Hunting the Slipper Lobster at Sea Breeze Fish Market in Bensonhurst
Editor's note: It's time for another dispatch from Serious Eats community member BaHa, aka Barbara Hanson, who checks in now and again about the various one-of-a-kind food stores and markets in New York. She told us that this title is a nod to "Hunt the Slipper," a childrens parlor game from the 1800s that's featured prominently in PG Wodehouse and other fiction of that ilk.
A couple of months ago, my friend Jim (who, earlier, had led me to the land of cevapcici) mentioned that his mother made a fish stew on Christmas Eve that invariably contained slippers.
I was about to ask Jim about that, as I was pretty sure his family wasn’t dining on a combination of seafood and footwear, when he told me that he didn’t really know what they were, but that they tasted a bit like lobster, a bit like shrimp.
Obviously, I was going to have to do some research. Armed with a sketchy description and complete faith in Google, I found that the slipper lobster is a clawless relative of both the spiny and furry lobsters. They are also known, not quite so appetizingly, as bugs, and look rather like seagoing rhinoceri sporting CDs for antennae.
The place to go, Jim told me, was the Sea Breeze Fish Market in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a Sicilian fishmonger that has served several generations of Brooklynites; the line of customers runs out the door and down the block on Christmas Eve.
Sea Breeze lives up to its name, smelling freshly and brinily of the ocean, as a good fish market should. And, to someone who grew up on lemon sole and Sau-Sea Shrimp Cocktail, it feels distinctly more European than the store where we bought our fish each Friday.
Customers were placing orders in both Italian and English. I spotted scungilli, vongole, and calamari—but no slipper. I was about to give up when a large freezer caught my eye. In it were bags and bags of slippers. Had I done a bit more research, I would have learned that slippers live in warm oceans, and are only available frozen here.
The good-natured counterman teased me about having to borrow money from my husband to pay for the fish, then I was on my way home with a bagful of weird-looking, stunted shellfish tails, and no idea what to do with them.
After shelling 1 1/2 pounds, leaving me with 3/4 pound of meat, I decided to treat it as I would shrimp, winding up with Slippers in Garlic and Parsley Sauce.
Sea Breeze Fish Market
8500 18th Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11214 (map)