Toast To The Coast

New Englander Shares His Favorite Seafood Recipes

Top, from left, are clam chowder and crab cakes. Bottom, from left, are Grape-Nuts pudding and marinated steak tips over rice. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

T.J. Sadowski remembers his interest in food and cooking began around the age of 9, but his first glimpse inside a professionally-run kitchen happened when he was 12 years old.

“My father was in the military and my mom took me to work with her at a convention center on a night when she had no babysitter,” Sadowski says. “The chef was CIA (Culinary Institute of America) trained. During the downtime the chef would let me watch.”

The opportunity came up for the young man to work as a banquet waiter at a very early age.

“The first time I waited tables, it was at an event with 6,000 people,” he says.

By the time he was 15 years old he was working at an ice cream parlor where the ice cream was made on-site.

T.J. Sadowski has worked in many capacities for diners, restaurants, convention centers and corporations. He is currently creating meals at Ye Olde Ed and Jen’s Busti’s Tap House. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“(The owner) got me interested in being creative, using things most people wouldn’t touch, even cheap things to make something special,” says the Jamestown resident. “Working for him and dealing with the chef (earlier), gave me the thought of working in the kitchen.”

Sadowski worked as a banquet waiter at several hotels in Providence, R.I., but transitioned into being a banquet manager, managing million-dollar functions. By the time he was 24 years old, he was a restaurant manager working for several restaurants owned by corporations, where he says he got the best training, “but would not want to go back.” He still uses this training when ordering, doing inventory and keeping costs and payroll down.

He started doing some of the cooking himself to save costs.

“The more I did that, the more I wanted to cook,” he says.

The cook tells a story about a kitchen disaster that took place in Mystic, Conn, just minutes into the dinner hour and was too up close and personal for his liking. He and the restaurant’s assistant manager were standing in the kitchen when the automatic release of the Ansul System malfunctioned, releasing “a mountain” of dry chemical meant to suppress fires. Because of health department rules all food, including food in storage and in the walk-in cooler, had to be thrown away. This resulted in disposal of $30,000 worth of food and clean-up that took three weeks.

Clam chowder

Later Sadowski moved to Jamestown, following his parents to the area where they had vacationed several times when he was young. He spent many years cooking for Shawbuck’s, where he enjoyed working until he reached a point where he thought he wanted to get out of food service. He took a job at Walmart, but soon found himself managing the deli. Again, in an attempt to get out of corporate employment, he applied at some small restaurants in the Jamestown area. He is currently cooking at Ye Olde Ed and Jen’s Busti’s Tap House, which opened July 1.

Dave Attard, owner of the business, along with his wife Maryann, said, “Everyone kept saying ‘Oh, you bought the old Ed and Jen’s.'”

Even though three other businesses occupied the space between then and now, the business that was there from 1966 until 1985 is the most remembered, therefore the Attards incorporated the name into the new business.

“I like the people. I like the service,” says Ernie Hartman, who is a regular customer at the business establishment.

“They are very friendly and call you by name,” says his wife, Jeannie Hartman. “They bring in entertainment and it’s nice to have it in Busti.”

As for Sadowski, he likes to “play” in the kitchen when he has time and likes to play video games for relaxation after a long day. Reading, especially about history and research, is a passion. He admits he will argue a point until proven wrong. He has a 14 year-old daughter named Brianna.

Having grown up in New England, Sadowski has offered a few seafood recipes, a few diner recipes and a few of his own creations. He says the Grape-Nuts Pudding and the Marinated Steak Tips are New England diner food. This writer was offered a sampling of both dishes, as well as the crab cakes and clam chowder and found all to be very good, but being a lover of carbs, was taken with the Grape-Nuts Pudding.

“Grape-Nuts Pudding has been around since the 1900s. C.J. Post created Grape-Nuts because Kellogg’s was pushing healthy cereal,” says the cook. “The oldest known Grape-Nuts Pudding recipe was found in a Boston church cookbook. In the 1920s it became popular around New England and a variation is found in most diners today.”

Sadowski came up with the steak tips recipe when he needed to use leftovers. They can be served over egg noodles or white rice. He has added more bacon to a basic clam chowder recipe and adds Tabasco in the kitchen, rather than serving it with the dish.

“My favorite sandwich is crab cake sandwich. It is an East Coast tradition. It started as a basic recipe, but I just took it my way.” He serves chili aioli with the sandwich. He likes “heat” with seafood.

The recipes offered today were given a lot of thought by the cook, who had to adjust them as he wrote them.

He believes one uses many senses when cooking, including smell, touch and hearing, referring to the sound, such as when searing meat.

“The Marinated Steak Tips is a simple one, but one of my favorites.”

Ye Olde Ed and Jen’s Busti’s Tap House is open 3:30-9 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; noon to midnight Friday and Saturday; and noon-6 p.m. on Sunday. They are closed Mondays. Dinners are served every day and lunches are served Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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MARINATED STEAK TIPS

2 lbs sirloin tips, cubed

1 c caesar dressing (traditional, not creamy)

2 T minced garlic

1/4 c brown sugar

3 T grated parmesan

4 T olive oil (2 for marinade, 2 for cooking)

Mix ingredients well, only using 2 tbsp of olive oil for the marinade, reserve the other 2 for cooking. Marinate meat overnight for best results. Heat a skillet with remaining oil. Cook until desired temperature (I prefer medium-rare). Serve over pasta or rice. Goes well with brown rice.

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CRAB CAKES (SERVES 4)

1/2 onion, finely diced

1tsp butter

1 egg

11/2 T Dijon mustard

1 c plain bread crumbs

1/4 c panko bread crumbs

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp Old Bay seasoning

1 tsp Tabasco

1 lb lump crab meat

Olive oil

8 oz mayonnaise

3 tsp chili oil

Saute onions in butter until soft. Place in a bowl and let cool. Once onions are cooled, stir in egg, Dijon, both bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay, and Tabasco. Fold in crab meat. Form into 8 patties and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set. In a large frying pan, fill bottom of pan with olive oil and heat over low to medium heat. Cook crab cakes about 5 minutes on each side until browned. Place on a paper towel-lined plate. In a bowl, mix mayonnaise and chili oil for a sauce.

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CHICKEN SKILLET WITH PEARS (SERVES 4)

4 pears, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

2 small red onions, sliced

1/2 tsp chili powder

kosher salt

fresh cracked black pepper

4 T olive oil (2 portions of 2 T)

4-6-8 oz chicken breasts

1 c chicken broth

1 T thyme

I like to use a cast iron pan, but you can use any skillet that can be placed in the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat pan over medium to high heat. Saute pears and onion in 2 T olive oil with chili powder. After they soften, remove to plate and lightly season with salt and pepper. Sear chicken in the same pan with the remaining olive oil, about 4 minutes per side. Add the chicken broth, pears, and onions. Place pan in oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees. Let stand about 5 minutes and serve.

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CLAM CHOWDER (SERVES 6)

4 slices bacon, cut into small strips

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 c water

3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2 celery stalks, diced

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

2-6.5 oz cans clams, drained, reserving juice

11/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 c heavy cream

1 c milk

31/2 T flour

4 T Tabasco

Heat a pot over medium heat, add bacon. Cook until crisp. Remove bacon, leaving grease in pot. Add onions and garlic. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add water, potatoes, celery, salt, pepper, clam juice, Worcestershire sauce and heavy cream. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. In a bowl, whisk milk and flour until smooth. Add mixture and clams to pot and simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened. Fold Tabasco into chowder. Serve topped with prepared bacon.

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STUFFIES

8 quahogs

3 T butter

1 onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 c Italian seasoned bread crumbs

4 tsp grated parmesan

2 lemons, cut into wedges for garnish

hot sauce, if desired

Preheat oven to 350. Scrub clams (quahogs) well and place on a sheet pan. Heat clams in oven until they open. Let cool. Remove clams and pour juice into a bowl. Set aside shells. Poach clams for 3 minutes, then chop. In a large frying pan, saute onions and peppers until soft. Add garlic and cook 1 to 2 more minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in clams, bread crumbs and parmesan. Moisten as needed with clam juice. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Separate shells and stuff each half. Place on a sheet pan. Bake until hot and slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce.

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GRAPE-NUTS PUDDING (SERVES 8)

Butter

1 c Grape-Nuts cereal

4 c milk

4 eggs

1/2 c sugar

2 1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 2-quart baking dish. In a medium saucepan over medium to high heat, simmer Grape-Nuts and milk. Turn off heat and stir. Let cool for 15 minutes. In a bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Add milk and cereal mixture and stir well. Pour mix into prepared pan and sprinkle nutmeg over top. Put baking dish into a deep roasting pan and fill roasting pan with water halfway up baking dish. Bake 55 minutes until the center is almost set. Check center with a toothpick and make sure it comes out clean. If not, put back in until pick comes out clean. Let sit for 20 minutes. Can be served as is or cooled in the refrigerator. If desired, serve with whipped cream.

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