It might be surprising to find a seasoned, CIA trained chef at Mt. Kisco Seafood. Yet, owner Joe Di Mauro’s customers know differently, and they rely on chef Jonathan Everin for freshly prepared, ready to go, meals for lunch or dinner and superb catering for all their parties. Just a peek at the stocked refrigerated cases full of chowders, bisques, sauces and salads shows a small portion of Jon’s handiwork. I had the unique pleasure of spending a day in his kitchen and experienced exactly how things work at Mt. Kisco Seafood.
Specialty store: Mt. Kisco Seafood in Mt. Kisco
Description: Owner Joe Di Mauro and his staff are Westchester/Putnam’s local fishmongers, and they bring our area an extensive variety of the freshest seafood available. But wait, there’s more … like produce from Cabbage Hill, specialty meats from D’Artagnan, cheeses from Rainbeau Ridge, or breads from Red Barn Bakery. Mt. Kisco Seafood has a country market feel with all the bells and whistles of a one stop shopping gourmet market. Of course, there’s always a delicious selection of prepared items straight from chef Jon Everin’s kitchen like White Clam Sauce, Crab Cakes or Lobster Bisque. So, whether you need to pick up dinner on the way home or organize a clam bake party, Mt. Kisco Seafood is always happy to help.
Owner: It’s no wonder that owner Joe Di Mauro is an expert on all things fishy since he’s been doing this for over 30 years and obviously loves every fin, gill and shell of it.
Executive chef: When executive chef Jonathan Everin is not in Mt. Kisco Seafood’s kitchen making appetizing lunches and dinners for customers, he’s stirring up chili for national competitions. He recently won the Hudson Valley Regional chili cookoff, coming in first place, and also placed second in the New York City competition in the salsa category.
In his free time, Jon caters events like teacher appreciation day at Horace Greeley High School or cooks kosher meals every Friday for the conservative temple’s Saturday Sabbath. Jon started out studying engineering, but midway through he decided to follow his passion and enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America. One of his first positions was working at Howard Johnson’s in the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers.
Sous chef: Marcos Baldone
Intern: Isabella, a senior from Horace Greeley High School, comes in for a few hours every day to help out. She enjoys working in the kitchen and learning, but in the fall she’s off to Johns-Hopkins to major in cognitive science.
Behind the counter: The staff at Mt. Kisco Seafood are happy to assist customers pick the perfect piece of fish, suggest cooking methods, and offer to help choose a side or two to go with it.
What’s in the case:
It was kismet the day I was there, because so was the Ivory King Salmon.
Yes, that salmon is white. About 6% of Wild King Salmon (that usually have red flesh) have a genetic abnormality that produces an extra enzyme which allows it to process carotene rather than collect it. Carotene is in the shrimp and krill that salmon eat, and it gives them their typical red or pink color. The Ivory King Salmon’s unique white flesh is mild and silky (I made some for dinner that night!). It’s a short season to the end of June for the King Salmon, so you’ll have to hurry if you want to enjoy some for yourself.
Here’s another special item in the case:
It’s “hard” to believe that these soft shell crabs are just blue crabs in disguise in their very soft molted state.
Signature dish: The Tuna Carpaccio is always available on Saturdays, but this signature dish is only a phone call away to order during the week. And that’s a good thing, since it is really something special. The tuna is first marinated in teriyaki sauce and seared quickly, keeping it perfectly rare on the inside. Jon then thinly slices it into squares and plates it onto a platter with a sprinkling of scallions.
The housemade wasabi mayo goes right in the center and the dish is then completed with some seaweed crackers.
This beautiful platter is another example of the concept of “no waste” in the kitchen. Jon uses trimmed pieces of tuna which were not large enough to portion for the case but were the perfect size for the carpaccio.
Coolest appliance: The tall box off to the side wasn’t a time machine, but an industrial-sized rotisserie.
All fish and no meat gets a little boring, so this behemoth gently twirls chickens on a spit to crispy golden perfection as they baste in their own juices.
Size of kitchen: The kitchen is a fairly large space measuring about 15 ft x 30 ft, with two walk-in refrigerators, and two chest freezers that can also double as counter space. There’s a triple basin industrial sink along the side wall and a humongous ice machine (it keeps all that fish nice and chilly).
Size of prep area: The 6 ft x 3 ft counter in front of the stoves was spacious enough for two of us to work in comfort.
The long 10 ft x 3 ft stainless steel prep table across from the sink area was used as our assembly space to package the finished items in quarts, pints or flat containers.
Turning up the heat: With 12 burners of heat between them, the Tristar and Vulcan stoves are the workhorses of this kitchen. They handle the enormous simmering stock pots with ease.
Most complicated dish on the menu: Jon’s response that he doesn’t find one single dish difficult or complicated really shocked me. He went on to explain that he has “deconstructed” each dish (basically breaking down every component) to make the recipe easier to execute. For instance, it takes time to develop rich flavors when cooking a bouillabaisse (a traditional French seafood stew). Jon has his own method of achieving a savory broth by adding the clams, mussels, fish, scallops, squid and shrimp in a specific order and leaving them in for a certain amount time.
Secret ingredient: Shhhhh, do you know what makes the Lobster Bisque so addictive? ~~ a quick pour or two of sherry.
Favorite kitchen gadget: My favorite food processor on steroids, the Robot Coupe, just went up a notch in my book when I found out that it has attachments.
Jon uses the continuous feed chute with the julienne disc to thinly slice carrots and broccoli for slaw.
I kicked myself thinking how many times I’ve just thrown away broccoli stems when I could have made this healthy (and yummy!) slaw.
What’s on the prep list: This was as close to a prep list that I could see
but Jon knew exactly what needed to be done. In a restaurant kitchen, orders are constantly coming in fast and furious from the dining room. Although this kitchen had its own more relaxed rhythm, time was still a factor. Obviously, the store can’t run out of items like Stuffed Clams or Tomato Basil Crab Bisque.
What’s cooking in the kitchen now: Dish after dish (I counted over 12) were completed and packaged in trays, pints and quarts. Here’s a visual sampling:
Music: There was no music in the kitchen on the day I was there; but at exactly noon, the guys took a break for family lunch and a small mounted TV was tuned into “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” A friendly competition ensued as answers and lively comments bounced back and forth.
My random insights: Jon has a hinged faucet to the side of the stove that fills up stock pots with ease. What a great idea! Aghhhh, why didn’t I think of that for my own kitchen?
Every day Joe Di Mauro has a different blackboard trivia question for his customers.
Is it Georgia? and do I win another amazing day at Mt. Kisco Seafood?
Details: Mt. Kisco Seafood, 477 Lexington Avenue, Mt.Kisco. 914.241.3113. Open 7 days a week: Monday thru Friday, 9 am to 7 pm; Saturday, 9 am to 6 pm; and Sunday, 9 am to 4 pm.
Patrice Costa is a passionate foodie who is on a personal culinary mission to learn it all from local chefs. She looks forward to sharing her experiences as she goes behind the kitchen door in some of her favorite restaurant kitchens. When not on foodie assignments, she can be found working in the open kitchen at Thyme Restaurant in Yorktown.