CHEF: Demetrios Haronis
LOCATION: Atlantic City
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALEKSEY MORYAKOV
Long before “locavore” entered the public lexicon, chef Demetrios Haronis was an ardent practitioner. During a childhood spent in the kitchen of his parent’s Wildwood restaurant, he learned to cook with what was locally available. “There was no term for it, but that’s what I’ve been doing all my life,” Haronis says. “That’s how I grew up, that’s how we ate.”
As executive chef at Fin, Tropicana’s oceanfront restaurant in Atlantic City, Haronis considers seafood caught by local fishermen an obvious choice for the menu. For this he relies on Viking Village, a Marine Stewardship Council–certified seafood purveyor in Barnegat Light that is supplied by a fl eet of 40 independently owned fishing vessels. Their swordfish, which is fi shed along the East Coast from the Carolinas to the Grand Banks and packed out on the Barnegat Light docks, is a menu staple at Fin.
For swordfish, Haronis chooses a super-simple, minimal preparation, which refl ects the cooking philosophy he learned from his Greek parents. “That’s how we cooked at home and that’s how they cook in Greece—keep it simple but use really fresh ingredients.” With a simple preparation, quality—or the lack of it—will show through. Fish, Haronis says, has to be “the top of the catch”—high quality and super fresh. “When you are doing a seafood restaurant and not putting on a lot of heavy sauces to cover up stuff, the quality is critical,” he says. “How you handle fish when you receive it, and when you cook it, matters.”
For swordfish, proper handling means a brief marinade followed by a light grilling and a quick finishing in the oven. To end up with a moist piece of fish, it is crucial to pull the fish out of the oven just before it has cooked all the way. Although swordfish is sometimes thought to be a dry fish, Haronis insists that, when properly cooked, it has a buttery texture and flavor.
Haronis places swordfish on a bed of vegetables. “Jersey has some of the best vegetables,” he says. “It is just natural to go with some grilled vegetables underneath to complement.” He finishes the dish with a classic Greek yogurt-cucumber sauce, which freshens and lifts the dish.
The vegetables used in this dish can be almost any combination of what is, preferably, seasonal and local. Some of Haronis’s favorites include eggplant, red pepper, portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli rabe and spinach. But he invites home cooks to experiment in order to find their personal favorites:
“Take a recipe and make it once. After that, play around with it and change it to make it yours. If you don’t like peppers, or you don’t like the herbs we put in, you can change it. That is what’s fun about cooking. Don’t be afraid to experiment—a recipe is only a guideline.”
2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City