Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine

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Recipe: Mom’s Best Brisket

Alright, faithful readers.  I’m back with a not-so-weekly recipe, but it’s guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.

I was a bit shocked when I realized how much time had passed since my last recipe post, but then I remembered: for the last four months, I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free and dairy-free diets in the (ultimately futile) hope they would minimize or eliminate my migraines.  No such luck, but through that process I discovered how many of my Maine cookbook recipes heavily feature dairy (because let’s be honest, it’s delicious).  I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that aside from difficulty at restaurants, eliminating gluten and dairy really wasn’t that hard, and I didn’t miss it that much.  Now that I’m back to an unrestricted diet, it’s time to get back to regular recipe shares.

Mom’s Best Brisket comes from my all-time favorite Maine cookbook, Recipes from the Maine Kitchen.  It fits my low-maintenance cooking and entertaining requirements: brief ingredient list, relatively straightforward, and delicious results.  I made this on Saturday while we were entertaining a few friends and watching college football (Go Tigers!), and it was a hit.  For the best flavor, you should really make it the day before…. but I ran out of time.

Recipe serves 10 (also halves well)
You’ll need:

  • 6 lb. single brisket or 2 smaller cuts
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Oil or spray for browning meat

Brown the brisket on all sides in a heavy skillet or large Dutch oven.  Remove brisket and put on a platter, then brown the onions and garlic.  Add the remaining ingredients and place the brisket back in the pot.

You can either cook the brisket on the stove top over a low flame for 2 to 3 hours, covered, or put it in the oven, covered, at 325 degrees for the same amount of time.

At 2 hours, check the meat – if it is tender but not falling apart, remove the brisket and place on a large cutting board.  Slice the meat across the grain in 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices, return to the pot, cover and continue cooking for a half hour to an hour.  This step is messy but is worth it!  The flavors really seep into the meat this way.

I served the brisket with a salad and garlic couscous, but mashed potatoes would also be an excellent side.

Happy cooking!

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Weekly Recipe: Italian Ragu over Pasta

During the colder months, I’m very much drawn to hearty, filling meals like this meaty, flavorful ragu recipe from Recipes from the Maine Kitchen.  Once again, this favorite cookbook delivered a winning recipe that earned “really good” reviews from my husband.

The original recipe serves 8-10 (as written below).  I halved it, and was also missing a few ingredients, but it was still excellent.  Being a home cook generally means being realistic – you’re not always going to have on hand, want to buy, or be able to find every single ingredient in a recipe.  This means finding a recipe that still delivers results even when not prepared just so is like finding a treasure.

You’ll need:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/4 lb. pancetta, finely diced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3/4 lb. ground pork
  • 6 large chicken livers
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Ravioli or rigatoni pasta (you could also serve this over spinach or rice, if trying to avoid gluten)
Diced veggies

Diced veggies

Heat olive oil with butter, and saute onions, carrots, celery, and pancetta until golden.



Add the meats gradually, breaking them into small pieces.  Cook until meats render their fats and turn brown.  Add white wine and let it evaporate on high heat.  Add stock and stir well.  Bring to simmer and tomato puree. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. (my simmering only lasted about an hour, as the liquid cooked down very quickly)



Meanwhile (or close to the end of simmer time), saute mushrooms in remaining butter, adding some salt and pepper.  I would also start your water for pasta, if desired, around now.  Add the garlic and chopped parsley to the mushrooms.  When sauce is done simmering, add mushrooms and heavy cream.  Simmer together for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors, and serve over pasta.



As indicated early in this post, this recipe was really good.  It will be added to the roster of meals at the Vaughn house!  It was rich, flavorful, and pretty straightforward to prepare.  I could even make it on a weeknight, because the simmering didn’t take as long as anticipated.  I did not include the chicken livers – because I visited two stores and couldn’t find them at either – and discovered that my mushrooms had gone bad when I went to retrieve them from the fridge.  Although both would have been nice to have, their exclusion didn’t negatively impact our enjoyment of dinner.

One of the things I like best about the Maine Kitchen cookbook is the frequent inclusion of wine pairings with their recipes.  In this case, the author recommends a Barbaresco.

Happy cooking!

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Weekly Recipe: Gruyere Chicken (and a side dish!)

On Sunday evening, we invited a family over for dinner – we’ve become close with them over the last several years, as my husband has been a mentor to their son (also named Nick) since he coached him in soccer as a freshman in high school. Now, ‘little Nick,’ as I call him – although he’s probably over 6′ feet tall – is half way through his freshman year of college studying architecture at Washington University in St. Louis.  The entire family is wonderful – Nick and his younger sister, Annika, are both friendly, considerate, intelligent, polite, bilingual (the benefit of having a German father) – exactly the type of children most parents hope to have (not to say Nick hasn’t had his missteps – but frankly, I’d rather have a child who does test the limits a bit). Their parents, Jane and Klaus-Dieter, are also lovely, and they have hosted us at their home many times.  I can attest to what a fabulous cook Jane is.

I decided to make the Gruyere Chicken Dish from – you guessed it – my favorite cookbook, Recipes from the Maine Kitchen.  I promise (promise, promise) that my next ‘Weekly Recipe’ will come from one of my other Maine cookbooks – I just truly love this one that much!  This recipe was perfect for the occasion because it is easy to cook in a large amount – the original recipe is for 12!  And it is delicious.  After all, how could something with both gruyere and parmesan cheese go wrong?  I also took the cookbook’s recommendation and made parsleyed orzo as a side dish, in addition to a green salad.  I’ll share that recipe as well.

This recipe is on page 117.  The quantities below are for 12 servings:

6 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (12 halves)

Flour and butter

8+ tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in half

4 large onions, chopped

2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika

1 cup dried breadcrumbs

1 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

(I would back off a little on the wine and chicken stock – it’s a little liquidy for me – I’d recommend 3/4 cup of wine, 1 cup chicken stock)

Flour the chicken breasts and melt butter in a large skillet.  Brown the chicken breasts and set aside.  In the same skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter and saute the onions until golden.

Flouring the chicken

Flouring the chicken

Mix together the Parmesan cheese, Gruyere cheese, paprika, and breadcrumbs.

Butter a large casserole dish, large enough for the chicken to be placed in one layer (you may need two dishes).  Preheat the oven to 375.  Layer half of the onions into the bottom of the casserole, and place the browned chicken on top.  Cover with remaining onions, and sprinkle the cheese mixture on top.  Dot with 4 tablespoons of butter.  Mix the wine and chicken stock together and drizzle over the dish.  Bake uncovered for one hour, and let rest in the oven at 200 degrees for an additional 15-20 minutes.

The parsleyed orzo recipe is on page 79.  I’d never made it before, but I have to say, it was excellent.  It smelled delicious and browned up beautifully.  My mistake was not adding quite enough salt and pepper during the mixing process.

1 lb. orzo

6 garlic cloves, whole (peeled)

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, divided by 3/4 and 1/4

1 1/4 cups parsley, chopped, divided by 1 cup and 1/4 cup

4 tablespoons breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

Boil orzo with the garlic for 10 minutes and drain in colander.  Rinse with cold water.  Remove garlic and mash with fork.  Whisk garlic with cream, add orzo, chicken stock, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.



Pour into a buttered, 2 quart baking dish.  Mix breadcrumbs with remaining Parmesan cheese and parsley, sprinkle over orzo and dot with butter.  Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes in the oven at 325 (this baking time may be a bit long – next time, in my oven, I’ll go with about an hour and 15 minutes).

Our dinner party was a success, and everyone gave the Gruyere Chicken Dish rave reviews.  My hubby and I are about to enjoy the leftovers, so it’s time to relax!




Weekly Recipe: Oven Beef Stew

You may have noticed this is my second weekly recipe post within days – I’m making up for lost time, you see.  I owe you one weekly recipe, and here it is.

This Oven Beef Stew recipe from Recipes from the Maine Kitchen is one of my all-time favorites. Just ask my husband – I make it at least once a month in the fall and winter, always on a Sunday, and the smell fills the house.  As a result, your mouth is watering long before it’s ready, and in my case, that means I have to have a bit of cheese and wine on hand to keep me patient.

I have modified this recipe, which can be found on page 64.  The list below are the ingredients and quantities I use, and in parantheses beside them, I’ve included what the original recipe called for.

1 onion, chopped

1 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes

1 10.5 oz can mushroom soup

2 cups beef broth (1 cup water)

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon flour (1/3 cup tapioca)

3 or 4 peppercorns

1 bay leaf (I’ve made this recipe with it and without it – it’s nice to have, but doesn’t have a significant impact on flavor)

1.5 lbs stew beef, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 lb. carrots, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 large potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes

1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste

(I also like to add a bit of seasoning salt)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place all the ingredients into a Dutch oven or covered pan and cook for 3 hours.  This recipe serves 4-6.

Turns out pictures of beef stew don't look so yummy.  You'll have to trust me that it's delicious.

Turns out pictures of beef stew don’t look so yummy. You’ll have to trust me that it’s delicious.

This recipe in particular is a stellar example of why I love this cookbook – it’s simple, easy, hearty, and healthy.  Most of the ingredients I already have in my house, so if I get an urge to make it, my grocery list is minimal.  In this case, I added about a 1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper, for several reasons – the first, I like to incorporate some sort of seasoning that isn’t salt and pepper, and my preference is a nice, spicy punch; the second is more health-based – using hot spices, like Cayenne actually revs your metabolism a bit.

What could be better on a cold winter day in Maine than beef stew?