Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Family Recipe: Cherry Tomato Pasta

This recipe is a Shevenell original, and I’m honored / excited / proud to share it.  My brother, Ed, is the creative mastermind behind this flavorful blend of veggies, olive oil, butter, and wine, which can be served over pasta or a “noodle” like spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini.  This meal is delicious and good for you – especially if you go the 100% veggie route.

Mom and I whipped this up during her visit to Georgia, and it will become a regular in my cooking rotation (get ready, Nick).  Ed has a knack for coming up with new recipes and unexpected flavor profiles that taste spectacular, and this is no exception.

Serves 2-4
You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and whole
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Balsamic vinegar (1-2 tablespoons, your preference)
  • Worcestershire sauce (just a drizzle)
  • 1-2 cups white or red wine, or chicken stock (or a combination;quantity depends on your preference)
  • Noodles of your choice (or spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini)

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat, then add the onions and saute until tender.  Add the cherry tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce, continuing to cook over medium high heat until the tomatoes blister, burst, and start becoming tender.  At this point, add your wine and/or chicken stock and allow ingredients to simmer.

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We made our sauce with a blend of white wine and chicken stock, approximately 1 1/2 cups total, and it was excellent – the rich qualities of the broth and the acidity of the wine created a nice blend to complement the other flavors.

Allow the mixture to simmer while the wine reduces, approximately 10 minutes, then add your noodles, squash, or spiralized zucchini.  Continue to simmer for a few minutes, or until squash or zucchini is soft.  Ed likes to go with zucchini for the nutty flavor it introduces.

You can also easily incorporate meat in this recipe, just vary when you add it depending on cooking requirements.  To keep it easy, Mom and I went with cooked Italian chicken sausage, which also made this a heartier dinner.  Other good additions would be: cooked chicken, shrimp, or a flaky white fish.  For even more nutrient value, you can toss in some leafy greens like spinach or kale.

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Recognize the shape of that cutting board? #ME

This is one of those recipes I love because you can stray from it a little bit or vary it to work with the ingredients you have, and it will still deliver delicious results.

Ready to serve!

Ready to serve!

I hope you try it – and enjoy!

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Summer is Coming!

With Memorial Day weekend a mere five days away, summer is marching ever closer in the great state of Maine (although as Mainers, we all know how unpredictable the next 2-3 weeks can actually be in terms of summer weather).

Personally, I am incredibly excited for my first summer vacation in Maine in close to, maybe more than, five years (wedding planning trips don’t count – hard to believe that was almost five years ago).  But my trip is still more than a month away, while yours may be just around the corner, so this post will be the first of two Memorial Day themed posts.  Today we’ll focus on what to do… then, in another post in the next few days, we’ll focus on a recipe or two that will make a great addition to your Memorial Day feast.

  • Go for a ride at Old Orchard Beach’s Palace Playland: http://www.palaceplayland.com/
    (just remember to eat your Pier Fries AFTER… unless you have a stomach of steel)
  • Get your golf game on at Sugarloaf, opening May 22: http://sugarloaf.com/summer
  • Visit York Beach, Maine: named the number one New England vacation spot for Memorial Day, it offers lots to do (zoo / amusement park, two beaches, shopping and dining) all while surrounded by quintessential Maine charm.
  • If you like a few less people (as I tend to), I suggest a hike or a picnic (or both): if you venture to Northeast Harbor, Maine, you’ll be within moments of the hustle and bustle and amusements of Acadia, but distant enough to enjoy some peace and quiet.  Other options include: Evans Notch Road, Blueberry Mountain, and many more.
  • Visit a working lighthouse in South Portland: Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is offering the rare opportunity to step into history and tour an active lighthouse during their open house, 11am – 3pm, Saturday, May 23rd.

There are many, many more things to do in Maine than can be captured in one list or even twenty.  One of the reasons I’m most grateful that I grew up there is all of the experiences I was exposed to.  If you’re an outdoorsman (or outdoorswoman), there are multiple sports for every season; if you’re an art and culture lover, there’s no end to the history and creativity you can find; if you like to eat… well, we all know there’s plenty of good eatin’. Ahh, happy summer.

Enjoy your time in Maine, and drop me a line to tell me about it!


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Weekly Recipe: New England Clam Chowder

Although I missed it, I want to honor National New England Clam Chowder Day (January 21st) with a weekly recipe from one of my favored Maine cookbooks.  It seems especially appropriate with the New England Patriots facing off in the Super Bowl tomorrow (Go Pats!).

While there is some debate about the origins of chowder, the Oxford English Dictionary has traced the roots of the word ‘chowder’ to fishing villages along the coast of France.  The term is applied broadly to nearly any soup or stew made with fish and vegetables and its consistency and flavors vary from cream or milk based to tomato based (like Manhattan clam chowder).  Historically considered “poor man’s food,” chowder became mainstream in the Northeastern US by the mid 1800s and now claims wide popularity. (source: http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/ChowderHistory.htm)

Personally, I enjoy all types of chowder – it combines many of my favorite foods and flavors and it meets my number one recipe requirement: simplicity.  For today’s post, I went directly to my Superb Maine Soups cookbook by Cynthia Finnemore Simonds – “Maine Clam Chowder” can be found on page 60.  The recipe serves 4-6.

You’ll need:

  •  10 slices of bacon
  • 4 tablespoons reserved bacon fat
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 medium potatoes, chopped into bite-size chunks
  • 1/2 cup flour (I don’t care for a really thick chowder so I added slightly less flour)
  • 5 cups bottled clam juice
  • 16 oz. chopped cooked clams
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, saute the bacon until crispy and place on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Reserve four tablespoons of the bacon fat in the saucepan and spoon out the rest.  When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble into a bowl and set aside.  Cook the onion in the remaining bacon fat until translucent (don’t brown).  Add the potatoes and cook until fork tender.

And here’s where the recipe and I went in different directions.  The recipe as written: Remove the potatoes and onions with a slotted spoon – place the mixture in a bowl and set aside.  Stir the flour into the fat in the saucepan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom with a whisk.  Add the clam juice, whisking constantly until the flour is completely incorporated (you don’t want any lumps).  Continue cooking on low heat until thick.

What I did: because I didn’t use as much flour, I didn’t see the point in removing the onions and potatoes. I slowly added both the clam juice and flour in tandem, whisking / stirring to combine.  This worked for me… but to each their own!

Return the potatoes and onion to the thickened liquid, and add the clams, milk, cream, salt, and pepper, and stir well to combine.  Warm the mixture, but don’t let it boil. Ladle the chowder into bowls and top with the reserved bacon.

Enjoy!

A few closing tips: if you prefer not to use the bacon, just start with a few tablespoons of butter.  In my opinion, this is not the time to try to substitute olive oil.  As my brother would say (and he’s a heck of a cook), “it needs a little fat.”  You will miss out on the salty, smoky bacon flavor, but it will still be delicious.  Also, as with many of my recipes, I like to add more veggies to create a nutritious, one-dish meal for us – things like corn and even kale complement this basic recipe well.

Happy cooking!


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Weekly Recipe: Maine Party Chicken

Truly, the title of this recipe says it all.  It just sounds exciting… not to mention intriguing.  What exactly makes it “party” chicken?  And, really, who doesn’t love a good party? 

I suppose what makes this dish “party” chicken is simply that it’s one of those convenient-for-entertaining meals that slow cooks in the oven and comes out smelling spectacular.  It certainly feels like a perfect fall party dish.  Its meaty nature will make it a win with any man (Nick certainly enjoyed it), it’s easy with a short ingredient list, and the long, slow cooking makes it an ideal fall Sunday dinner (so as not to distract from watching football).  Although it’s still regularly 90+ degrees in Georgia, September calls to mind those first crisp, chilly days in Maine, and the rich, smoky flavor of this hearty meal complements the fall weather nicely (and would be excellent in winter, too).

I’ll admit – I was a little skeptical about how these ingredients would come together, but I shouldn’t have been.  This meal was really delicious, if not particularly healthy.  The recipe comes from a cookbook titled “Keep Cooking – The Maine Way” by Marjorie Standish, which I love because it’s a little bit old school and sometimes calls for ingredients I have to look up (or may vaguely recall from visits at my grandparents’ home).  It is a beautiful testament to the tradition of home cooking in Maine specifically.

You’ll need:

  • 4 good sized chicken breasts (you divide in half, so this makes 8 servings)
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1 package dried beef (or 1 small jar)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 pint sour cream

Divide each chicken breast in half, giving you eight servings.  Wrap each half with a piece of bacon.  Using a buttered, shallow 9×13 baking pan, cover the bottom with thin slices of dried beef (I used beef jerky, which appeared to be dried beef or similar based on my google search).  Arrange the chicken breasts on the dried beef. 

Who doesn't love bacon?

Who doesn’t love bacon?

Mix the soup and sour cream, and spoon over all.  Cover pan and refrigerate for 24 hours.  (Please take note of this instruction, and that it takes three hours to bake.  I did not… and had to revise my meal plan for the week when I realized at 7pm on the night I planned to make this that I needed to plan ahead.)

Smothered in sour cream and cream of mushroom soup...

Smothered in sour cream and cream of mushroom soup…

The next day, bring to room temperature before placing in oven (I forgot to do this, and it still turned out well).  Bake uncovered at 275 degrees for 3 hours.

This recipe made our house smell delicious.  Our mouths were watering long before it was time to eat, and we weren’t disappointed when we did.

Yum! I served this with roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts, and the chicken nearly falls apart from the slow cooking.

Yum! I served this with roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts, and the chicken nearly falls apart from the slow cooking.

On a follow up note, we had some leftovers (I love leftovers), and the following night, I made a chicken soup with them.  It really ended up being more of a “stoup,” with the sour cream and mushroom soup creating a thicker, creamier broth.  I threw in onion, potatoes, kale, and the chicken breast (with beef and bacon), diced up.  I added about a cup and a half of water, and the better part of a carton of chicken broth.  This was a great mix of flavors as well – hearty and smoky, not much like a typical chicken soup.

Happy Fall!


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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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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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Weekly Recipe: Pulled Barbecued Chicken

In honor of the start of summer in Maine (and in acknowledgement of the fact that it’s felt like summer in Georgia for about a month), I whipped out my Maine Summers Cookbook and began my search for the right recipe.

When I stumbled across “Pulled barbecued chicken with vidalia onions,” I knew it was the winner.  We’d recently been treated to a delicious, slow cooker version of pulled barbecue chicken while at a friend’s home over Mother’s Day weekend.  I hope to get a copy of their recipe, as well, but was thrilled to stumble across one of my own.  In addition, the vidalia onions honor our new Georgia home (check out Vidalia, GA, “The Sweet Onion City”).

You could easily transfer this recipe to a slow cooker, I believe.  It takes about 6 hours in an oven heated at approximately 250 degrees.  The recipe below serves 8 – I made a smaller version, between 1/3 to 1/2, but wasn’t precise enough with my measurements to share it.  The good news is, even if you don’t have the balance of ingredients exactly right, it still tastes great!

You’ll need:

  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 2 large Vidalia onions, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Cholula or other hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup cola (please, I beg you, don’t substitute this with a diet version – the sugars in the original are a critical flavor element)

Preheat the oven to 250 – 300 degrees.  Place the chicken and onions in a large Dutch oven.  In a separate sauce pan, combine the chicken broth, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, cider vinegar, hot sauce, and cola over medium heat, stirring until well blended and the brown sugar is dissolved.  Pour the mixture over the chicken and onions.

Put a lid on the Dutch oven and bake in the center at very low heat for 6 hours (I reduced the heat to about 200, 225 at this point).  Check the chicken for doneness – it should be falling apart.  Pull the chicken pieces to shreds using two forks until all meat is torn apart.

Partially pulled!  Be aware, the sauce starts off red and liquidy - it boils down to this nice, dark, barbecue sauce look.

Partially pulled! Be aware, the sauce starts off red and liquidy – it boils down to this nice, dark, barbecue sauce look.

Recommended serving is with warm roles and cole slaw.  I had the initial taste last night, while my husband attended a work dinner, and skipped the side dishes entirely.

Mmm!

Mmm! Who needs green veggies, anyway? 🙂

Tonight, we’ll have the rest, and I plan to serve it with green beans and Ben’s Peppery Potato Wedges – another great recipe from the Maine Summers Cookbook.

Enjoy!