Today's featured home cook proves that's it's never too late to learn, especially if you're hungry, or to have fun in the kitchen.
Name: Mark Tanenbaum
Age: Really? OK, 67!
Residence: Sullivan's Island
Occupation: Lawyer and problem solver
Family: Darlene McElveen, my four daughters and my granddaughter, Eva.
Q. You live on Sullivan's, and we're told you like to "harvest" food from the area's natural resources. What do you like to catch and put on the table?
A. First, to be honest, while we all love to catch them, redfish don't taste that good no matter how you cook it, so I catch - when I am lucky - and release. Crabs are the best thing from the creek, and simply steaming them with a side of blue cheese slaw and corn on the cob is too good to pass up. My daughter, Allison, taught me how to brown butter in a pan and then add Worcestershire sauce to it as it barely boils, and that is delicious on the crabs and the corn. Allison taught me, but one of the other girls may have taught her and now I will be in trouble!
Q. What is on the menu of your ideal shore dinner, from cocktails or other beverages all the way to dessert?
A. Let's start with the cocktails. I love vodka and ice with a new "fruit" I discovered - Wickles (pickles). It's like pickled okra but has both sweet and hot to it. I did get into doing a blender full of whatever summer fruit had gone a little too ripe with tequila, rum or vodka, crushed ice. Watermelon, peaches and a little frozen limeade.
As for dinner, last night I did some sea scallops with chorizo, olive oil, onions and garlic in a skillet. A rose is delicious with that meal. We had some risotto and a salad with it.
I love the cutting and chopping part of cooking. Very satisfying after a day at work. Then there's always a rack of lamb with rosemary chopped and slipped between the ribs on the grill ...
Q. Is there ever a dish that you have put on "trial" - tested repeatedly, trying different versions until you felt you won it over?
A. I think I have finally perfected both crab cakes and grilled lobster. I have tried both any number of times and finally got them right.
Q. What is a criminally delicious dish or meal that you have loved at a local restaurant?
A. Do you remember Zinn's Delicatessen from the South Windermere Shopping Center? Or Harold's Cabin when it was on Wentworth Street? The corned beef and swiss cheese steamed with brown mustard was delicious. I miss those days, but my belly doesn't! The Pinckney Street Cafe where I ate lunch every day for the entire time it was open. The black bean burrito! And of course, High Thyme, where I ate almost every night for five years or longer.
Q. OK, we'll put a gag order on legal word play. But, speaking of gag, is there any food you really detest?
A. Diet sodas! Popcorn with caramel on it. Limp pizza. Otherwise, I'll eat anything you cook, and if it's awful, I will add some Cavender's (inside joke - I put it on everything!) and eat away.
Q. What or who was your inspiration/mentor for your enjoyment of cooking?
A. After I was divorced, I ate out all the time - every night. I only knew how to cook what I had specialized in when I was married, a filet on the grill. I was so clueless that I had to call whichever of my daughters I could reach to ask how to cook pasta.
My four daughters have since been my inspiration, and they learned from their mother, who is truly one of the best "home cooks" in the world.
My oldest daughter is a trained chef, and has worked in fancy restaurants in New York, Miami, Atlanta and as a personal chef for a movie star. My next daughter is also a great cook. She started a food magazine in Jackson Hole (Wyo.) where she has lived for almost 20 years, and now is also starting one in Park City (Utah). My two younger daughters are also wonderful cooks, and since they live nearby, we are often in the kitchen together where they share technique and tastes with me. We are all a very close family, and nothing thrills us more than to all be in the kitchen together cooking. For the past couple of years, I cook at home every night, and love it!
Q. What is your favorite meal of the year? Why?
A. Thanksgiving has become my favorite meal. We all gather at my house on the island, usually about 20-plus, and have at least two turkeys and a brisket. One turkey in the oven or a fryer, one in the Green Egg, and the brisket on a grill on a low temp (that's one I still have to perfect). The girls divide up corn pudding, asparagus, a salad, biscuits, pimento cheese, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie. We start cooking about 10 and eat all day and then sit down when the turkeys are ready. I have two sons-in-law and two nephews who took control of the brisket, the turkey fryer, and the beer last year - and that won't happen again!
A warning - I don't measure!
Dried chipotle peppers, 2 to 4 depending on taste
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Mayonnaise (real, not light), about a heaping teaspoon
Coarse-ground mustard, also a heaping teaspoon
A fresh lemon
2 pounds jumbo lump blue crab
Seafood breading flour, just a smidgen
Panko bread crumbs
Finely dice the parsley to make about 1/4 cup.
Seed the chipotle and cut the skins into smaller pieces. Put them in a spice grinder (or clean coffee grinder) and grind till fine.
Combine the eggs, ground chipotle peppers, kosher salt, black pepper, parsley, mayonnaise, mustard and squeezed lemon juice in a bowl and whisk.
Add the crabmeat and a little breading flour and work all together with your fingers. (Remember, raw eggs, so resist licking!)
Form into patties on a flat pan that will fit in your freezer. (I usually do about 4 inches in diameter, and 1/2 inch thick.) Cover liberally with panko crumbs. Use a spatula to turn and coat the other side. Put in the freezer until they firm up.
Place enough olive oil in a skillet to reach a very shallow depth. Heat to medium. "Fry" crab cakes till bottom side is brown, about 3 minutes, and turn and repeat.
Live lobsters, 11/2 pounds or larger
Cavender's Greek Seasoning
Browned butter and Worcestershire sauce for serving
Slice the heads off the lobsters and remove the claws.
Cut the belly side of the body open with heavy kitchen scissors. Drizzle olive oil into the slit on the belly and then season generously with Cavender's.
Place the lobsters on a hot grill and turn after 3 or 4 minutes. The lobster will curl and you just need to keep turning until the meat is opaque. Be careful, don't overcook. Remove from grill when done.
Replace the lobsters with the claws. Let them cook and turn often until you hear them steaming. As one steams remove it.
Serve the tails with the browned butter and Worcestershire (described in the first question) above for a dip. Break the claws open and enjoy those also.