November is a pretty amazing time of year around LBI. The cool weather settles in and the marshes all around Mud City retain some color. It’s as much a time to celebrate the harvest, both land and sea, as anywhere.
And we love preparing to gather with friends and family for the upcoming holidays.
We caught up with Sean Donohue, our chef at Mud City, for a great holiday meal that anyone can make at home – Pan Seared Atlantic Halibut with Apple Cider Glaze over Sweet Potato Hash. Atlantic Halibut are bottom feeders and they are a member of the Flounder family. Think of it as our seafood take on a traditional holiday meal for autumn.
2 white corn
1 white onion
1 medium size jalapeño
2 large sweet potatoes
1 red bell pepper
2 cups Apple cider vinegar
1 cup Brown sugar
2 oz fresh ginger
Salt & pepper
Dice sweet potatoes, toss in olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425
Steam corn and shave kernels
Chop onion and bell pepper, mince jalapeño.
Sauté onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, corn and baked sweet potatoes. Season to your liking with salt and pepper.
Apple cider reduction
Reduce apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and ginger at low heat until syrupy consistency.
Cut the Halibut into half-pound strips and season to taste with salt and pepper on both sides.
Add a teaspoon of olive oil to a hot sauté pan. When the oil is properly heated, drop the halibut into the pan. Sautee for several minutes until the fish is three quarters cooked through. Flip the halibut and sauté for another minute.
Plate the halibut over the sweet potato hash and add apple cider glaze.
We have a pretty broad definition of community.
It includes our generous friends, the families who patronize our restaurants year after year, our hardworking staff, and the local fishermen/farmers from whom we source fresh food, and the amazing group of businesses here. All of these play a huge role in the success of our restaurants and it’s only right that we give back.
It was five years ago this month that Superstorm Sandy landed a wet haymaker right on our chin. Many people look to Superstorm Sandy as a very important event in bringing our community together. And it was. But we had already established a local network that was ready to respond when the time came. Today, we are proud to be a part of that community.
“We’re not doing all this alone. We can’t do it on our own. And we take our investment in this area very seriously,” says co-owner Melanie Magaziner, who is constantly hands on in local events and fundraisers. She is not only Troop Leader for two Girl Scout troops, but is on the board of directors for the Hunger Foundation of Southern Ocean County. She has also served on the board of David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation and the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce.
We believe we have a responsibility to be leaders in looking after those in need and also our environment. Not only do the Barnegat Bay, wetlands, Atlantic Ocean and Island provide us with the greatest source of recreation and inspiration, but they are also the engine of our economy.
With Ship Bottom Shellfish and Mud City Crab House, we always had a tie to local happenings, but opening the Black Whale in 2005, the bar enabled more of a social atmosphere. We forged an integral relationship with the surf community and our friends at Jetty, an apparel company at its core, but a local lightning rod of local awareness.
Jetty ran its first Clam Jam in 2007 and Coquina Jam in 2009. One of our eateries has been on the beach for each event in the last decade, serving up cold clams on the half or warm chowder, as well as the Alliance for A Living Ocean Longboard Classic for the past few years. And we love hosting the Team Selection Night at Old Causeway.
In 2010, we also hosted our first Crabbin’ for a Cure with Jetty, a family-style crab cake dinner where we specifically raised money for David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation, who directed the money to families battling cancer in our local area. It’s a tradition we all cherish.
We took part in an oyster pilot program in 2015 with Stockton University. Today, we are involved in the Oyster Recycling Program, an alliance of local shellfish restaurants sending our shells to local oyster farmers to create Tuckerton Reef, a recreation of the oyster reefs that were all but wiped out in our local waters. Partnering with the Jetty Rock Foundation, Long Beach Township, Stockton and our local shellfish purveyor Parsons Seafood, we are helping to purify our bay while bringing back the oyster population and the bayman way of life. We hosted the 4th of July Clambake at Parker’s Garage to raise money for this project. A screening of “The Oyster Farmers” outside at Mud City was just the icing on the cake.
Superstorm Sandy, of course, changed the face of our community forever. But in many ways, we have come back stronger than we were before the storm. Again, we teamed up with Jetty, Waves for Water, Stafford Teachers and Residents Together, and all the good people who were willing to gut homes, raise money, feed our neighbors and clean the bay. Mud City became an important meeting spot and we were happy to provide food for a community Thanksgiving Dinner as well as important fundraisers like, “East Coast Rising” and “Rock for Sandy.”
In 2015, we hopped on board as a supporter of the local mini documentary series, “Just Beneath the Surface,” which spotlights the magic of Long Beach Island and the mainland, packing the house for the premiere of the pilot (we may have been a little partial) in 2016 and episode one last May.
Sandy helped us realize our ability to mobilize and raise funds to make our community stronger. In 2016, we ran the first Eskimo Outreach, our clambake version of a winter carnival designed specifically to aid one of our longtime employees who was struggling with cancer. We used her spirt to continue the tradition last winter and were able to help her family and others close to us. And in September, when hurricanes had ravaged the Southeast US and Caribbean, we payed forward all the support we got by holding a Rum-Raiser outside Parker’s Garage, raising over $20,000 for Waves for Water’s Caribbean Hurricane Relief Initiative.
“If the community’s not strong, our businesses aren’t strong,” adds Melanie Magaziner.
What’s better than a fat tuna steak just barely grilled on either side?
Well, you might say Tuna Crackers or a nice cut of Yellowfin on a sandwich with wasabi mayo. It’s certainly open to debate.
Having the best and freshest fish is of upmost importance to us, across all of our restaurants and every type of fish, though tuna is perhaps the most important. It’s a trophy species for recreational anglers but also a main target of the longline boats that fish out of Viking Village and Lighthouse Marina in Barnegat Light.
As if September and October aren’t magical enough around Long Beach Island, it’s when we see the most pelagic fish come into the docks of Barnegat Light.
“Our local longliners bring in yellow fin, and big eye and Bluefin. Sometimes it’s as much as 25,000 pounds,” says Robbie Robinson of Cassidy’s Fish Market at Viking Village.
Robbie is the wholesaler for all of our restaurants. The best fish for our restaurants are usually the 40-60 pounders. Eateries in Philly and New York tend to like the bigger guys.
Viking Village is one of only a few commercial fishing docks in the Mid-Atlantic, an outpost that goes back to the first Scandinavian settlers on Long Beach Island. We don’t get all of our fish locally year-round, but when the bite is on, we’re all about it. Among the local longline fleet are the F/V Monica, Frances Ann, Showboat, Eaglet and the Alexandria Dawn. Captains usually go out for 5-14 days at a time. It’s a balance to fill the boat but get the fish back so it’s still the freshest possible.
What we call “local” are fish caught out at the Hudson Canyon, 80 miles offshore, which is a lot closer than fishing grounds like the Grand Banks. Dropping down to over 10,000 feet deep, it’s a pool of nutrients fed by the Gulf Stream full of food for tuna. Fish caught in the cooler pockets tend to be of better quality.
Longliners put out 25-miles of line with 700 baited hooks, let it set for 6-10 hours, and then haul it in. The fish that are caught are butchered onboard, bled and packed with ice in the hold as soon as possible. The crew will run five “sets” to fill the ice hold before steaming back to the dock. In terms of product, the handling is as important as the catching.
When the boat is “packed out” the tuna are loaded onto the dock and graded. Tuna grading is something of a science and Viking Village’s Chris Sprague is a veteran. He takes core samples and judges the fish based on the hue and fat content.
“It’s about quality, color and clarity,” says Robinson.
Our Grilled Tuna at Mud City is a longtime favorite, marinated in our house sesame ginger soy. The seared tuna has always been a crowd pleaser at The Black Whale, Mud City and Ship Bottom Shellfish. Our Old Causeway friends love it Sesame Seared with sliced avocado, pineapple, soy glaze, over a soba noodle salad. Beach Haven folks love Rich’s Tuna Spring Rolls at the Black Whale.
We grill or blacken tuna to order, but when we have an affinity for rare or raw – sashimi style or poke. Among the most sought after plates this summer was the Tuna Crackers at Parker’s Garage – raw yellowfin on a Lavash cracker with avocado, sesame and citrus mayo. We discovered Hawaiian poke on our first trips to the Islands. At the Old Causeway, we serve it Hanalei-style over won ton chips. At Shellfish, we can’t seem to make enough of the Poke Nachos over warm tortillas with spicy mayo.
You can decide what’s your favorite, but fresh tuna is always a great call, across the board.
There are several types of fare that truly define summer at the New Jersey Shore. Of course there are the tomatoes that came into season a few weeks ago, sweet and juicy all over the state. There’s boardwalk pizza, favorite ice cream parlors, and the smell of peppers and onions on the grill. But at least as far as seafood is concerned, that most fleeting and delicious plate is the softshell crab.
“Of all our dishes, this is the one I look most forward to in our restaurants. It’s not really something we can serve in the off season. So it represents pure summer and its pure deliciousness,” says co-owner Mel Magaziner.
While some folks think it’s a different species all together, the softshell we eat is the blue claw, that iconic species found from New England down to South America. Take a look. They’re the same, one just has a softer exoskeleton.
The soft shell is a result of the crab’s growth cycle. Since the internal body grows faster than its shell, it essentially has to grow a new one. Known as a “shedder,” the crab cracks the exoskeleton and slowly backs out of the old shell. The crab pumps water into its body and the new shell begins to form. Within three to four days, the shell is completely hard.
This is what makes the softshell such a fleeting delicacy. Soft shell crabs are best as soon as they molt. They’re not often caught in traps because they stop eating during the molting process. That would explain why you don’t randomly get a softy in the trap off your dock. We get our crabs from shedder boxes, often right here on our bay.
The Blue Claw is the only crab that is eaten during the molting process in North America, which makes is that much more special. There are well-known shedder delicacies in Asia. Their Spider Rolls and Chu-chee dishes served in Japanese and Thai restaurants hold up very well with our local blue claws.
Cleaning blue claws should be done as close to cooking them as possible. They aren’t going to pinch at this state, so they’re easy to handle. Actually, you want to be delicate with them. To clean the softy, cut off the front quarter inch of the top shell with scissors. Then lift up the points on either end of the crab. You’ll notice they come up nice and easy. Cut out the gills on each side. Then on the bottom of the crab, you can very easily pull off the apron.
At most of our restaurants, we generally serve them fried or sautéed. Fried, they go into a light batter and into the deep fryer. With lemon, tarter or cocktail sauce, a piece of jersey corn and some coleslaw, this might be one of the most time honored East Coast seafood traditions ever.
When we sauté them, it’s in a bit of garlic, butter and white wine. We do have some variation among our chefs, Rich Schobel at the Black Whale uses some secret herbs. And at Mud City, you can get them over pasta, which some folks go crazy for.
Sautéed is generally for that most hardcore of seafood lovers. There’s nothing between you and that tender-shelled crab. This is what the purists come for.
Either way, they also make for an amazing sandwich with romaine lettuce and Jersey tomato, as the crab’s juices are soaked up by the bun. Occasionally, Ship Bottom Shellfish likes to serve up the particularly tender ones we get in June as its own sautéed appetizer.
At our newest establishment, Parker’s Garage, Chef Kyle has been experimenting with the softies. This summer, he’s been serving up a softshell summer succotash special, fried softshell with pancetta and an Old Bay aioli.
Across the board, let’s just say we don’t have many left at the end of the night.
So while local blue claw crabs can frequently be fickle this time of year, 2015 is off to a historically bad start. Our crabber is blaming the ultra freeze of jan/feb on massive death tolls throughout the local bays. In early spring dredging he said that large amount of dead crabs under the mud were all he was finding. Hopefully the warmer weather will start to show signs of life but the baymen are less than optimistic.
What does this mean for us? Unfortunately it means sourcing crabs from down south (North Carolina and Maryland). Which will ultimately lead to less product at a higher price. But hang tight, Mother Nature tends to throw curve balls so hopefully we’ll see a change in the near future!
One lonely crab out of 30 pots this past week –
(I did this last September and never published – better late than never)
A few days ago I took the opportunity to take my daughter down to the 14 th street docks in Barnegat light – she’s 9 years old now and I thought she might get something out of seeing how a good portion of the fish that comes to mud city reaches land – Rob at Cassidy’s in Viking village runs the fish market and acts as a wholesaler to a good deal of area restaurants – we have been dealing with rob for 20 years or so – he took over the business from Marty Cassidy ( happens to be my partners father ) who ran the market for years prior – lots of history in the BL fish business – I called rob up to find out if there was any tuna and sword in and he told me The Juliann was about to pack out –
Hadley and I got there just in time to see capt Craig and crew off loading part of 6,500 lbs of tuna and sword – the Julianne was on a 7 day trip with great weather and plenty of fish – these guys long line fish which means they set out a 25 mile line of 700 baited hooks let it set for 6-10 hours and then haul it in – the fish that are caught are headed, gutted and packed in the ice hold on the spot – the crew will run 5 “sets” to fill the ice hold before steaming back to the dock – Craig tells me that after the boat is packed out cleaned, re-outfitted and fueled they will head out again tomorrow – the moon is full and the bite is on so he needs to take advantage of the conditions – no time for rest –
As the fish comes off the boat each one is rolled up to the scale, weighed and graded and then packed into individual ice boxes to be shipped off to multiple wholesalers and restaurants –
Tuna is graded on a number system #2 – 2+ – 1 – #1 being true sushi grade 2+ Is excellent as well but may lack some of the fat or color required of a #1 – the tail is cut off and samples are taken from the fish to determine the fat content and color in order to grade the tuna
As the fish come into the dock house rob stands by and hand picks fish for himself and his customers (myself included) – from there rob butchers the whole fish into loins and drives them to the back door of mud city and a handful of other restaurants ( black whale, ship bottom shellfish)- and we in turn put it on a plate for you!
Come get your mud city fix before we close for the season! We are open Thursday-Monday at 11am until our last day on November 30, 2014.
Gift certificates can be purchased online for Mud City throughout the winter. Consider giving the gift of Mud City this holiday season.
Yeah, I know my last and only post was in early may or so but… It’s turned out to be a very busy summer – The storm didn’t keep to many people away from the beach it seem (at least it didn’t keep em away from mud city) and we are very thankful for all your support – here at the restaurant and in the area in general –
A couple new things here at the restaurant this year – most exciting is that we now have a liquor license – we acquired the license for our new project next door (more on that later) and it turned out we were able to cover both properties with one license – we have been offering a light menu for our customers as an option – featuring Narragansett beers on tap, a light wine list of 5 varieties and four cocktails for you to choose from –
We also added some really cool lights on the patio and have been serving lunch out there as well as our appetizer menu on the patio at night ( although these hours will get cut down as fall unfolds) – we’ve been doing live patio music on Sundays and will probably have a few more before it gets too cold – ill keep you posted — or so I say 😉.
About the blog: Now I’m really not much of a blogger or writer in my daily life but I thought this might be a good way to involve you all in our “mud city culture”. I plan on using this as a forum to bring you various information / goings on/ recipes/ ideas/ fish culture and whatever else pops into my head that may or may not be relative to anything. If you have some questions or ideas that would interest you or others feel free to chime in. I hope we can make this work. However, bear with me, as I said, I’m no writer/blogger so if I slack please forgive me – sometimes I’m a little busy! Thanks for looking!.