Last week I was in Stone Harbor, NJ. Ryan’s family has been going with four other families, every year, for over a decade. It’s pretty flipping amazing and awesome. All week there is so much laughing and handing out. And even though we don’t always see everyone a ton during the year, that week at the beach it’s like time hasn’t passed. It was a blast to sit on the beach, splash around in the water, and just hang out. And of course, there’s lots of good eating.
We started out the week by cooking for our family. Ryan and I made pasta with shrimp and scallops in a white wine sauce. Sounds delicious right? And luckily our family is super nice, and told us that it was delicious. But, in our opinion it was mediocre. Cooking in a rental kitchen is hard folks! It took half an hour to boil water for pasta, we had to chop with a steak knife, and we set off the fire alarm. Everything tasted fine, it just didn’t come out exactly right and so we were disappointed. But after that comic disaster our meals greatly improved. If you’re ever in Stone Harbor here are my recommendations for some places to eat.
Quahogs From the outside this place looks tiny and can easily be overlooked, but inside is a surprisingly spacious and cozy restaurant. They have indoor and outdoor seating so you can choose your pleasure. I’ve always sat outside, and I feel like it’s not breezy enough and so can be stuffy – but I deal with it because I really like eating outside. Eating here is all about the seafood. Everything is fresh and the textures and flavors are so vibrant and bright that everything is a joy to eat. Start with oyster shooters. It’s so good, I want to make a cold soup out of it. Be careful though, because at $4.50 you can get your bill high pretty quickly. The lobster taquitos are also amazing. When I think of taquitos, I always think of those disgusting logs of mysteriousness that my college friends used to get from 7-11 on the way home from the bar. But these are three small little tacos overflowing with lobster meat. But the best thing you can eat at Quahogs is the moqueca. It’s a Brazilian seafood stew and it’s amazing. The last time I went, six out of eight of us ordered it – and many of us wiped the plate clean. There’s five kinds of seafood, the sauce is out of this world, and it’s slurp it up good. Also this place was on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Mike’s Seafood Yes, there’s more seafood to be eaten. Mike’s Seafood is great because you can get epic meals with multiple kinds of seafood, and some of the options are under $30. This past week I got the Steamed Combo which has shrimp, flounder, scallops, and lobster. How awesome is that? But the best thing I ever got is only on their take out menu. It’s the Shore Feast for Two. Ryan and I shared and for $53 we got what is basically a trough of seafood. It has two lobsters, corn on the cob, potatoes, shrimp, clams, and mussels. Awesome.
The Painted Pie This adorable purple bakery sells a small variety of pastries made with seasonal fruits and fresh ingredients. They probably have about six or more options each day, and it’s really quite enough. There are scones fat with fruit chunks, gorgeous pies with star shaped crusts, and light and fluffy quiches. It’s a great way to start the day.
Now when I was a kid, my family used to vacation in Cape May, which is only a short drive from Stone Harbor. My favorite bakery then was La Patisserie. From what I can tell, this place no longer exists in the same format but it seems from my internet research, that bakery is still in Cape May but makes wedding cakes. When I was a kid I thought this place was so cool because they made bread in the shapes of animals. One time my parents let us get a loaf, but unfortunately I don’t remember the shape. But my favorite thing to get was the pig cookie. It wasn’t anything crazy, just a sugar cookie with royal icing and a chocolate chip eye. But I loved it. So when I started vacationing with Ryan, we’d take a drive to Cape May and pick up a bunch of pig cookies. And then three years ago we went and they weren’t there. The lady at the shop told me they no longer made them. A few weeks later when my mom was in Cape May, she too went in search of pig cookies and found out that the chef left and took the recipe. Anyway, when I found out there were no more cookies I stormed out of the bakery, with Ryan bewildered and hungry behind me. He had wanted to order and I was too upset to stay there a moment longer. A little dramatic yes, but I was sad. And so although there are no more official pig cookies, I still think of them every year. So now I’m home, and as my tan faded and I was back at work and in the thick of my regular routine, I decided to make my own pig cookies. I wanted to bring back a piece of the vacation to Arlington. They’re not the same cookie, but they make me feel nice anyway. And who couldn’t use a good sugar cookie now and then?
Before we get to the recipes and pictures, let me warn you, I’m having a mild feud with my oven. It’s been running a bit hot so I got an oven thermometer to better understand what’s happening in there. When I went to make the cookies I set the oven, waited for the oven light to go off, and then I checked the thermometer, it said 350° so I was good to go. And then 13 minutes later I took out my cookies and they were brown. BROWN! And the thermometer said 400°. Sigh. Luckily these cookies still taste good even though some were overcooked. Let’s call the brown ones “pigs in the mud.” I did better on the second batch. Moral of the story – check on your cookies before the timer goes off!
This recipe is adapted from The Art of the Cookie, which is a really gorgeous book that has many yummy recipes and impressive decorating ideas.
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk (the book says heavy cream, but I’m not buying a whole thing of heavy cream for 1 tbsp. I’ve just used milk and it works fine)
1. In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In another large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. If you use an electric mixer, this takes about 2 minutes.
3. Add the egg and the vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture. Beat on low speed until the egg is completely mixed in.
4. Still on low, slowly mix in the flour a little bit at a time. Mix until it’s almost incorporated. This means that it’s ok if you can still see bits of flour.
5. Add the milk. Mix until everything is incorporated.
6. Scoop up the dough, press it into a rectangle/square/blob shape and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Stick in the fridge for anywhere between 1 hour to overnight. You can also wrap it super tightly and freeze it for up to a month (that’s what the book says). What I did was I made two blobs of dough, put one in the fridge to make and one in the freezer for later. With the blob I baked, it made 15 cookies.
7. Preheat oven to 350°
8. If you don’t want to make cut out shapes, just tear a little pieces of dough and make small circle cookies. If you want to make shapes, generously flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4″ thick. You can roll out the dough in stages, you don’t have to do the whole thing at once.
9. Use cookie cutters to make the shapes you want. I made pig and Star Wars shapes. Why not, right?
10. Use a spatula or your hands to place the cookies on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Leave some breathing room between the cookies.
11. Bake until the edges of the cookie are slightly golden. The book says this could take 16-19. In the past it’s taken me 12-13 minutes, and this time with the crazy oven fiasco the perfect time was 10 minutes. So check you oven occasionally to see how long it will take.
12. Let cool for a few minutes… if you can!
13. Decorate!!! I did three types of decorating: sprinkles, royal icing, and gel icing from a tube. The sprinkles I put on after step 10 and before I put them in the oven. The royal icing and gel icing I put on after. I used this royal icing recipe, and then added 2 drops of red food coloring to make pink. Royal icing dries hard, but not crunchy. It’s sweet and reminds me of my old Cape May cookies. I put chocolate chip eyes on the pigs when the cookies were still warm and fresh from the oven.
Messy Level: I’m giving this two spoons. It’s not that messy or difficult to make this recipe. The biggest mess came from all the flour and rolling out the dough. Also sprinkles get every where so that’s a bit annoying, but at least it’s a colorful mess.