10/14/12 8:00am
10/14/2012 8:00 AM

John Ross (center) with two Coast Guard chiefs at his 1967 graduation from the Coast Guard Commissary School.

As I stood on the dock in Greenport watching the U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle come into port for the recent Maritime Festival, I was suddenly full of memories of a time 45 years ago when I was a cook in the U.S. Coast Guard.

My very first assignment out of boot camp was the 311-foot Coast Guard cutter Mackinac. It was based out of New York Harbor and patrolled the Atlantic from Greenland to Cuba. On my first patrol, in September 1966, we were headed to Guantanamo Bay for training with the Navy when we received an SOS from a ship that had lost power in a raging storm off the Florida Keys.

The storm was Hurricane Inez, one of the most destructive storms on record, causing over 1,000 deaths in the Caribbean. To rescue the ship we headed into giant 30-foot swells and withstood 80 mph winds. The screws of our ship were coming out of the water as the bow was buried in the waves.

In the galley, it was too dangerous to cook hot food, so the crew ate cold cuts and bread. This voyage ended safely and we were able to reach the disabled ship and restore its power. But our ship rarely sailed in calm water, as our mission was to man weather stations and be nearby to help ships and airplanes in distress.

Cooking in this environment required holding on with one hand and cooking with the other. Knives and utensils were always placed on a wet towel to prevent sliding. The galley of the Mackinac was located on the main deck, extending the entire width of the ship, with doors on either side to enhance ventilation. It was equipped with a six-burner stove, a large flat-top griddle, a stack oven, two steam jacketed (trunnion) kettles and a deep fryer with a 12-inch rim around it to prevent splashing. All our equipment was electric, as is common on most ships.

Mr. Ross served on the USS Mackinac in the early 1960s.

Surprisingly, much of our cooking was done from scratch. We made cakes and bread and used fresh produce as long as it lasted into the five-week patrols. In rough seas we would have to make some recipe adjustments, such as reducing the liquid called for in chocolate cake to keep it from rolling out of the pan in the oven. At breakfast we often had to turn the griddle up to 450 degrees so that when we cooked eggs over easy the whites would set immediately, allowing the yolk to roll back and forth while it cooked.

But we cooked some very good food, mostly following the recipe cards developed for the Navy and Marines in 1963. The crew ate meals on the mess deck located below the galley, where tables with benches were bolted to the floor and the food was sent down in a dumbwaiter. Our walk-in freezer and dry stores were located in the hold three decks below and required treacherous trips up and down the ladders.

After a year aboard ship I went to the Coast Guard Commissary School for 16 weeks and was then assigned to the Short Beach lifeboat station near Jones Beach. The station had 21 men and three rescue boats. It was very different from the ship in that I was able to write my own menus and purchase ingredients from local sources.

On weekends during the boating season we had many Coast Guard auxiliary officers on hand to help with law enforcement and rescue operations. These people would often have clambakes on the beach and it introduced me to Long Island’s wonderful bounty of seafood.

After a year at this station I was transferred to Governor’s Island, where I became a food service instructor at the Commissary School. This school consisted of intense four-week segments including classroom theory, meat handling, baking and production, which had us serving meals to the other schools on the island. I was able to teach all four segments and discovered later in my career as a chef that these lessons in the fundamentals of cooking were a great asset. At the time it was just another duty station, although a beautiful one, as my wife and I actually lived on Governor’s Island during the last year of my enlistment.

Here are some updated, small-quantity versions of Coast Guard and Navy classics.

Creamed Beef (‘S.O.S.’)

Spray a large sauté pan with no-stick and place it on medium high heat. Add 1 pound of ground chuck and break it up with a spoon as it cooks. While it is still pink, add 1 chopped onion, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. As the onions cook, add 1/4 cup flour and stir it into the meat to form a roux. Slowly add 2 cups milk, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

This dish can be served over toast or buttermilk biscuits.

Serves 4-6.

Stuffed Peppers (‘S.I.S.’)

Begin by making a stewed tomato sauce. Trim the ends off of 6 plum tomatoes and cut them into 1/4-inch dice. Place them in a saucepan along with 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onion and 1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper. Season with 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes and add 1 small can of tomato sauce.

Cut the tops off of 6 bell peppers. For appearance, use 2 green, 2 red and 2 yellow peppers. Cut out the insides and cut the bottoms so that they stand up. Combine in a large bowl 1 pound of ground meatloaf meat (beef, pork, veal) and 2 chopped chorizo sausages. Add to this 1 cup chopped onion, 2 tablespoons catsup, 1 tablespoon chopped oregano, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Blanch 1 cup brown rice in boiling water for 15 minutes, drain and add to the meat mixture. Stuff this mixture into the peppers and place them in a deep casserole. Pour the sauce over them, cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Serves 6.

Old-Fashioned Navy Bean Soup 

Purchase 1 pound of dried navy beans and rinse them under cold water. Place them in a soup pot and cover with 2 quarts water. Bring them to a boil and turn off the heat. Cover the pot and let rest for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, dice 4 ounces of salt pork and cook at medium heat in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot. When it has turned brown and released its fat, add 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped ribs of celery and 2 chopped carrots. Continue cooking and add 2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme.

Drain the navy beans, saving 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Add the beans to the soup pot along with 4 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add 1 bay leaf, 1 can (15 ounces) of chopped tomatoes and a smoked ham hock. Season with 1 teaspoon black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook uncovered at simmering temperature until beans are tender, adding the reserved liquid as the broth evaporates. Total cooking time should be about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the ham hock, cut off the meat and add it to the soup. Add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and a little salt to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 6-8.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.

10/13/12 10:00am
10/13/2012 10:00 AM
Lieb, Craft restaurants

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Lieb Cellars director of sales John Morales (from left), advertising consultant Peter Pace and owner Mark Lieb in front of the the new ‘Vineyard’ tasting room.

A harvest party will be held at Lieb Cellars’ new tasting room at 13050 Oregon Road in Cutchogue tonight, Saturday, between 5 and 8 p.m. Organizers say it’s a chance to showcase the winery’s new digs.

It took a month longer than owner Mark Lieb originally hoped to open the new tasting room, which opened for business Oct. 1.

An official grand opening kick-off will take place there between 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19.

Live music will also be held at the location every Saturday between 2 and 6 p.m.

Lieb Cellars’ original Mattituck tasting room will remain open in the Premium Wine Group facility, which Mr. Lieb also partially owns.

“I’m very happy,” Mr. Lieb said of the new tasting room last month. “This is something we’ve wanted for a long time. We built this building years ago. It’s a beautiful spot.”

Click here to read our previous story about the new tasting room.

09/22/12 10:00am
09/22/2012 10:00 AM

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Complete with a neon sign, the diner is an architectural throwback to a time long past.

Dr. Norm McCullough and his wife, Linda, stop in at The Cutchogue Diner on Main Road most weekdays at 2 p.m. They stop by so often, in fact, that waitress Debbie Stelzer said she gets “discombobulated” if the couple isn’t there to drink their respective tea and coffee while they read the paper, do a crossword puzzle and chat.

“We’re among the fairly regulars,” Dr. McCullough said. “I was more of a regular before I retired from being a general surgeon at ELIH. I would come by to grab a cup of coffee and a piece of toast on my way to the hospital.”

An old-fashioned chrome diner with a maroon color scheme, The Cutchogue Diner first opened as Glover’s restaurant in 1941. This year, John Touhey of Brooklyn reached his 25th anniversary owning the iconic North Fork eatery.

What sets the diner apart from other local eateries, aside from its shiny exterior, Ms. McCullough says, is the “good home cooking.”

Dr. and Ms. McCullough have been eating at the diner for so long they say they’ve outlived many of the longtime regulars. Others have moved away to Florida and other warmer locales.

Mary MacLeod, 25, of Laurel is part of a new generation of regulars. One day last week, she sat across from the McCulloughs, reading a book, eating a plate of fries and sipping a Coca-Cola.

“I come here all the time to sit and read,” Ms. MacLeod said. “I always have, since I’ve been able to drive.”

Perhaps most regular of all at The Cutchogue Diner is the staff.

Managing the restaurant is 37-year-old Fernando Rodriguez, who began his career there as a dishwasher.

“When I first started working here, I didn’t know a lot of English, but [Mr. Touhey] suggested I learn, so I ended up finishing the four-year ESL program at Suffolk Community College in three years,” said Mr. Rodriguez, who immigrated from Guatelama. “I then became a cook and when the position for manager opened up three years ago, he offered it to me and told me it would be a challenge. I took it because I like challenges. I’m a leader, not a follower. I like to keep myself busy and I try to run this place the best way possible.”

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Fancy food it’s not, but still Mary MacLeod was all smiles when waitress Debbie Stelzer delivered a plate of hot french fries last week.

He works closely alongside Mary Ferenc, 55, originally from Poland. The two have had each other’s backs in the kitchen for almost two decades. Ms. Ferenc moved to the U.S. in 1990 and began working at the diner a year later. Mr. Touhey sponsored her citizenship, she said.

Ms. Ferenc said she’s not even the longest tenured employee at the diner, having started after Ms. Stelzer.

“Most of us [from the ’90s], still work here,” Ms. Ferenc said. “A lot of our customers are the same and many times I know what a customer is going to have as soon as they open the door.”

Ms. Ferenc said she takes her devotion to customer satisfaction seriously and considers it a reason customers keep coming back.

“Sometimes people come in and ask for the usual because they know that I should know how they like it,” she said. “For example, many people get scrambled eggs, but they’ll see me and say, ‘You know how I like it,’ because some like them soft and others like them well-done. If someone asks what we have for veggies and it’s peas and carrots, but they don’t like peas, I’ll pick out the peas and give them carrots. I separate them because I like the customers and that’s why the customers like me.”

Mr. Rodriguez said the consistency of meals, thanks to Ms. Ferenc’s exacting attention to detail, is one of the things that make the diner a special place.

“We’re also very flexible and tailor our meals based on what our customers want,” he said. “If someone orders pancakes, but just wants one pancake instead of a stack, we can do that. We’re here to serve people and please them as much as we can.”

It’s the kind of place that brings Westhampton residents Robert Dell and Walter Lapple to the North Fork just about every Friday for lunch.

“We used to go to different places on Fridays,” Mr. Dell said. “But this is our normal Friday luncheon spot now.”


09/06/12 2:09pm
09/06/2012 2:09 PM
Michelle's Cafe, downtown Riverhead, Griffing Avenue, tavern

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The potential future home of Michelle’s Cafe on Griffing Avenue in downtown Riverhead.

The Riverhead Town Board has requested the corporate papers of a proposed “tavern”  in downtown Riverhead after questions were raised about the true owner of the business during a public hearing Wednesday in Town Hall.

The new business, called Michelle’s Cafe, is seeking a special permit to operate at 155 Griffing Avenue.

Area business owners and town officials on Wednesday expressed concerns with the cafe plans, in part because the applicant’s stepfather and building owner, Luis Tejada, operated a downtown bar that police said was plagued by violent incidents.

That prior business, the Crystal Bar, was located next to Digger O’Dell’s on West Main Street and lost its liquor license in 2007

Supervisor Sean Walter said Thursday night that he was concerned the applicant, Roberto Marroquin, was a “straw man” for Mr. Tejada to run the planned business.

According to town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz, Mr. Tejada signed as the vice president of the cafe on the business’ certificate, and an architect’s plans list Mr. Tejada as the owner of the building.

The town’s code lists several items to be considered by the Town Board before approving or rejecting an application for a special tavern permit.

Included among those factors are the suitability of the business’ location, adequate parking, proper provisions for waste pickup, and the hours the business would be in operation and whether that would require regulation.

The board will also determine whether the proposed tavern would not “prevent or substantially impair” the use or development of other area properties, would not adversely affect health or safety, and that the hazards or disadvantages for a new tavern would not outweigh advantages.

Nearby business owners said during Wednesday’s public hearing that they worried that drunk patrons would create a safety problem.

The applicant’s lawyer said that Mr. Marroquin, not Mr. Tejada, will be running Michelle’s cafe, adding that the application should be judged “on its own merits.”

“This client is new to the scene and hopes to run a successful business,” said attorney Jonathan Brown. “It’s difficult and seems to me unfair that he is painted with a very broad brush.”

According to Mr. Brown’s testimony during the public hearing, the cafe will focus on food, not alcohol, though he acknowledged the tavern would not have a stove or oven to cook food. The business would serve pre-cooked food heated in a microwave, he said.

The public hearing was left open until Sept 14. for residents to submit written comments.


09/05/12 9:23pm
09/05/2012 9:23 PM
Griffing Avenue, Downtown Riverhead, Rosa's Cafe

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The proposed Griffing Avenue tavern would not have a stove or oven to cook food, and would only be serving microwaved food.

A proposal to operate a “tavern” on Griffing Avenue in Riverhead met with opposition from downtown business owners during a public hearing at Wednesday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting.

That, and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter expressed concern that the applicant might be a “straw man” for his stepfather, who operated a downtown bar police say was often the site of violent incidences, before it lost its liquor license in 2007.

The hearing Wednesday afternoon was on a proposal for a special permit to operate what the town code calls a tavern in a storefront on 155 Griffing Avenue, just north of West Main Street.

The applicant was listed as Roberto Marroquin, who heads a company called Rosa’s Cafe, and who proposes to call the new tavern Michelle’s Cafe. A tavern, which town code describes as ““any building or use commonly known as a ‘bar,’ ‘barroom,’ ‘tavern,’ ‘saloon,’ ’cabaret,’ or ‘nightclub,’” requires a special permit under the property’s Downtown Center-1 zoning.

But at the hearing, town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz pointed out that the name on the corresponding application before the New York State Liquor Authority was “Roberto C. Tejada.”

Mr. Marroquin explained that his full name is Roberto Carlo Marroquin Tejada. He also acknowledged, under questioning from Mr. Kozakiewicz, that his stepfather is Luis Tejada, who owned the Crystal Bar, which was located in a building next to Digger’s tavern on West Main Street and was the scene of many incidents back in 2007, according to town police.

Many of those incidents took place in the parking lot behind the bar, which served a mostly Hispanic clientele, and Mr. Tejada publicly stated at the time that he felt he was being unfairly targeted by police.

“I realize we have an uphill battle because Luis Tejada had problems in this town at the Crystal Bar,” said Jonathan Brown, Mr. Marroquin’s attorney.

He said the proposal is not for a bar, but for a cafe where the food is the main focus of the business, not the alcohol.

But Mr. Brown and Mr. Marroquin also acknowledged that the proposed tavern would not have a stove or oven to cook food, and would only be serving pre-cooked food that would be heated with a microwave.

“My concern is that Mr. Marroquin is a straw man for Luis Tejada to open another place,” Mr. Walter said.

Luis Tejada was listed as an owner of the building on town files. Mr. Marroquin would be leasing the site.

Phil Kenter, the owner of nearby Relay Communications on Griffing Avenue, voiced opposition to the proposal and presented the board with a petition signed by 74 people also opposed to the tavern plan.

Mr. Kenter said bars and taverns often get their patrons drunk and those drunk patrons often commit violent crimes.

He expressed concerns for his mostly female staff, especially when they are walking through a parking lot that may have intoxicated men in it after dark.

“This is not the right site for a proposed tavern,” Mr. Kenter said.

Attorneys at the nearby Twomey, Lathan & Shea law firm also voiced opposition to the tavern, for similar reasons as stated by Mr. Kenter.

Karen Hoeg, an attorney at the firm, said she has felt nervous when leaving the building while people are congregating around the West Main Street parking lot.

And Felicia Scocozza of the local Community Awareness Program (CAP), which teaches students drug and alcohol resistance, also voiced opposition, pointing out the high “alcohol density” in the area, based on the number of establishments selling alcohol.

She said research shows that alcohol increases the chances of violence.

Hollis Warner of the George Hill Moore Peconic Monunment Works on Griffing Avenue said he is always picking up alcohol cans and bottles in the alley by his business from the bars that are already in the area now.

“You guys have to give them special permission to do this, I don’t want you to.” Mr. Warner told the Town Board. “If they are just going to be microwaving, I can do that at home.”

The Town Board took no action on the proposal and left the hearing open for written comments until Sept. 14.


09/01/12 12:03pm
09/01/2012 12:03 PM
Lieb, Craft restaurants

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Lieb Cellars director of sales John Morales (from left), advertising consultant Peter Pace and owner Mark Lieb in front of the the new ‘Vineyard’ tasting room.

Something new is coming to the North Fork — and fall Wine Country visitors won’t have to wait long before it’s open to the public.

Lieb Cellars is days away from opening a second tasting room. This one is in a big red barn on Oregon Road in Cutchogue, abutting the winery’s vines and overlooking a sunflower field. The other tasting room is away from the vineyard, in Mattituck.

“Hopefully we’ll be open within the next week at the most,” owner Mark Lieb said Friday. “I’m very happy. This is something we’ve wanted for a long time. We built this building years ago. It’s a beautiful spot.”

The building, which features a patio, tasting room, conference room, offices and cold storage for wine, is a place Mr. Lieb said is not only nice to have, but has become necessary, as the business needed to add office space and provide more elbow room for Wine Country visitors.

“The offices needed to be expanded because we’re growing the business significantly,” he said.

Expansions include a partnership with restaurateur, celebrity chef and five-time James Beard award-winner Tom Colicchio, who chose Lieb Cellar’s pinot blanc for a private label sparkling wine called Craft by Lieb Cellars, Brut Blanc de Blancs. Mr. Colicchio is the founder of Craft and Colicchio & Sons restaurants, including Craftsteak at nearby Foxwoods Resort & Casino.

“The wine will be sold exclusively in Craft restaurants and the Lieb tasting rooms,” said director of sales John Morales.

Mr. Morales is responsible for some of Lieb’s largest clients, which now include Citifield, where two of Lieb Cellars wines are sold by the glass, and Terminal Five at John F. Kennedy airport, where Lieb is the only North Fork winery represented.

“It was hard selling Long Island wine in the beginning,” said Mr. Morales, who has been with Lieb Cellars for 12 years. “Tom [Colicchio] and one of his restaurants, Craft, were one of the first places to really open their doors to the local wine scene. There’s still some hurdles, such as Nassau County, but we’re extremely strong in the Hamptons and pride ourselves on New York City.”

Between the new partnership with Mr. Colicchio, the new tasting room and a mention this month in The New York Times (along with Lenz Winery) for having one of the 12 greatest American wines under $20, the team at Lieb Cellars is looking forward to a great year.

“You’ve got the sunflowers across the street, you’ve got Long Island Sound right over there,” Mr. Lieb said from the new tasting room’s patio. “I think it’s going to be a hot spot this fall.”


08/25/12 12:00pm
08/25/2012 12:00 PM
GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | First and South owners Sarah Phillips and Peter Pace in their Greenport restaurant Monday.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | First and South owners Sarah Phillips and Peter Pace in their Greenport restaurant Monday.

North Fork foodies are atwitter over a new Greenport restaurant called First and South.

The New York Times reviewed the restaurant Aug. 10, calling it a “charmer.” The tough-grading Times gave First and South a “worth it” rating, its second-best.

The restaurant is co-owned by former Jedediah Hawkins Inn employee and one-time Jamesport resident Sarah Phillips and New York ad man Peter Pace.

It occupies the space of the former Vine Wine & Café.

Read the full story

08/11/12 11:00pm
08/11/2012 11:00 PM

Said the mushroom to the oak, “You’re very slow!
I dare say it’s ’most a year
That you’ve been growing here —
And I began not quite two days ago!”

Said the oak tree, rustling gently, “That is true,
Through many a winter’s snow,
And many a summer’s glow,
I’ve watched the growth of tiny things like you.”
‘The Mushroom and the Oak’ by G.K.

Unlike the tree, mushrooms grow very fast and can be cultivated in as little as two months. But also unlike the tree, mushrooms are not even plants, but fungi. Plants (and trees) develop through photosynthesis, with sunlight providing energy and the plants converting carbon dioxide into carbohydrates such as cellulose. Mushrooms have no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds. They survive and grow on decaying organic matter such as dead trees and manure.
Their unique nature enables mushrooms too add a delicious earthy element to cooking that enhances many foods. Mushrooms are also a good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They contain almost no fat or cholesterol. The most popular kind are the agaricus bisphorus varieties such as button, cremini and portobello.

These mushrooms differ mostly in maturity, with the portobello being the oldest. Other varieties that are commonly farmed are shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Dried varieties such as porcini are a very good source of intense flavor when hydrated in hot liquid.

Mushroom Sauce
Purchase 2 portobellos, 8 ounces cremini, 8 ounces button, 4 ounces shiitake and 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms. Remove the stems from the portobellos and scrape the gills from the underside with a teaspoon. Dice into half-inch pieces and place in a bowl. Wipe any dirt from the creminis and quarter them along with the button mushrooms. Add to the bowl. Trim the stems off the shiitakes and cut them in half before adding to the bowl.

Bring 1 cup chicken broth to a boil and pour it over the dried porcini mushrooms. Let sit for 20 minutes.
Heat a large, heavy sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons butter. When butter is frothy, add the mushrooms from the bowl and cook, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes. Stir them around and add 1 cup chopped shallots and 2 tablespoons minced garlic. Season with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage and 1 teaspoon ground pepper.

Strain the porcinis, saving the liquid. Chop the porcinis coarsely and add to the pan. Let all of the liquid from the mushrooms evaporate and add another tablespoon of butter. Stir in 1/4 cup flour to make a roux. Add the reserved mushroom liquid along with 1 cup white wine and bring to a boil. When it thickens, add 1/4 cup chopped parsley and check for seasoning.

With pasta: Boil 2 quarts water and add a 12-ounce package of whole-wheat bow-tie pasta. When cooked al dente, reserve a little of the boiling liquid and drain. Toss the mushroom sauce and pasta together, adding a little cooking liquid to thin it out. Grate fresh pecorino romano cheese over it and serve.  Serves 4.

With whole wheat spaetzle: Whisk together 2 eggs, 1 cup milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour with 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Using a wooden spoon, add the dry ingredients to the milk mixture. Stir to form a thick batter. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes.
At service time, bring 2 quarts water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Place the batter near the boiling water. Using a box grater, scoop out some of the batter with a rubber spatula and rub it through the large holes, holding the grater over the boiling water. Repeat until half of the batter is used. Let the spaetzle cook until it rises to the surface plus 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer and drain in a colander. Repeat the process with the rest of the batter.

Heat a large sauté pan and spray it with no-stick. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and add the drained spaetzle. Cook until lightly browned and toss with the above mushroom sauce. Serves 4.

Stuffed Portobello with Barley Risotto
Remove the stems from 4 large portobello caps and scrape out the gills with a spoon. Mix together 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 2 tablespoons canola oil. Brush this mixture on the inside and outside of the portobellos and place them on a foil-lined sheet pan with the inside facing up. Roast for 5 minutes at 400 degrees and turn them over, letting them cook another 5 minutes. Remove, drain any liquid out of them and set aside.

Bring 2 cups chicken stock to a boil and add a 1-ounce package of dried porcini mushrooms. Remove from the heat and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Heat a large, shallow saucepan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped shallots and let them cook for 3 minutes before adding 1/2 cup barley. Stir the barley until it is coated with oil and add 1 cup red wine. Leave the heat on medium high and let the wine reduce. Strain the porcini mushrooms over a bowl, squeezing out all of the liquid. Begin adding this liquid to the barley in 1/2 cup ladles, letting it boil away after each addition. Keep stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon and adding the stock until it is gone. Check the barley for tenderness. It should be cooked but still have a firm texture.

Chop 1 package of shiitake mushrooms and 1 package of cremini mushrooms. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a sauté pan and add the mushrooms along with the soaked porcinis. Season with 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary and 1 teaspoon ground pepper. When the mushrooms are cooked, add them to the barley risotto.

Place the cooked portobellos on a sheet pan and fill the cavities with the risotto. Heat in a 400-degree oven at service time and serve any leftover risotto on the side.
Serves 4.

Duxelles-Stuffed Mussels
To make the duxelles, coarsely chop 1 pound white button mushrooms. Peel and finely chop 1 cup shallots. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy sauté pan and add the mushrooms and shallots. Let them cook at medium heat until all liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add 1/2 cup white wine and continue to cook until it is entirely evaporated. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley and remove from the heat.

In a soup pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 1/2 cup minced shallots and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Rinse 2 pounds of mussels and add them to the pot along with 2 bay leaves and 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes. Pour 1 cup white wine over the mussels, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until all mussels open and remove from the heat.
Remove the mussels from the broth and strain the broth into a saucepan. Bring the broth to a boil and let it reduce a little. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small pan and add 1/4 cup flour to make a roux. Whisk the roux into the mussel liquid and let it simmer to thicken.

Remove the mussels from their shells and set aside. Break the shells apart and rinse. Stuff the mussel shells with the duxelles, placing a mussel on top of each shell. Put the stuffed shells on a sheet pan and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs. At service time, heat the stuffed mussels in a 400-degree oven for about 5 minutes and place them in the bottom of shallow soup bowls. Ladle some of the sauce over each bowl and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Serves 4-6.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.