constantine Kalandranis is a humble, poetic man and a very talented chef. At 33 years old, he’s proving to be a savvy businessman as well. It’s likely that his Nyack, NY patrons at 8 North Broadway, open since December, agree on all counts. A native of Astoria, Kalandranis has a passion for prime seafood, meat, produce, bread and pastry and organic ingredients, frequently sourcing from Hudson county and neighboring regions and importing fish from around the globe. The quality of ingredients shows in dishes, elevated by simple, thoughtful preparations that are Mediterranean at their core. Kalandranis helms the kitchen with chef Hichem Habbas, another native of Astoria. From his earlier days at Anthos, Exo, Gus & Gabriels, Kalandranis brings with him a deep appreciation for smart, straightforward executions that elevate pristine ingredients. No corners are cut. Everything on the menu is made fresh from scratch daily, using organic ingredients when possible. Flat and pita bread are hand rolled and baked on premises, served steaming from the oven or charred from the grill. Olives and fragrant fresh herbs abound here, creating food that is both sensuous and satisfying.

Phone calls in the wee morning hours inform Kalandranis about the best seafood offerings, with decisions made between two and three AM that will influence the menu, which is printed several hours later. This translates into a vibrantly fresh, fluid menu with lovely surprises for patrons eager to experience new types of fish or traditional proteins that are true to their authentic, free-range flavors. Meats are given equal consideration and heft, most sourced from farms within 200 miles of the restaurant.

Like Kalandranis, Richard Mitchell, general manager, is a class act. His polished style brings a humming efficiency to the front of the house, where wait staff are attentive, knowledgeable and friendly. Staff is young, confident and good looking, creating a relaxed energy that puts diners at ease. While there’s a comfortable distance between tables, the atmosphere seems to invite easy chatter between tables, sparking discussion of dishes. The Nyack zeitgeist is warm and convivial and 8 North Broadway’s patrons are clearly at home here. Regulars are warmly welcomed and newcomers made to feel at home. The bar teems with solo diners and small groups sharing mezze and wine.

Subsequent visits indicate that the restaurant is beloved by area restaurateurs and chefs alike, with its Monday nights bustling with the owners of Nyack eateries stopping in for dinner or simply a drink at the lovely brass bar, which seats 16.

Interior shot - Melanie Lust photography
Interior shot – Melanie Lust photography

The 48-seat restaurant open for lunch in the fall. Sunday brunch starts at 11:00am and is more suitable for younger patrons than weekend evenings.

Mezze plate with 9 salads and spreads ($23) - Melanie Lust photography
Mezze plate with 9 salads and spreads ($23) – Melanie Lust photography
A bustling Friday night
A bustling Friday night
Pickled olives, celery and fennel whet the appetite
Pickled olives, celery and fennel whet the appetite
Plump, briny oysters at $2.50 each with pickled vegetable mignonette and brined beet pair beautifully with a sparkling rose from Spain, Penedes' Pinord Reynal ($33/bottle)
Plump, briny oysters at $2.50 each with pickled vegetable mignonette and brined beet pair beautifully with a sparkling rose from Spain, Penedes’ Pinord Reynal ($33/bottle)

The ever-changing menu is divided into four sections: small cold plates; small hot plates; main dishes; and additions. Desserts are posted on a separate menu and include a selection of house-made items and suggested wines to pair them with. A thoughtfully curated wine list showcasing elegant, small production Mediterranean wineries at reasonable glass and bottle prices is offered.

Mezze are meant to excite the appetite and 8 North Broadway executes these foreplay items beautifully. Small cold plates range from $7 for seasonal crostini of carviar dip, white anchovy and shaved red onion to $13 for shaved lamb loin carpaccio with lemon oil, pickled chick pea salad, dandelion and pecorino. All the offerings are designed to whet the appetite, mixing briny, salty bites with sparkling flavors of the sea. The local beet salad ($12) is delectable with Vermont feta, red onion, olives, kale, a silken hummus and the restaurant’s chewy, warm, hand-rolled pita.

seared diver scallops with toasted almonds, braised cherries and sumac atop silken hummus
seared diver scallops with toasted almonds, braised cherries and sumac atop silken hummus

Small hot plates are excellent for sharing. Sizzling Spanish octopus ($14) is served in a sizzling cast iron skillet, with charred vegetables and a red wine vinaigrette. The texture of the octopus was pleasantly toothsome, delivering a punch of flavor. Other hot mezze items include sardines a la plancha served with Sicilian bread salad and crushed pistachio ($13) and a lovely seared diver scallop ($14) with toasted almonds, braised cherries and sumac atop a puddle of that smooth hummus. If I had to choose one favorite item from this part of the menu, the scallop would be it. Its balanced smoky, salty flavors mingle with the delicate tart, tangy sweetness of the cherries, playing beautifully on the tongue. Go with the muscadet just to celebrate this winning appetizer, a Sevre Et Maine, David Duvallet, Loire, France, 2011 ($10/glass – $37/bottle), an ideal counter with bright fruitiness.

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Gewurstraminer, from Warwick Valley Winery Upstate, 2011 ($9/glass or $32/bottle) is crisp, a fine choice for any of the mezze items. Even the Macon-Villages, Roux Pere & Fils, a French Burgundy, 2010, ($11/glass or $39/bottle) would also be worth considering.

In the Main Dishes category, seafood is sure to tempt, with multiple daily specials servers will describe and staples like grilled sea bass with bitter greens, lemon potatoes and capers (market priced). But don’t ignore the other proteins, like a Heritage Farm Pork Chop ($29) served with white polenta,sage, pork belly and tomato broth. Grilled Colorado Lamb ($36) is more deeply flavored and, well, lamb-y, than its Australian cousin. It’s plated with a Sardinian couscous, mint, pickled apricot and flatbread. Grass-fed beef ribeye ($39) is nicely charred, and served with addictive crispy yucca frites, melted onion and rosemary. This is another excellent non-fish option and beef lovers will enjoy its true beefiness and excellent marbling. Vegetarians have the option of a tasting plate ($22) with red quinoa, braised sherry mushrooms, bitter greens and legumes. Or they can also opt for multiple mezze items.

selection of sliced pork, beef, lamb and chicken
selection of sliced pork, beef, lamb and chicken

Additions range from braised organic beans with tumeric ($6) to white polenta with yogurt ($6) and are nicely portioned.

Desserts are homey and satisfying with plenty of options for those who are chocolate lovers, gluten-free and/or fans of yogurt, honey and nuts, which take leading roles on the menu.

8 North Broadway offers delicious, sexy food, polished service, a warm ambiance and another wonderful reason to visit Nyack.

Hours: Monday-Saturday 5:30pm and Sunday at 11:00am. Look for lunch in the fall. Reservations recommended. Private parties welcome. (845) 353-1200 • info@8northbroadway.com www.8northbroadway.com