Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Weekly Recipes: The Week of Chicken

I’ve dubbed last week the “week of chicken” because I made two recipes featuring chicken as the primary protein (and they were both really tasty).  This is a fairly (very) unusual occurrence for me, which is why it’s noteworthy.  While I recognize that chicken is a healthy, low-fat source of protein, and I consider myself a health-focused omnivore, I’m simply not much of a “chicken person.”  I can happily go weeks with no chicken in my diet – eating a mix of vegetarian meals, fish, and red meat.  Although my disinclination toward chicken isn’t strong enough to be accurately termed an “aversion,” I do consciously make other alternative choices most of the time.  When asked why, I can think of any number of reasons (too many bites of unidentifiable gristle in my McDonald’s “chicken” nuggets growing up, perhaps?), but the most significant is that I don’t cook chicken particularly well.  I’m not being overly modest, folks, trust me.  Chicken cooked by my hand is frequently overdone and tough, having lost what little flavor and juiciness it naturally contained as a result of my fear of under-doing it.  My husband can attest to the unfortunate accuracy of this statement (although, good man that he is, he eats every bite and insists it “tastes good!”).

But!  As of last week, I have found not one, but TWO chicken recipes that I can cook to a successful and delicious end result.  Incredibly, these two recipes come from the same cookbook – Maine Home Cooking by Sandra Oliver – and are on pages 86 and 87 side-by-side.

First up is Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Balsamic Sauce.  Rather than use a roasting pan (I only have a large one meant for holiday turkey and ham), I used my cast iron skillet.  The original recipe serves 4.

You’ll need:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons teriyaki or soy sauce (I used soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Ready to prep!

Ready to prep!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the chicken, tomatoes, onion, garlic, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper in a roasting pan.  Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the chicken is done (will vary depending on thickness).

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Remove the chicken from the pan and cover it to keep warm.  Add chopped fresh tarragon to juices in the pan and bring them to a boil on a surface burner. Remove from heat.  To serve, put the chicken on a platter and spoon the sauce over it.

It doesn't look that pretty... but it tasted pretty great!

It doesn’t look that pretty… but it tasted pretty great!

I added a side of rice to this dish to soak up the extra sauce, which was far too tasty to go to waste!

Up second: Parmesan Chicken, page 87.  This recipe also serves 4.

You’ll need:

  •  4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • olive oil or milk sufficient to coat the chicken (I used olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup, more or less, breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup, more or less, parmesan cheese
  • 4 to 8 teaspoons coarsely shredded parmesan cheese for topping
  • Paprika

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a baking pan lightly with olive oil. Coat the chicken with the olive oil (or milk).  Roll in the breadcrumbs, seasonings, and grated parmesan cheese.  Place them in the baking dish and sprinkle with paprika.  Cover with aluminum foil, bake for 40 minutes, remove foil, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of coarsely shredded parmesan cheese to each piece of chicken to melt on top, and continue baking until the cheese is melted and chicken is golden, 5-10 minutes.

Looks good enough to eat!

Looks good enough to eat!

I served this recipe with sauteed asparagus.  It enabled me to pretend I was being healthy… despite the cheese and breadcrumbs all over the chicken.

As stated previously, both of these recipes were truly outstanding.  They will become regulars in our house – particularly because I can distinguish the difference between Nick’s “Really, it tastes good!” and the unprompted, “this is really good.”

I hope you try them and enjoy them, too!


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Happy Father’s Day! And Recommended Reads

To all fathers, everywhere, Happy Father’s Day!  And to my own, thank you for teaching me the tough lessons, and the easy (read: fun) ones; thank you for showing me (with Mom’s help, of course) what family means and should be; and thank you for being someone to look up to and admire.  I love you very much, and I wish I could be in Maine celebrating with you!

Hard to believe this was almost four years ago!  There are several great ones, but I think this is my favorite wedding day picture of my dad and me. Thanks for all you do, Dad!

Hard to believe this was almost four years ago! There are several great ones, but I think this is my favorite wedding day picture of my dad and me. Thanks for all you do, Dad!

In lieu of a more formal post today, I thought I’d share a couple of articles that caught my eye in the Maine News updates that I receive via email:

First: On Bees and Big Business, this article grabbed my attention immediately because I tend to get pretty heated about the importance of (and threats to) the honey bee population.  Nick and I have (casually) discussed trying to keep a colony of our own, particularly as we start our garden.  For more information on bees, bee keeping, and honey in Maine, I highly recommend a visit to The Honey Exchange in Portland (I also wrote a post about the shop some time ago, which you can read here).

Honey samples at The Honey Exchange

Honey samples at The Honey Exchange

Second: On writing in Maine, which I found to be an amusing commentary on the author’s personal journey and writing experiences – as well as being founded on an inarguable truth: the state of Maine simply inspires the written word.  How could you live there and not be compelled to write (or find some other creative outlet)?

By the way, readers, did you know that today is also National Lobster Day?  If it were me, and I was in Maine, I’d be picking up some fresh lobster to share with Dad!

Check out this article from Fox for some unique lobster recipes ideas: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2014/06/13/dive-into-these-spectacular-recipes-for-national-lobster-day/


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Weekly Recipe: Maine Shrimp Linguine

Since beginning this blog, I regularly receive cookbooks by Maine authors and organizations, about Maine food and Maine food traditions, as gifts.  Most recently, at Christmas, I received as many as four or five new “Maine” cookbooks.  Today, I’m bringing you the first “weekly recipe” from one my new books, Dishing Up Maine, by Brooke Dojny – Maine Shrimp Linguine.  Yum!

I love pasta, seafood, butter, and white wine.  Bingo!  Therefore, this recipe was a guaranteed winner for me unless I did something horribly wrong in the cooking process (luckily for both Nick and me, all went smoothly).

You’ll need:

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots (about 3 large shallots)
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons angostura bitters
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces linguine or other strand pasta
  • 1 lb. shelled Maine shrimp (or other small to medium shrimp)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Nearly ready!

Nearly ready!

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and shallots and cook for one minute.  Add the clam juice and wine, raise the heat to high, and boil briskly until reduced by about 1/3 (approximately 5 minutes).  Add the bitters, lemon juice, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes.  (the sauce can be made ahead and held at room temperature for an hour or two)

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water, until al dente.

Meanwhile, reheat the sauce and add the shrimp.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the shrimp just turn pink, about two minutes.  Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta, spoon the shrimp and sauce over it, and serve.

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This recipe is pretty easy and quick, and uses many ingredients I usually already have on hand (I’m not sure what that says about the health meter of my kitchen, though).  We both enjoyed it – and adding a side salad is really all you need for a complete meal!


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Maine Delicious: The Holy Donut

With the Old Port Festival in full swing this weekend, visitors to Portland, Maine are presented with the perfect opportunity to patronize The Holy Donut at its Old Port location, 7 Exchange Street.  And I can assure you, you won’t leave disappointed (or hungry).  That is, if you can get there before the donuts run out (they are wildly popular).

Side note: I’ve had an ongoing, internal debate throughout the writing of this post about whether I should write “donut” or “doughnut.” As the holder of a degree in English, the stress of not using the dictionary-approved spelling of “doughnut” is no small matter – but, I’ve decided to go with “donut.”  For all of the obvious reasons – such as matching the business name.

My first Holy Donut experience was last November, while Christmas shopping in the Old Port with my husband, my mom, and my sister.  There is so much to love about this business (I learned most of what I’m about to share with you from their website, and I highly recommend checking out their videos), and I most admire the fact that it’s family-owned, they exhibit a clear dedication to giving back (please see their ‘Recipe’ page for notes about giving to local fundraisers and promoting bicycling), and they are almost religiously (pun intended) committed to sourcing quality ingredients.

What makes The Holy Donut’s offering unique is the inclusion of potato in their donut recipes (including some sweet potato flavors), which adds a lightness to the end product – these donuts quite literally melt in your mouth.  The use of this ingredient honors the (predominantly) northern Maine tradition of including potato in donut dough (or should I say “do”?  Oh jeez), and it also supports the Maine agriculture industry, of which potatoes are the largest crop.  And we all know how much I love potatoes… and how much I like to promote local business supporting other local business.

Perhaps most importantly, though, from a consumer-perspective, these donuts are delicious.  I had the pomegranate-glazed flavor, and it was nothing short of spectacular.  It is probably for the best that I live in Georgia – far from either of the two Holy Donut locations.

But if you’re reading this, and you live in southern Maine, what the heck are you waiting for?  Make your Sunday even more enjoyable.  Go get a donut you can feel good about.


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Weekly Recipe: Coconut Panko Cod with Mexi Tartar Sauce

I’ll just go ahead and start by saying: this recipe was outstanding.  No need to read my entire post to find out!  If you like fish, I highly recommend it – and really, any white fish would work.  It is from the Maine Summers Cookbook, and the back story to its creation was the need for a Mexican-style dish for a Cinco de Mayo party.  This recipe serves 6.

For the mexi tartar sauce, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder (I couldn’t find this at my local grocery store, and substituted regular chili powder – it still tasted good!)
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper (I used pickled jalapenos – there is no question that fresh would make it spicier)
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed

For the cod and breading, you’ll need:

  • 2 lbs fresh cod fillets
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Panko Japanese bread crumbs
  • Dried shredded coconut (I skipped this, as I’m not much of a coconut fan)
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs beaten with 2 teaspoons unsweetened coconut milk
Making tartar sauce!

Making tartar sauce!

To make the tartar sauce, whisk together the mayo, chili powder, jalapeno, lime zest and juice, and garlic.  Refrigerate until serving.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

Cut the cod fillets into serving size pieces.  In a heavy skillet, heat enough canola oil to be 2 inches deep and not overrun the edge of the pan when frying the fish.  Combine equal parts panko and coconut and roll the cod in the mixture.  Dredge the cod in flour and dip in the beaten eggs.

Breading & dredging...

Breading & dredging…

Fry the cod in the hot oil until golden and cooked through, turning the fish to brown both sides.

Frying...

Frying…

I didn’t have quite enough oil (oops!), but it still worked out very well.  The cooking time does vary depending on the thickness of the fillets – mine went pretty quickly – just a few minutes per side.  I served the cod with green beans and roasted potatoes, and both Nick and I loved it.  I hope you try it and enjoy it, too!

Yum!

Yum!