Island Cooking

Best Island

by Chef Jenn Farmer

This morning I took a ferry ride to Hyannis, and it reminded me how much I love Nantucket. Don’t get me wrong, Hyannis has its positive qualities, but in the summer, I can think of few places I like better than here. It was fun seeing the influx of tourists on the Cape, and I did enjoy many conversations
with people who were just visiting for a day or two. That day made me appreciate where I live that much more. Nantucket is beautiful; we have cobblestones, not concrete. We have ocean views from nearly every part of the island. Even when we are fighting for places to park, and trying not to run over “guests” who are oblivious to crosswalks (or sidewalks for that matter), we have it better than they do across the pond. I love this island, and needed to be reminded that even at the heights of chaos, during the tourist season- we are blessed.

So upon arriving back on this fair Island I decided to call up a few friends to join me for a bite to eat, and just sit outside and converse in the briny salt air. I actually give a lot of credit to the air here; it inspires me to be active and physical. It also inspires my dinner selections. Something about the
ocean breeze here has a bit of voodoo and seduction, something that cannot be bottled or duplicated. Imagine the salt air cooling you after a warm day in the sun and surf…then imagine eating freshly caught striper and drinking a cold Cisco beer while your lips are being tickled by the briny breeze. Or my favorite part of the day, late in the evening when all is quiet and still, the sound of surf in the distance, and the ocean breeze whispering you into a deep satisfying slumber. Nothing beats the salt air here—nothing! So with the inspiration of ocean air here are a few items I whipped up to enjoy along with the great conversation, local beer, and some fresh catch. It was a hit, and here are some of the favorites. I especially love these meatballs, since they translate well to all seasons, and they look very pretty and colorful—plus cranberries are so very Nantucket.


  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • one 12ounce bag of cranberries, fresh
  • 1 teaspoon citrus zest
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced or grated
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon jalapeno, minced
  • Salt


  • 1 cup coarse breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 half pounds ground turkey meat (ground chicken is ok substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Make the meatball sauce by cooking the sugar, water, and cranberries together. When the cranberries begin to plump and are about to burst add the remaining ingredients, stir and taste. Cook for 5 more minutes, and taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, but remembers it should be a bit tart and spicy; the meatballs will mellow out the flavors when they are added. Puree and keep the sauce warm.

To make the meatballs, soak the bread in milk, then add all the remaining ingredients. Stir well. Cook a small amount of the turkey mixture in a sauté pan and taste it. Adjust the seasonings if necessary. Form in to mini meatballs. I like to pan fry my meatballs in olive oil before tossing them in a little of the cranberry sauce, but they are just as good baked in an oven at 425 for 7-10 minutes (or longer if they are larger). Toss the hot, fully cooked meatballs in to a bit of the warm cranberry mixture and
serve hot. Yields about 30-40 meatballs


  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus one tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 slices bread (I like to use Portuguese, but any type is pretty delicious)
  • 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 lb. quality Ham (Serrano is my favorite, but Black Forest is nice too)
  • 2 large eggs or 8 quail eggs (local Nantucket eggs are best –Thanks Peter!)
  • Fresh tarragon or other fresh herb

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. When it is melted carefully whisk in the flour. Make a roux, cooking for several minutes. Whisk in the milk and bring it to a simmer add a sprinkle of nutmeg, salt and bay leaf. Whisk occasionally to prevent burning and lumps. Set aside keeping warm- remove bay leaf Make the sandwiches by smearing the bread with a bit of Dijon, then evenly distributing the cheese and ham between the slices of bread. Heat one tablespoon of the butter in a sauté pan. Cook the sandwiches until golden brown on each side (like a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich should be).

Cook each egg up (or all together if using quail eggs) over easy or medium is about perfect for this dish. Top each sandwich with the white sauce and egg/eggs, and freshly cracked black pepper cut into eighths and dust with fresh herbs and eat immediately. So good, writing about this is making me hungry. Serves 4


  • 1/2 head cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 carrot, finely shredded
  • 1 stalk celery, shredded
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded fresh kale
  • 1 finely diced tomato
  • Half cup real mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon sweet onion grated
  • 1 Tablespoon pineapple juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries or blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Salt and pepper

Combine the cabbage, kale, carrots, and celery in a bowl. Toss with a little salt to help release the water from the vegetables so the sauce does not get diluted. Meanwhile mix together the remaining ingredients to make the sauce. Drain the water off the slaw, and mix with the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serves about 4

Articles by Date from 2012