Kathy Sidell’s Tips and Recipes for a Nantucket Dinner Party

The best part of a party at Saltie Girl owner Kathy Sidell’s Nantucket home? Everyone’s invited.


Photograph by Greta Rybus

About an hour before her dinner guests are set to arrive, Kathy Sidell hears an unexpected knock at the door of her Nantucket home. The restaurateur behind the buzzy Back Bay seafood bar Saltie Girl peeks outside and sees a fisherman friend, cooler in hand after a long day at sea. He’s stopping by to ask if Sidell and her husband, Carl Goldberg, would like a piece of the enormous bluefin tuna he just reeled in. As the unmistakable aroma of grilled lamb in the air suggests, however, Sidell has already made more than enough food for the intimate group of family and friends gathering to dine. Perhaps he’d like to join them? Regrettably, he can’t, but he doesn’t leave before insisting she take a thick slab of fish for another meal.

It’s moments like this that make Sidell feel as at home here on Nantucket as she does in Boston. After decades of renting on the island, Sidell and Goldberg are celebrating their first full season in their Monomoy summer home. It’s been a long time coming for the couple, who purchased the land in 2003 but didn’t finish construction on the house until last year. “We started to build restaurants in 2004, which explains why we got sidetracked,” says Sidell, who operates hot spots in Boston, Dedham, and Natick, and on Nantucket. Still, the long delay allowed Sidell and Goldberg to think through every aspect of the home’s design. Naturally, the kitchen is a focal point, outfitted with a Wolf range, a La Cornue rotisserie, and blue-and-white tiles reminiscent of those on Saltie Girl’s distinctive back bar.

From left: Sidell snips fresh herbs from her garden for garnishing cocktails; the restaurateur artfully arranges grilled vegetables in a basket for serving. / Photographs by Greta Rybus

As islanders and visiting family members begin to arrive, Sidell suggests everyone head to the living room for strawberry-rhubarb rum cocktails and seasonal starters such as crab-avocado-and-burrata toast, a favorite at Saltie Girl. Soon it’s time to stroll outside to the patio, where gold-rimmed plates atop a wood table rest beside vases filled with flowers snipped from the yard. All eyes quickly turn to a side table set with a family-style spread, including lamb cooked on the wood-burning grill and risotto carbonara, served in a carved-out Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel. “With each scoop, you get more cheese,” Sidell notes with delight as she heaps the truffle-topped risotto onto her plate. As the sun begins to set and glasses clink, Sidell slips in a few words: “I’m kind of pinching myself right now,” she says. “Honestly, waiting all these years has made moving in that much sweeter. You plant the seeds, and slowly, surely, it happens.” Finally, it’s time to eat.

Before finding their seats at the dinner table, Sidell and her guests relax by the pool with strawberry-rhubarb cocktails and snacks including tinned fish. / Photographs by Greta Rybus

The table, set with 24-karat-gold-rimmed plates from Casa de Perrin but no linens, evokes laid-back luxury. / Photograph by Greta Rybus

Styling by Kailey McGraw

• • •

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cocktail
Makes 8 cocktails

For the strawberry-rhubarb jam:

2 pts. cut strawberries
6 stalks rhubarb, chopped
1 c. sugar
½ c. white balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt

Macerate the strawberries and rhubarb with the sugar. Cook on stovetop on low heat for four hours, then add balsamic vinegar and salt to the mixture. Let cool.

For the cocktails:

12 oz. white rum
4 oz. lime juice
6 oz. simple syrup
8 tsp. strawberry-rhubarb jam
Lavender and mint for garnish

To make one cocktail: Add 1.5 oz. rum, ½ oz. lime juice, 3/4 oz. simple syrup, and 1 teaspoon jam to the shaker. Shake and strain over crushed ice. Add a teaspoon of jam on top of crushed ice. Garnish with bouquet of fresh lavender and mint.

Crab toast with avocado and burrata. / Photograph by Greta Rybus

• • •

Saltie Girl Crab Toast
Makes 8 toasts

12 tbsp. butter
8 slices whole-wheat bread
32 oz. lump jumbo crabmeat
9 tbsp. chives, sliced
6 tsp. salt
3 tsp. pepper
4 avocados
4 whole burrata
8 tsp. pistachio oil
8 tbsp. pistachios, crushed and toasted
Splash lemon juice

Spread butter on both sides of wheat bread. Griddle both sides until golden brown. In a bowl, mix crabmeat, lemon juice, and 8 tablespoons of the chives, salt, and pepper. Slice avocado and season with salt and pepper. Place the sliced avocado on top of the griddled bread. Next, set halves of burrata on the avocado. Scoop a spoonful of the crab mix over the cheese. Finish with pistachio oil, toasted pistachios, and the remaining chives.

Charred sweet peppers are the perfect foil for creamy bagna cauda. / Photograph by Greta Rybus

• • •

Bagna Cauda with Grilled Vegetables
Serves 8

For the bagna cauda:

2 c. olive oil
8 anchovies, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 c. heavy cream
4 slices white bread
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Heat oil on a low flame. Add anchovies and garlic to the oil and slowly simmer. In a separate pot, heat heavy cream. Add bread to the cream mixture. In a blender, purée the oil mixture. Slowly add heavy cream mixture until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

For the vegetables:

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
2 spring onions, trimmed on both ends
8 sweet peppers, cut into ½-inch strips
Olive oil

Brush vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a hot grill. Rotate until charred. Season with salt to finish. Serve with bagna cauda.

Sidell grills lamb and vegetables for her dinner party guests. / Photograph by Greta Rybus

• • •

Spring Lamb
Serves 8

10-12 lbs. split lamb with rack, belly, and hind leg separated
1 tbsp. za’atar blend
1 tbsp. vadouvan
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Maldon sea salt, to taste

Truss lamb belly to form a cylinder. Season rack, belly, and leg heavily with salt, pepper, za’atar, and vadouvan. Rub with olive oil. Mark on a hot grill to char the outside. Finish in the oven at 400 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees for a proper medium-rare. Let rest for 15 minutes. Season with Maldon sea salt. Slice to serve.

Risotto carbonara topped with a poached egg and freshly shaved truffles. / Photograph by Greta Rybus

• • •

Risotto Carbonara
Serves 8

½ c. English peas
8 eggs, soft-boiled
3 tbsp. olive oil
½ lb. bacon, diced
½ lb. pancetta, diced
½ medium white onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. Arborio rice
1 c. white wine
6 c. chicken stock
4 egg yolks
2 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Pea shoots for garnish

Blanch peas in a large pot of boiling water. Cool and set aside. In a large sauté pan, heat oil. Add bacon and pancetta and render until crispy. Set aside. In the same pan, sweat onion and garlic until translucent. Add Arborio rice and slowly toast to parch the rice. Add white wine and stir until almost evaporated. Slowly add chicken stock in small batches on low heat until rice is al dente. Remove rice from heat. Slowly mix yolks into rice to achieve a creamy consistency. Add grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and peas. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with pea shoots and soft-boiled eggs (break just before serving).

Baked scallops broiled right in the shell. / Photograph by Greta Rybus

• • •

Baked Scallops
Makes 8 servings

For the Mornay sauce:

2 sticks butter
1 c. flour
1 qt. milk
2 c. cheddar cheese, grated

Heat butter on low heat. Add flour to make roux. Whisk in milk, stirring until thickened. Add cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

For scallops:

½ c. bacon, diced
½ c. shallots, diced
16 whole sea scallops (Nantucket Bays preferred, when in season)
1 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. butter
¼ bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
8 tbsp. finished Mornay sauce
Sliced scallions for garnish

Render diced bacon until crispy (about five minutes), then add shallots and sweat until translucent. Set aside. Place scallops on a paper towel to dry and season them with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan, heat oil until almost smoking. Place scallops in pan. Sear until golden on one side. Flip scallops and baste with 1 tablespoon butter. Add bacon-shallot mixture back to the pan. Finish with parsley. To plate, use wet salt as a pedestal for a large scallop shell. Spoon Mornay sauce into shell and place two scallops over sauce. Put the shells under broiler until scallops are browned. Finish with bacon-and-shallot mixture from pan. Garnish with scallions.

Buttery pound cake is Sidell’s go-to dessert. / Photograph by Greta Rybus

• • •

Ginger-Lemon Pound Cake
Serves 8

For the vanilla-ginger sugar:

½ c. crystallized ginger
1 vanilla bean, split
1 lb. sugar

Stir bean and ginger into sugar. Let sit for a few days (or however long you have).

For the cake:

3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
2½ c. vanilla-ginger sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
8 eggs at room temperature
3 c. flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
Juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter one 9-by-5-by-3-inch pan. Cream butter and sugar until pale and very fluffy. Add scraped vanilla bean, extract, eggs, and lemon juice. Sift dry ingredients. Add to batter until just combined; fold to make sure it’s blended. Bake for 90 minutes total, rotating after 30 minutes.

For the syrup:

1¾ c. sugar
½ c. water
2 vanilla beans

Combine syrup ingredients and let dissolve over low heat until melted.

To serve:

When loaf is done, cool for 10 minutes, turn out of pan, and set on racks. Brush all over with syrup. Brush a few more times as it cools.