Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Weekly Recipe: Creamy Seafood Pasta

It may come as a surprise to learn that I wasn’t always particularly thoughtful about, or interested in, food and its preparation.  As you read my weekly (okay, sometimes bi-monthly) recipes and other various compositions about meals, sourcing food locally, and healthy eating, it likely seems that I’ve been immersed in the culinary and agricultural landscapes for most of my life – and perhaps the seeds were indeed there – but in truth, I didn’t cook at all until I was in my early twenties.

I can pinpoint landmark memories throughout my culinary journey: unwillingly participating in caring for our family vegetable garden as a child; making chocolate chip cookies (and a mess) in my best friends’ kitchen as a teen; watching a close college friend prepare spaghetti sauce, and admittedly feeling somewhat inadequate because I had no idea how to do that myself.

Now, with the clarity of hindsight, I can see the hints of interest and enjoyment were there all along.  They just needed a little time and aging, like a fine wine.  It’s been about five years since the moment it dawned on me that I truly enjoy cooking.  That I actually found pleasure – and relaxation – in the process of chopping, mixing, sauteing, baking, serving.

It was during a time in my professional career when I was struggling – unhappy in a job that was extraordinarily stressful and emotionally taxing – and I didn’t have much energy or enthusiasm when I got home at night.  Despite this – or maybe even because of it – one night I decided to go rogue (meaning no recipe, unheard of for me in those days), and just throw a pasta dish together.  Undoubtedly, my courage was bolstered by the glass of Chardonnay I’d already consumed.

A short time later, chopped onion and garlic were sauteing in butter, mussels (admittedly, from a frozen package) had been added, and I boldly decided I could sacrifice some of my wine for the betterment of the sauce.  In the end, the only “healthy” part of that meal was probably the whole wheat penne (and not the half-stick of butter in the sauce), but it was tasty – and more importantly, it was fun.  The recipe I share today is another from the Vaughn kitchen – an evolved version of this very first experiment.  It serves 2-4, depending on how much seafood and pasta you make.

You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons butter (or a combination of butter and olive oil)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped or diced
  • 1 cup portabello mushrooms, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 glove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb – 1 lb Raw seafood of your choice (I like a mix of scallops, or bay scallops, and shrimp)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (or milk or half-and-half to cut calories and fat)
  • Pasta of your choice (I often use whole wheat penne)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Set water to boil and cook pasta per package directions.

Chop chop!

Chop chop!

Melt butter over medium heat and add onion.  Saute briefly before adding mushrooms and garlic.  Saute until onion is soft and mushrooms are brown.  I typically toss in a splash of the white wine at this point (it creates such a fun sizzle in the pan!), and then I add the seafood, slowly incorporating the remainder of the wine as the seafood cooks.  Finish by stirring in the heavy cream, and season to taste.  Combine with pasta and serve.

Yum!  This is a favorite at our house.

Yum! This is a favorite at our house.

This is a recipe to adjust to your tastes – in fact, I’m not sure that my 1/2 cup wine, 1/4 cup cream measurements are entirely accurate, because I rarely measure them.  I pour an amount that feels right, then taste the sauce and adjust quantities accordingly.  You could easily add a combination of cheeses, like asiago and parmesan, for a thicker, cheesy sauce.  I’ve included veggies ranging from broccoli to spinach or kale at times (this is so I can pretend my cream sauce is “healthy”).

I hope you enjoy this recipe, if you try it.  I also hope you learn to experiment on your own, if you don’t already.  For me, it transformed meal preparation from a task that was necessary to survival to an opportunity to focus on creating (and leave all that work stress behind).

 


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Made in Maine: Blacksmiths Winery

Over the last decade, the popularity of wine has grown rapidly throughout the US.  A well-loved beverage throughout human history, wine does carry an intimidation factor – those who don’t know much about it have simply avoided it in the past – rather than being forced to discuss flavors of pear and citrus, or smoke and plums, with their wine-wise friends.  From my perspective, one of the benefits local wineries and vineyards offer to those formerly intimidated by the world of wine is an accessible, relaxed atmosphere in which to try it and learn about it.

Outside of Blacksmiths at dusk

Outside of Blacksmiths at dusk

Maine has not been immune to the wine fervor, with vineyards and wineries popping up around the state.  I hope to visit more of them in the future, but this post is all about Blacksmiths Winery and my experiences there at wine tastings.  It’s no secret that Nick and I enjoy a good glass of wine, and my mom actually introduced us to Blacksmiths on Nick’s first trip to Maine with me more than four years ago.  Nick knows much more about wine than I do, and he is the person who taught me most of what I know.

Our first venture into Blacksmiths was a great experience.  Located in South Casco, Maine, we headed there from my parents’ home on Sebago Lake to pick up some wine for Thanksgiving dinner (and of course, enjoy a tasting!).  The tasting room space is charming and rustic – the decor very fitting for a New England winery – and includes a gift shop space with wine-themed items for purchase.

Interior of Blacksmiths

Interior of Blacksmiths

From the colonial exterior to the comfortable, warm ambience inside, I enjoyed everything about my first, second, and ongoing experiences at Blacksmiths Winery.  This is a great spot to stop for a bachelorette party, girls’ (or guys’) night out, a family visit (they have soda for the under 21s), and more.

Their beverage list is quite extensive and has grown in recent years.  On my first visit, they offered soda and wine, but most recently, I saw that they are also offering hard ciders under the brand Fatty Bampkins.  So far, I’ve stuck with the wines, and primarily the French varietals at that, but I think next time I’ll give the ciders a whirl.  Of the wines I’ve tried, the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are my favorites.  They make a big, flavorful Cab, with a strong smoky taste – really perfect for a steak or roast.

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As ice wines go, I thought their Vidal Ice Wine was outstanding.  I prefer dry wines over sweet, but with this dessert wine, you don’t even need the dessert itself.  It’s that good!

Behind the bar..

Behind the bar..

I hope you’ll make time to visit Blacksmiths on your next visit to that part of Maine – I can assure you won’t regret it.  They also offer shipping to 19 states (see list here) and use vinoshipper.com.  They ship to NC, so I do see a purchase in my near future!

Blacksmiths Winery Contact Information & Address:

967 Quaker Ridge Road
P.O. Box 86
South Casco, ME 04077
207-655-3292