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Oct 1, 2008 06:52 AM

October 2008 COTM Batali: Seafood

October 2008 Cookbooks of the Month:

Mario Batali’s Babbo, Molto Italiano, and Simple Italian Cooking.

Please post your full-length reviews of main course seafood recipes here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the book and page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. two minute calamari, sicilian lifeguard style p. 191 Babbo Cookbook
    run, don't walk. this is easy and delicious

    + I've used capers more often than caperberries, good salt packed capers if you can
    + I make a variation on basic red sauce that throws in one or two habanero peppers - the fruity chile is perfect here.
    + I like a little extra pine nuts.
    + imho, an ice bath for the israeli couscous is overkill and annoyed me the one time I did it. I just drain it.

    This is a standby spectacular meal -- if you have cleaned squid and a cup or two of red sauce in the freezer (one cup because I usually make it for two. this is not best suited for leftovers because the couscous soaks up every last bit of the sauce eventually)
    The recipe is also widely available online.

    8 Replies
    1. re: pitu

      Calamari Sicilain Lifeguard Style (Babbo, page 191)

      Made this for dinner tonight and pitu is right. Run, don’t walk.

      I used fregula instead of Israeli couscous just because I had it and didn’t need another half opened box or bag in my already overcrowded cabinets. Agree that the ice bath isn’t necessary. And except for the fact that I now have half a bottle left, I don’t think I’d bother with the caperberries again; I’m sure rinsed capers would be just fine. But not sure I agree about adding more pignoli; the amount listed seemed right to me.

      I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I made the full recipe and ate probably a third of it. I just couldn’t stop. I’ll be eager to see if the leftovers with the fregula reheat any better than they do with the couscous because there’s no question I’ll be making this again.

      1. re: JoanN

        2 questions:

        Does Batali call for Israeli couscous rather than fregula? He's such an Italophile that I'd be shocked.

        Are caperberries those gigantic things? Well, "gigantic" is perhaps an overstatement.

        I'm going to try this tomorrow night!

        1. re: oakjoan

          Yes, he calls for Israeli couscous. I've never had Israeli couscous so I don't even know how fregula compares to it. It's just, as I said, that I had the fregula and wanted to use it.

          And also, yes. Caperberries are those "gigantic" things. Actually, when I bought them, there were two different brands on the shelf. The one I bought was much larger, and quite a bit less expensive, than the other. They tasted much more like regular capers than I expected. Perhaps the more expensive brand would have been less so? Anyway, because they were large, they didn't really blend into the dish as a whole as did the pignolis and the currants. I got a heavy hit of caper every time I bit into one. As I said, I'll use them up, but unless someone tells me that the more expensive ones are considerably better--as well as considerably different from--regular capers, I'll just go with the regular ones in the future.

          1. re: JoanN

            I think fregula is toasted and israeli couscous is not, but I could be wrong. They are both beads of pasta of about the same size -- israeli couscous is much larger than regular couscous.

        2. re: JoanN

          Looks incredible. And yes, fregula is a *lot* like israeli couscous.

        3. re: pitu

          My turn on the Calamari Sicilian Lifeguard Style, and we all loved it. Totally agree with all the raves. Mine seemed much less soupy/saucy than the photo on the website, but it didn't matter (maybe because I skipped the ice bath?). I used fregola (I had some leftover from Flexitarian month, and didn't have any israeli couscous) and just regular capers. One thing - I didn't much taste the currants (not a big deal, I'm not in love with fruit in my savory stuff). But I will *definitely* be making this again - so easy, and so much payoff.

          1. re: LulusMom

            I don't really like fruit in my savory foods either. But, it didn't taste fruity as well. The consistency of the currants totally changed when they were fried up.

          2. re: pitu

            I liked this as well. It was really fast to put together which made it a great weeknight well.

            I used less squid and more israeli couscous. I also didn't bother with the ice bath. I also added additional pine nuts as well.

            What I thought was interesting was how the currants changed in character and taste after sauteeing with the red pepper flakes in high heat.

            I did use caperberries and thought it could have used more than the 1/4 cup that it called for. Lastly, I forgot to add the scallions and didn't feel that the dish lacked in any way.

            This supposedly served 4. But, piggy us, we only got three servings out of it.

          3. Marinated Sole Venetian style -- Molto Italiano, p. 284.

            I found some fresh Dover sole on sale and I had all the other ingredients, so I tried this recipe: fillets, dredged in flour and fried, then marinated overnight in a sweet-sour sauce of sauteed onions, currents and pinenuts simmered in red wine vinegar with a little sugar. It's pretty easy, although I wish I had gotten the fillets a little browner -- I think the oil wasn't as hot as it should have been. Anyway, it's not like the fillets are going to be crisp after you marinate them. The instructions for cooking the onions seemed a little off, too: they said to cook the onions for 8-10 minutes in oil heated to almost smoking, which would have resulted in burned (not browned) onions if I hadn't turned the heat down.

            Overall, I liked the dish. At first the sauce seems a little overpowering, but it becomes addictively pungent. I served it with some roasted beets, which also went well with the sauce. It's probably better suited for a primi-sized portion, as a big plate of it might be too much (the recipe calls for 2 pounds of sole for four servings -- I think Mario needs some lessons in portion size!). I don't know if I'll make it again, but it was worth doing once. Although, the fact that it is marinated overnight and served at room temperature might make it a good choice for a first course at a dinner party.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              The Babbo version of this dish - Cod in Saor, p. 61 is terrific. It is my favorite, wicked easy, warmish weather, company standby. There are only slight differences in the instructions:

              MI: Oil almost smoking, onion softened and golden
              B: Oil heated, onion softened and "just light brown"

              B: After 24 hour marination, sprinkle with chives and , while the fish is coming to room temp (room temp serving being specified in Babbo, not in MI), mix up some paper thin celery, olive oil, lemon juice, S+P. Drizzle marinade then celery mixture over fish.

              These additions take this dish from being Very Good to Excellent.

              1. re: mirage

                Actually, room temperature serving is specified in MI as well. Which is good, because cold out of the fridge I couldn't taste the fish at all. At room temperature the flavors came into better balance (I'm actually a proponent of the idea that most food tastes better at room temperature or slightly warmer, rather than very hot or very cold). I "cheated" and used the lowest setting on my microwave to bring it up to room temp.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    "I'm actually a proponent of the idea that most food tastes better at room temperature or slightly warmer, rather than very hot or very cold."

                    Glad to know I'm not alone in this thinking, Ruth. Too hot, or too cold seems to stifle my taste buds and all I feel is the sensory reaction rather than a culinary reaction..

                    1. re: Gio

                      That's my feeling as well. Although sometimes you want the sensory reaction (like the crispness of hot fried foods). But when food is too cool the aromatic oils that carry a lot of the flavor aren't volitilized and you can't taste them. For example, a while back I was making Meyer lemon cardamom ice cream and I was really disappointed that the finished product didn't have nearly the same flavor as the custard base it was made from: the cold muted all the citrusy flavors. A lot of kids understand this instinctively when they stir their ice cream -- when it's warmer it tastes better!

              2. Shrimp Fra Diavolo - MOLTO ITALIANO, and online here, with a video:

                I used red jalepenos so they would blend in and create a devilish surprise. Subbed fresh oregano and basil for the marjoram and peeled and headed(beheaded?) the shrimp. Very good, better than the usual neighborhood Italian restaurant version. Simple, spicy, garlicky, would definitely make it again. Oh, and served it with bread, not on top, the picture made it look like a giant brushetta but alongside the bread was perfect for sopping up the sauciness.

                13 Replies
                1. re: yamalam

                  Shrimp from the Devil Priest (Gamberoni fra Diavolo), Molto Italiano, p. 269

                  I made it this week also, and agree with your perfect description - "simple, spicy, garlicky, would definitely make it again". I haven't had this in years, but it made me remember why this is such a popular dish. My husband took one bite and said, "delicious".

                  I halved the recipe since it was the two of us and I only had a half-pound of shrimp, and served it over chitarra. For heat, I used 2 jalapenos and half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and it was the perfect amount of spiciness for E, although for my serving I sprinkled more chili flakes on top. Ingredients were thinly sliced garlic, jalapenos, chili flakes, Basic Tomato Sauce (p. 269), white wine, and shrimp. As someone else has mentioned regarding this book, a lot of his recipes don't mention salt and pepper, so I seasoned to taste. I garnished with toasted bread crumbs, and fresh oregano instead of marjoram. It made a really nice dinner tonight, along with a bottle of Oriel gruner veltliner.

                  If you're going to make one Batali recipe this month, I think this is a good one - quick and easy (if you have a batch of Batali's tomato sauce made), nicely balanced flavors, and the helpful video yamalam linked is the exact recipe from the book.

                  1. re: Rubee

                    Fab photo Rubee. Looks tantalizing. Will make this one because you reminded me I have some frozen raw shrimp.

                    1. re: Rubee

                      My turn for the Shrimp Fra Diavolo....

                      I made MB's Basic Tomato Sauce, used a bag TJ's raw but deshelled jumbo shrimp, and the entire amounts of all the ingredients. Four jalapeños - 1 T RPF - 6 cloves of garlic, etc. My first instinct was to serve the shrimp cum sauce over linguine but instead grilled a couple of pieces of wonderfully fresh crusty Italian bread. Oh My, we Loved this dish! It's on my Re-make list. Finished with a tossed salad w/red wine vinaigrette.

                      1. re: Rubee

                        Hey Rubee! I note you used fresh oregano instead of marjoram. I looked in a regular and two specialty stores and cannot find marjoram. Am I out of luck due to the time of the year? I don't think I have ever used fresh marjoram in a recipe. I want to try this recipe soon - I think the devil priest might help warm me up.

                        1. re: Dax

                          I occasionally find fresh marjoram even at this time of year here in NYC, but fresh oregano is a decent substitute and better, I think, than using dried marjoram.

                          1. re: Dax

                            Hey Dax! nice pic.

                            Not sure, but I don't think I've seen fresh marjoram in stores. A CH friend here grows it and gave me some this year - I used it in a vinaigrette. I'm going to add it to my herb patch for next year. I agree with MMRuth - fresh oregano is a better substitute than dried marjoram.

                            Be sure to report back when you try the recipe!

                          2. re: Rubee

                            I made this for the Super Bowl but doubled the shrimp. While I luckily didn't double to 8 jalapenos, I used 6 and there was some major slow heat when served that night and downright damn hot when eaten leftover last night. Next time I'll go with 2 for the 20 shrimp (and I completely peeled and deveined them). I also didn't use his sauce, I used some of Hazan's butter and onion sauce I had frozen). I served over some toasted sourdough with olive oil. The dish went over pretty well.

                            I made cilantro rice (using sweet rice) last night to go with the leftovers - that is a good combination.

                          3. re: yamalam

                            My turn on the Shrimp Fra Diavolo. Oven issues meant I couldn't serve over the toasted bread, so I served it over linguine. I wish I hadn't taken the seeds out of the jalapenos, and that somehow I'd known my garlic wasn't very strong, because my version of this was fairly tame. I also wish (on thinking back) that I'd salted it ... that might have helped bring those other flavors forward a bit. That said, it never occured to me to salt it at the table and everyone said they enjoyed it (although no one went back for seconds). Serving it over the linguine, btw, made it very very messy to eat. If I made this again, I'd leave the jalapeno seeds in, and up the garlic. We had a guest to dinner so I was shy about pulling out the camera - no photo.

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              Re: the toasted bread - do you have a grill pan? That's how I do the bread, with the cast iron pan on top to weigh it down. Sometimes I use olive oil, sometimes I don't.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                No, since we have a grill we decided to go without a grill pan. I suppose I could have grilled the bread, but it had been threatening to rain, so I went with the pasta instead.

                                The good news (please insert Hallelujah chorus here): My oven *seems* to have been fixed this morning!

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  Keeping fingers crossed for you - now you have to try the Artisan Bread!

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    Believe me, that is near the top of my "when my oven gets fixed" list!

                                    I'm having some of the leftover shrimp diavolo and I have to say, I'm really enjoying it.

                              2. re: LulusMom

                                I served this over linguine as well. I liked it and it was a fast, easy weeknight dinner. I had weak jalepenos (left half the seeds in) so I didn't have as much heat. But, it was tasty and did the job.

                            2. Jumbo Shrimp Marsala House-Wife Style (Gamberoni alla Casalinga Siciliana, MI, p. 266)

                              Well, when I couldn't track down dry Marsala, I probably should have changed gears, but didn't. I ended up using a dryish sweet sherry, and if I had to substitute again, I'd use a dryer, but still full-bodied, sherry. That said, we enjoyed the dish - the sauce has onion, celery, plum tomatoes, pine nuts, currants, capers, fennel seed, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. I made the full amount of sauce, though used 1 lb of shrimp (the largest I could find, but smaller than those called for). The shrimp are cooked, covered, on top of the sauce. Though not part of the recipe, I cooked some purchased fresh fettucini, removed the shrimp from the sauce, tossed the sauce with the pasta, then put the shrimp on top. I'd like to try it again with the dry Marsala.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: MMRuth

                                Thanks MMRuth for this report; it's another one on my list. My list is so long, I'll have to make three Batali dishes a day for the rest of the month! Tonight is carbonara.

                                As an interesting side note, I've been wanting to make this Batali House-Wife Shrimp recipe ever since Joe H raved about it earlier this year:

                                The Absolute Best Low Calorie Shrimp Dish You Will EVER Taste!!!

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  Sounds good, especially since I adore currants lately. Same question i asked Lulusmom- do you think making this with chicken instead of shrimp would be too blah?

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    So glad I recently found this thread, since I just acquired Molto Italiano and am really enjoying cooking out of it! Anyway, I want to weigh in on Jumbo Shrimp Marsala "House Wife Style" too.

                                    MMRuth has described the process and results very clearly, and I concur that for not a lot of effort, you end up with a really delicious dish. And thanks to MMRuth's recommendation, I used some dry but full flavored sherry (Tio Pepe) rather than the medium-sweet Marsala that was all that I had. I'm really glad I did! The resulting sauce (mine was almost more of a broth since it isn't thick and there's about 1 1/2 cups of it) had an elusive barely sweet and nutty flavor that was actually rather sophisticated considering that this is "house-wife style"! I used larger shrimp, about 7 to a pound. I let them simmer just an extra minute or two but not cooked through entirely--and then let them rest, covered, for 5 minutes off heat as specified . They turned a lovely pink and stayed tender. I kept them warm and served with spaghetti in butter on the side, plus lots of ciabatta bread. I had made the spaghetti for the two children at the table--but next time I will just serve good bread. Sopping up that lovely sauce with crusty bread is about as good as it gets!

                                  2. Scampi (erm, large shrimp) with garlic, chiles and fennel (MI, p. 274)

                                    Couldnt' find langostinos so went with large shrimp instead. Also couldnt' find red jalapenos so used green. Served this over polenta which was just a wonderful way to soak up the sauce. I loved everything about this. Served with a fennel salad (why let the rest of the fennel go to waste? it was just the fronds in with the shrimp). We were all crazy about it (Lulu redeemed herself admirably from her pesto problem by asking for more of all) and I'll definitely make it again.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      That looks delicious, and so pretty with the fennel fronds. This recipe didn't jump out at me at first because it seemed too straightforward, like I already knew what it would taste like, but that seems to be MB's genius: simple, straightforward but amazing flavor combinations. Can't wait to try this!

                                      Oh, do you think this would work with chicken at all, instead of the shrimp? Hard to find good shrimp (at a decent price) here in AZ.

                                      1. re: yamalam

                                        I think cut up white meat chicken (since it doesn't have such a strong flavor) would work. I might bump up the spicing a little (although I would bump up the spicing in almost everything, so take that advice with a grain of salt).

                                        He doesn't recommend what to serve this with, but the polenta seemed like a no brainer to me - great for soaking up the sauce. My husband said "inspired combination!" and I had to admit that basically its the same thing I see in every local restaurant: shrimp and grits.

                                      2. re: LulusMom

                                        Scampi with garlic, chiles and fennel (Scampi con Aglio e Finocchio, MI, p. 274)

                                        Made this last month and I agree - simple, but the flavors were so good. I served it with crostini. I also used large shrimp.

                                        Easy weeknight dinner too - shrimp is sauteed with sliced garlic and red jalapenos in olive oil, add white wine, and toss with chopped fennel fronds and fresh mint.

                                        1. re: Rubee

                                          Thanks for reminding me of this one. I loved it, and should make it again soon. So glad you liked it too.

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            mmm, yes thx Rubee...was looking for a seafood and fennel summer dish . . .

                                        2. re: LulusMom

                                          Scampi with Garlic, Chilies and Fennel – p. 274

                                          I picked up some langoustines to accompany our grilled steaks for our New Year’s Day dinner. A quick EYB search landed me here to LlM & Rubee’s enticing reviews and I knew I’d found my recipe!

                                          Happy to say this dish was the hit of the evening. As you may be able to tell from the photos, I didn’t have any fennel fronds so I opted to use Italian parsley instead but I infused my broth with a little ground fennel seed and, dusted the finished dish w fennel pollen. I look forward to trying it again with the fronds though.

                                          The sweetness of the langoustines contrasted nicely with the tartness and heat of the chili-infused wine broth. I served mine atop some steamed rice whereas mr bc preferred his sauce on the side so he could dip as he goes. (He also likes to keep each item separate on his plate).

                                          A simple, elegant dish that I’m happy to have in my repertoire.