AMAGANSETT, N.Y. — This has been a banner year--in terms of headline grabbing--for the seaside village where I make my home.
Amagansett's name is actually an American Indian sobriquet, meaning "the place of the good water," which was a particularly apt calling in 1987, when sharks all over the Eastern Seaboard decided to converge in our surf.
After the story appeared on the late-night news, friends across the country called to find out how Amagansett was weathering the crisis of the beached whale and the ravenous sharks who rose to the occasion after its burial.
I told them beaches were closed but arteries were open. Only in theory, actually, because the glut of shark-watchers cruising along the Atlantic with binoculars focused out of car windows made passage in and out of town wholly unnavigable.
Shark Shortage Results
A culinary sidelight to Amagansett's shark scare hit me directly in the kitchen. Though I had been regularly grilling Mako shark steak on the barbecue for the last couple of years, the hoopla caused a shark shortage at local fish markets.
I don't know what other cooks do in a state of emergency but I always make do with whatever else is available.
Being short on shark produced two exemplary seafood concoctions. The following dish, which substituted for shark at my table this past summer, is a totally American version of a classic Spanish standby. It was inspired by one of the new fish books of the season: "Ann Clark's Fabulous Fish" (New American Library: $24.95).
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, white bulbs and green tops, chopped
1 stalk celery, minced
1/2 green pepper, seeded and minced
1 small hot red chile, seeded, deveined and minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup clam juice or broth
12 or more clams, scrubbed
2 cups chicken broth, about
1 1/4 cups Texmati rice
1 1/2 teaspoons file powder
Herb bouquet of 1 sprig fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 bay leaf and 2 sprigs parsley tied in cheesecloth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 pound or more medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
Salt, freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
Saute sausage in large greased heavy pot or Dutch oven until well browned on all sides. Remove sausage, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices and reserve.
Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot and add olive oil. Add onion. Cook over medium-low heat 4 minutes. Add garlic. Cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in green onions, celery, green pepper and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine white wine and clam juice in medium saucepan. Heat to boiling. Add clams, cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook until clams open, about 5 minutes. Remove clams in shells with slotted spoon and reserve. Measure clam broth and add enough chicken broth to make 2 1/2 cups liquid. Return to saucepan and heat to boiling.
Stir rice into vegetable mixture. Stir in file powder, reserved sausage slices and boiling broth. Add herb bouquet and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat 15 minutes. Discard herb bouquet.
Stir butter and shrimp into rice mixture. Continue to cook, covered, 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Turn off heat and tuck reserved clams (in shells) into rice mixture. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Haddock is the star of this easy creamed fish dish that can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes.
NEWPORT FISH HASH
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups hot milk
Dash ground allspice
Dash cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Ground white pepper
1/3 cup grated medium-sharp Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups cooked, flaked haddock or cod fish
Chopped fresh parsley
Hot cooked rice
Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion. Cook until tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
Whisk flour into onion mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Whisk in hot milk. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add allspice, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste to sauce. Stir in cheese and haddock. Cook over medium-low heat until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve over rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.