Union Oyster House Turns 185

By Adam Reilly   |   Wednesday, August 3, 2011
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Aug. 3, 2011

BOSTON — After nearly two centuries of existence, Union Oyster House has its own unique body of lore: From JFK’s favorite booth to a plaque honoring Boston’s first female waitress. And as the restaurant celebrates its 185th anniversary Wednesday, business remains brisk.

Danny Martinez is a teacher visiting from San Diego. During Tuesday’s lunch hour, he enjoyed oysters, cherrystones and a beer. 

Mussels are served at the Union Oyster House. (avhell via Flickr)

“I did my homework because I’m a teacher,” said Martinez. “I did a lot of yelping, go to, and this definitely came up as one of the top one to two (seafood restaurants) in the Boston area.”
Sitting a few yards away, Joe King of County Galway, Ireland was wrapping up a meal of his own — his first since arriving in Boston earlier today. King gives the Union Oyster House’s namesake specialties his stamp of approval, but adds that the legendary oysters from his hometown are even better.
“Well, they’re good here,” King said. “But I think we have better oysters in Clarinbridge.”
With customers from as far away as the West Coast and Europe, it’s no wonder the Union Oyster House has a bit of a reputation as a tourist magnet. Its amply stocked gift shop indicates the restaurant is happy to play the part.

Still, after 185 years in business, there are a few regulars with strong local ties.
“I’m from Charlestown, Mass., originally,” said Tom Roche, as he sat at the Union Oyster House’s legenday U-shaped oyster bar. “I live in California now. Came here for the oysters clams and scallops today... I come back here every year, and this is the place I come to.”
On August 3, the Union Oyster House will celebrate its 185th year of existence with a special menu featuring thirty dollars worth of food for just $1.85. That price is only good from 11 AM to 3 PM, but if you miss it,  take heart. This isn’t the Union Oyster House’s first anniversary special, and chances are it won’t be its last. 

Richard Garcia's Squid Submarine Sandwich

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
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squid sandwich
Chef Garcia's Squid Submarine Sandwich

Seeking an alternative to the dismal meatball sandwiches from school cafeterias past, Chef Garcia has crafted local squid balls out of ground Long Fin squid from Point Judith, RI; breadcrumbs, garlic and marjoram; sandwiched in a black squid ink sesame submarine roll, topped with crispy tentacles and an old school tomato sauce he learned as a kid.

The sandwich combines chef Garcia’s passion for local, sustainable seafood and affinity for a good ol’ meatball sandwich, with a result that is as comforting as it is adventurous. “It’s a great alternative to a heavy meatball sub," says Garcia. "Once we add the seasoning and sauce, it literally tastes the same! Neither the squid nor the ink impart distinct flavors, so it’s more of a novelty than culinary genius, but always a hit when we feature it on the specials menu.”

Squid Submarine Sandwich

Ink Bread

3/4 oz Dry Yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups warm filtered water
2 oz unsalted butter (melted)
1 tsp Granulated sugar
2 TB squid ink
2 lbs AP Flour
2 tsp kosher salt

In bowl fitted with dough hook place all ingredients except for the flour and salt.
Place mixer on lowest setting and allow yeast to dissolve completely and all remaining ingredients to incorporate.
Add flour & salt and mix until a ball is formed.
Cover and place in a warm area of the kitchen. Allow to double in size
Punch down and remove from bowl onto floured surface. Cut into 4 oz balls. Shape the balls into ovals and uncovered  allow to rise (double in size) in warm area of kitchen again.
Brush with an egg wash before baking at 350F for 9-11 minutes.
Squid Meatballs

3 tbsp EVOO
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 lb cleaned fresh squid tubes & tentacles
1 TB chopped FRESH oregano
1 TB chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup finely ground panko bread crumbs
AP Flour for coating  meatballs
Red Sauce of Your choice (see below)

Saute the garlic & red onion in the extra virgin olive oil until translucent (do not allow to get any color).
Season the garlic and onion mixture with salt & pepper.
Process the tubes and tentacles ( reserve a few tentacles for garnish) in a food processor.
With the machine still running slowly incorporate the garlic mixture into the squid and then add the herbs, red pepper flake  and bread crumbs. Season with salt & pepper.
Form into meatballs and place in the freezer for 15 minutes to allow to set up properly.
Dust meatballs in flour and sauté in olive oil until golden brown.
Heat up your red sauce and add the meatballs, cook the meatballs in the sauce over low heat for 15 minutes

Old School Tomato Sauce

1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
10 lb of your farmers over ripe tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cored, and coarsely chopped
10 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
1 red onion sliced thinly
1 cup SPANISH extra-virgin olive oil (sorry I can never resist saying that)
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Toss salt and sugar with tomatoes in a large bowl, then let stand until you can see lots of juice, this will take about 15 minutes.

Cook the onions and garlic in the extra virgin olive oil in a wide 8 to 10-quart heavy pot over low-moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully add tomato mixture, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, covered, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring more frequently toward end of cooking, until sauce is thickened and reduced by half which will take about 3 hours. Add your fresh basil and force sauce through food mill (if you don't have a food mill, you can put everything in a food processor at this time or a blender)  into a large bowl, discarding all the solids left in the food mill. Ladle sauce into airtight containers and cool completely, uncovered, then freeze, covered if you’re not going to use right away. This makes about 2 qts of sauce.


Richard Garcia is the Executive Chef of the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. He is one of the many chefs who will be at the Taste of WGBH Food and Wine Festival on September 13-15, 2012. Be sure to check out his Chef Demo on Saturday.

Lobster: Cheaper than Bologna

By Toni Waterman   |   Tuesday, July 17, 2012
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July 17, 2012

Listen: Toni Waterman reports and WGBH science editor Heather Goldstone adds her perspective.

SOUTH BOSTON, Mass. — If you’re the type of person who associates lobster with big, celebratory events, then you’re in luck. With prices lower than they’ve been in decades, something as simple as — well, a Tuesday night can be reason to celebrate.
It’s 6 a.m. at Medeiros Dock in South Boston. The sun is just coming up as lobsterman Steven Holler gets his boat, the November Gale, ready for a day at sea. He steps into his bright orange bib pants, slips on his galoshes and then effortlessly glides his boat to the bait dock.
He loads $700 worth of fish on to the deck. And by 6:15, Holler and his crew of one set off to haul lobster traps in the waters off Boston’s Harbor Islands.
Lobsters, lobsters everywhere
In 35 years in the business, Holler says he’s never seen a lobster season quite like this one. It all started this spring.
“We came out to haul that gear expecting to get 30 or 40 pounds and what we saw was just totally off the charts. Something we’ve never seen before. There were just lobsters everywhere,” he says.
Plentiful catches came early, flooding the lobster market up the East Coast. And since it was May, there weren’t enough tourists to eat them up.
And if there’s one thing we all learned in economics class: Surpluses make prices plummet.
Lobstermen in the Boston area are getting $3 - $3.50 a pound right now. Retail prices are a bit higher at around $5, which means that the price is running pretty equal to a bologna sandwich.
“I looked at a slip from last year and it was anywhere between $4.50 - $4.75 per pound,” says Holler. "The price we’re getting is something like you’d get in the '80s — mid-'80s. And we’re paying 2012 fuel prices, bait prices and labor prices.”
The problem in a nut lobster shell
Lobster is even cheaper further north: The Wall Street Journal reports that some lobstermen in Maine are getting as low as $1.25 a pound. And it doesn’t seem to be going up anytime soon, because now there’s another factor dragging prices down: soft-shells. Those are lobsters that have just shed their shells and are growing into new, bigger ones.
The shedding process usually doesn’t start until mid-July, but lobstermen this year have been catching soft-shells since May.
“A soft-shell lobster is veal in the lobster world,” says Holler. “It is tender. It is sweet.”
Sweet, but fragile — too fragile to ship long distances, which puts even more lobsters in the Northeast supply chain.
A solution: Eat up
“The public has to know: there’s a lot of lobsters out there,” says Holler. “So the more lobster people buy, hopefully it will be better for the industry and hopefully that trickles down to the fisherman.”
There’s one more big factor playing in this perfect storm: Canadian processing plants, which usually buy up any extra lobsters, aren’t. They had strong catches this season too and already have their own backlog of lobsters.
Still, Holler says he will keep setting his traps, even if it means catching too much of a good thing.

Bill Adler of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association talks about the problem on Greater Boston.

Summer Cooking Tips from The Summer Shack

By WGBH News   |   Thursday, July 14, 2011
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Jul. 15, 2011

A tasty lobster plate (jazzy4flickr/flickr)


BOSTON — It's hard to find someone who knows more about New England seafood than Jasper White. White owns the popular Summer Shack in Cambridge, and he joined WGBH's Emily Rooney to give some tips on cooking lobster, charcoal grilling and buying fresh seafood.

Cooking Lobster

  • Don't boil lobster, steam it. It cooks slower, the meat gets more tender, and not as tough as when you boil it.

  • Make a rack out of an upside-down colander or out of rock weed instead of buying a new one.

  • Put an egg in the pot. When the egg is cooked, the lobster is cooked.

Charcoal Grilling

  • Buy a big charcoal grill. Charcoal adds a smokey flavor to your meat or fish.

  • Make a big concentrated fire.This way you can use a large range of temperatures.

  • The smaller the meat or fish, the larger the fires should be.

  • When grilling chicken, cover the grill so it acts as an oven.

Buying Fresh Seafood

  • If you're close to the source, go to the source. Buy from fishermen coming back in for the day.

  • Create a relationship with who runs the market. They always know what's best to buy that day.

  • Fresh fish has a shiny look.

  • Fresh fish does NOT have an odor. If it does, it's a few days old.

These tips and full recipies are found in Jasper's cookbok, The Summer Shack Cookbook, now avaliable in paperback.

About the Authors
Adam Reilly Adam Reilly
Adam Reilly is a political reporter and associate producer for WGBH's Greater Boston.
The WGBH News team comprises the WGBH radio newsroom, The Callie Crossley Show, The Emily Rooney Show and WGBH Channel 2 reporters and producers from Greater Boston and Basic Black. 


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