Frank Seabrook, 50, a retired NYPD detective and now an architectural engineer, lives in Wading River with his wife, Anne Marie, and three children in college.
Was food important to you growing up?
Yes. Growing up in Farmingville, money was tight. Our entertainment was centered around what my mom and dad were cooking. Nothing crazy: the classics like baked ziti, chicken Parmesan, pork chops.
When did you start cooking?
When I got married, my wife and I started cooking a lot. We didn't take it too seriously, but we got better and better at it. And that's when Chef Franco started.
Who is Chef Franco?
He's my alter ego. On weekends I put on a hat — I look like Chef Boyardee — and get into character, cooking and cracking jokes. It's classic Italian cooking, with a pinch of Dom DeLuise. Usually there's a good football game on, and folks come over. It's a great time. Chef Franco has a Facebook page where I post jokes and photos of what I make. And my wife's alter ego is Anisette.
What does Chef Franco make?
I make a great seafood dish, zuppa di Franco, it's my take on zuppa di pesce with mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops, lobster. I also make a really outrageous pork chops piccata. Growing up, one of my nicknames was Frankie Pork Chops, so it's fitting.
What's the appeal of cooking to you?
For 20 years, I was a New York City cop. Then I got a bachelor's degree, and a civil engineering degree. Now I'm studying for the architectural license exam. My job has always been stressful, and being Chef Franco on the weekends is very therapeutic.
CHEF FRANCO’S PORK CHOPS PICCATA
2½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon lemon pepper
10 thick-cut, bone-in, center-cut pork chops
2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
16 ounces orzo pasta
1 (5- to 6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup lemon juice
5 tablespoons capers, drained
4 lemons, thinly sliced
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, quartered
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1. Sprinkle salt, pepper and lemon pepper on chops. Film a large skillet with olive oil and, over medium-high heat, cook chops 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and pork is cooked through (145 degrees). If skillet isn’t big enough, do this in batches. Transfer chops to plate and cover with foil.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook orzo according to package directions. When it is cooked, add spinach to boiling water. Drain orzo and spinach immediately. Transfer to a serving platter and cover with foil.
3. Pour a bit more olive oil into the large skillet and saute garlic over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine, chicken broth, lemon juice and capers; bring to a simmer. Return chops to skillet and cook, turning them, until they are warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Arrange chops on top of orzo-spinach mixture and re-cover with foil.
4. Add sliced lemons and artichoke hearts to pan and simmer to heat them through. Take pan off heat and add butter. Swirl pan until butter is blended into sauce, then pour over the chops and serve. Makes 5 servings.