Homegrown and Homemade in Maine

 Tasty Travel Thursday

Destination: Maine

Cookbook: Maine Classics: More than 150 Delicious Recipes from Down East  by Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier

Article by Brette Sember

Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier are the owners and founders of Arrows restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine. When the restaurant opened almost twenty-five years ago, it was hailed as a new approach to food: local, flavor-based, and creative. It’s now become a must-stop on any culinary journey through Maine. If you haven’t been lucky enough to travel there and pull up a chair at one of their tables, Gaier and Frasier have written a beautiful cookbook called

Maine Classics: More than 150 Delicious Recipes from Down East  that is almost as good as being there.

Maine Scene
Maine Scene

Maine has a special place in my heart. We vacationed there every summer when I was a child, my husband and I went on our honeymoon, and we went back with our kids. Maine isn’t called Vacationland for nothing: mountains, ocean, lakes, forests, quaint coastal towns, and also some pretty good shopping are big draws for this beautiful state.

Seafood is another main attraction, and Maine Classics is packed with seafood recipes, but it’s also filled with much, much more. And because I haven’t had the pleasure of dining at Arrows, I feasted on this book when a review copy arrived on my doorstep.

I love the way the book is organized. The chapters are titled The Shore The Sea,The Forest, The Farm, The Garden, The Dairy, The Bakery, and The Root Cellar. This is in keeping with the authors’ food philosophy of local food origins (they even forage their own fungi and fiddleheads). (Note: Brette Sember writes often about sourcing food locally, particularly through a CSA.)

The book does indeed include classics of Maine cookery, but it also expands upon them. There are lots of oyster and clam recipes and many traditional preparations of them but you will also stumble upon really interesting new twists, such as Walnut Sauce (a traditional Turkish oyster sauce), Clams and with Chinese Black Beans and Ginger, Apples Stuffed with Sausage, Loin of Lamb with Madras Curry and Brown Sugar Pears, Butternut Squash Donuts with Maple Syrup, and Crab Parfait that are unexpected and delightful.

I also loved the idea of taking common Maine dishes and making them even more Maine (if that is possible!), for example, Scalloped Clams with Maine Potatoes and Yams, Cranberry Upside Down Cake, Roasted Quail with Chestnut Stuffing, and Mincemeat Ice Cream. Worry not, however, if you want tried and true tradition, it’s here: Crab Cakes with Herbed Mayonnaise, Clam Fritters, Classic Lobster Rolls, Indian Pudding, Boston Brown Bread, Yankee Pot Roast, Salmon Wiggle, Whoopie Pies, and Bailey’s Island Blueberry Tart.

In addition to gorgeous photos of the classic food, there are photos of classic Maine that sing to me: row boats, rocky islands, bridges, lobster boats, crusty Maine lobstermen, and lots of and lots of pictures of fresh shellfish being harvested. In keeping with the authors’ belief in local food sources, there are also photos of farms, forests, and fisheries where the food comes from. These photos tie it all together: the land, the sea, the kitchen, and the people who grow, raise, catch, and make the food. It is in this connection that you can feel the real Maine: the intersection of rich waters, fertile lands, and people who deeply care about preserving and showcasing both of these that create a special Maine experience.

Craving a bit more detail about the food sources? The authors have included short sections in the book that talk about sustainable fishing, the development of Maine’s forests, foraging, local farms, home-curing of meats, artisan cheesemaking, local bakeries, and growing vegetables and herbs. The authors make it clear that they truly love everything about Maine, and by the time you sample your way through this cookbook, you will too. Here’s a recipe with lobster cooked in parchment paper (NOTE: If you’re intrigued by cooking in parchment, Brette has literally written the book on it: The Parchment Paper Cookbook: 180 Healthy, Fast, Delicious Recipes)

Lobster in A Paper Bag with Green Curry
Lobster in A Paper Bag with Green Curry, from Maine Classics

Lobster in a “Paper Bag” with Green Curry

This dish comes from our travels in Southeast Asia. Using a really fresh green curry and hints of lime and coconut with Maine’s fresh shellfish was a no-brainer for us. Heating the ingredients in paper is a gentle way to cook, and you can make it ahead of time and then bake them at the last minute. For a dramatic effect at a dinner party, open the paper bags at the table, serving the sauce on the side. Your guests will gasp when the steam is released, bringing the aroma of lobster and spices to the room.

Yield: 6 servings

Green Curry Sauce 1 cup cilantro leaves, washed and picked 1/2 cup basil leaves, washed and picked 1/4 cup parsley, washed and picked 1/2 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger 3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped 1 (8-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk 1 serrano pepper (about 2 teaspoons), stem removed, seeded, and finely chopped 1/2 cup canola oil Juice of 3 large limes (about 6 tablespoons) Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Lobster 6 (18 x 13-inch) sheets parchment paper

1 large zucchini squash (about 6 ounces), julienned and seeds discarded

6 (11/4-pound) lobsters, boiled and picked

1 large yellow (summer) squash (about 6 ounces), julienned and seeds discarded

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

Freshly ground black pepper

For the green curry sauce:

Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.

For the lobster:

Prepare the paper “bags.” Fold one parchment sheet in half, shorter end to shorter end. Using as much of the paper as possible, start at the upper folded edge and cut out a heart shape (as if making a valentine in grade school). Discard the remainder of the paper. Continue for the remaining five bags. Lay the left side of the heart over the right side. Starting at the top of the heart, fold down the edge section by section, crimping down the edge as you go. Continue folding and crimping until you reach the bottom and the bag is fully sealed. At the bottom, twist the pointy end of the heart and tuck under.

Place a baking sheet in the oven to warm.

Divide the squash into six portions.

Place each portion (about 4 tablespoons) inside the heart on the right side.

Add the meat of each lobster on top of the squash.

Top each with 1 tablespoon butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper.

Place the bags on the cookie sheet in the oven. Bake for 8 minutes and remove from the oven.

To serve, cut a hole in the center of the bag about 6 inches across, leaving part of the cut intact to create a flap. Roll back the flap and present the bag at the table.

Serve the green curry sauce on the side, or drizzle some on the bag contents at the table or before serving.

Disclaimers: The authors provided Brette with a copy of this book, but her opinions are her own.  Recipe reprinted with permission from MAINE CLASSICS © 2011 by Mark Gaier & Clark Frasier, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.Links to Amazon are affiliate links, and if you shop through these links, although it costs you no more, it will benefit Brette’s site, Putting It All on the Table.  THANKS!

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

10 thoughts on “Homegrown and Homemade in Maine

  1. I just have never been able to get behind lobster, which maybe is a good thing since it’s usually pricey! I do remember going to Maine with my family as a kid, though, and loved it.

  2. I haven’t been to Maine but it is high on my travel list. After reading your review, maybe I’ll just eat my way through a Maine visit. Like Vera Marie, I’d want lobster three times a day!

    1. Well, Arizona is pretty short on fishmongers, Brette, and I’m not sure about the refrigerated lobster meat so far from the source, but I know there’s frozen and (UCK!) canned.

  3. When I went to Maine, my whole objective was to eat lobster three times a day. How I LOVE Maine and lobster! But I’m a coward and have never cooked a live lobster. So is there an easier way to get started on this delicious-sounding recipe?

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