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Bless Your Spoon: Berries, lobster and seafood, it must be Maine

By Stephanie Williams Dean

 

After spending a week in the blueberry state of Maine – I felt a bit spoiled.

But it wasn’t due to the abundance of unspoiled scenery. There was no shortage of nature’s paradise found anywhere – from land to sea. Nor was there a lack of abundant and delicious edibles from both.

Being a state food, the wild berry can be found in every kind of dish – on every menu – and for any meal. The state boasts of 40,000 acres that grow blueberries.

But it wasn’t just the berries that made the meals memorable.

The state’s most famed for frigid waters, ample fisheries – and fresh Maine lobster. And it only got better from there. Around every corner was a quaint bed and breakfast inn that served farm style breakfasts with filled baskets of sourdough breads with spreads of sweet homemade fruit jam, home baked, fruit-filled pastries, delectable lobster quiches, and soufflé crab omelets – all served fireside. If fresh lobster, crab, or blueberries could be added – they were.

You don’t have to go all the way to Maine to enjoy these delectable meals. Somehow, fresh lobster and crab instinctively find their way into many tasty dishes – from seafood casseroles to warm, savory pies.

You can discover creative ways to add any of these delicious foods to your recipes. While in season, add lots of fresh berries to your baked goods. Take simple basic dough recipes – pancakes, waffles, coffee cakes, and muffins – and load them up with berries.

Whether picked from land or plucked from sea – fresh berries and seafood – both are equally delicious when eaten plain. I enjoy my fresh lobster served whole and plain – with only a squeeze of fresh lemon and dipped in melted butter.

That’s what I call berry simple.

THE WHARF’S FRESH WHOLE LOBSTER

Boiling water

Salt

2 – 1 ¼ lb. fresh Maine lobsters

Melted salted butter

Fresh lemon wedges

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place lobster in boiling water. When water returns to a boil, set timer for 20 minutes. Serve with melted butter and fresh lemon wedges.

SALMON STEAKS WITH HERB BUTTER

4 – 1-inch thick, 3/4 lb. salmon steaks

¼ cup melted butter

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 quartered lemons

Preheat broiler for 15 minutes. Dry salmon with paper towels. Spread both sides of steaks with melted butter. Arrange steaks on rack of broiling pan, 4-inches away from the burner. Broil 3 minutes on each side. Baste with the pan butter or remaining butter. Salt and pepper them and broil 3 more minutes. Turn over, baste again, and broil 8 more minutes. Transfer to a heated serving platter. Garnish with lemon quarters.

Herbed Butter

1 stick softened salted butter

1 Tbsp. chopped scallions

1 tsp. chopped garlic

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cream softened butter until fluffy. Beat in the shallots, garlic, and parsley. Add salt to taste and ground pepper. Spread herbed butter over steaks or serve in a small sauce dish.

GRAVLAX WITH MUSTARD-DILL SAUCE

3 ½ lbs. cut, cleaned, scaled fresh Salmon

1 large bunch of dill

¼ cup Kosher salt

¼ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. white or black crushed peppercorns.

Have salmon cut lengthwise, with backbone and any small bones removed. Place half of fish, skin side down, in a glass baking dish. Chop dill and sprinkle over the fish. In a bowl, combine salt, sugar, and crush peppercorns. Spread this mixture evenly over the meat. Add another layer of fish on top with skin side facing upward. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place on a platter that’s larger than the fish. Weight it down with weights that are distrusted evenly over the fish. Food cans work well.  Refrigerate 48 hours while turning the fish every 12 hours and basting with the liquid marinade that forms. Baste the inside of salmon as well. Return to platter and reapply weights on top. When finished, remove fish from marinade and remove seasonings and dill. Pat dry with paper towels. On a wood carving board, place the two fish halves with skin side down. Slice thinly on the diagonal and remove meat from the skin. Serve with cream cheese, chopped red onion, capers, lemon wedges, crackers, or toast with mustard sauce.

Mustard and Dill Sauce for Gravlax

4 Tbsp. dark, grainy Dijon-style mustard

1 tsp. powdered mustard

3 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. white vinegar

1/3 cup Wesson oil

3 Tbsp. fresh chopped dill

In a bowl, mix the dark mustard and dry mustard, sugar, and vinegar to a paste. Using a wire whisk, slowly add oil while whisking until it thickens and emulsifies. Stir in chopped dill. Refrigerate in a rightly covered jar for days. Remix ingredients by shaking before serving.

HOT LOBSTER MELTS

1 lb. fresh lobster

8 oz. crumbled, white sharp cheddar cheese

2 Tbsp. premium mayonnaise

1 stick softened, salted butter

½ tsp. seasoned salt

½ tsp. garlic powder

2 Tbsp. salted butter

In a mixer bowl, mix chunky lobster pieces with mayonnaise, crumbled cheese, butter, salt, and garlic powder. Spread on artisan-style sliced bread such as oatmeal. In a skillet, melt butter. Toast sandwiches over medium heat for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and filling is hot and melted.

FISH AND CHIPS

1 beaten egg yolk

2 Tbsp. beer

¼ tsp. salt

1cup all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp. whole milk

3 Tbsp. water

1 egg white

Crisco shortening for frying

2 lbs. baking potatoes, sliced ½ inch thick/wide

2 lbs. fresh haddock, flounder , cod, cut 5-inch pieces,

For the batter, in a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add beer and salt. Add flour alternating with milk and water. Mix well until batter smooth. Allow batter to sit for 30 minutes. Beat egg white until stiff. Fold into batter. Heat 5 inches of shortening in a skillet. Dry sliced potatoes and deep fry in several batches until crisp and light brown. Paper drain and keep warm. Dry cleaned fish. Drop a few pieces of fish at a time into batter. When well coated, drop them in the hot fat. Fry for 5 minutes or until browned. Turn occasionally to prevent sticking to the pan. Serve with malt vinegar and salt.

PUFFY BATTER FOR FRIED FISH

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 egg

1 tsp. seasoning salt

2/3 cup whole milk

1 Tbsp. Wesson oil

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg and add milk, seasoning salt, hile, and oil.  Fold milk mixture into flour mixture and stir until smooth. Dip dry seafood such as shrimp, clams, or scallops into the batter. Fry in Wesson oil in an electric skillet for 3 minutes. Makes a delicious puffy batter.

LOBSTER PIE

2 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

½ lb. thinly sliced mushrooms

½ cup chopped scallions

1 lb. lobster meat

2 Tbsp. salted butter

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 cup light cream

½ cup grated Swiss cheese

½ cup cooking sherry

Prebaked pie crust

1 cup bread crumbs

Melted butter

In a skillet, melt butter. Saute mushrooms and scallions for 5 minutes. Set aside. Cut lobster into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. In a skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. butter. Stir in flour and gradually add cream while heating until thickened into a white sauce. To white sauce, add grated cheese and stir until melted. Pour in wine, lobster, mushrooms, and scallions. Pour into one prebaked pie crust. Sprinkle top with breadcrumbs and melted butter, or add top crust if desired. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown.

SMOKED SALMON MOUSSE

6 oz. smoked salmon

3 egg whites

Pinch nutmeg

Salt and cayenne pepper

4 oz. cream

Cut salmon into small ½-inch pieces. Place salmon, egg whites, nutmeg, and a little salt and pepper in a food processor. Process for 1½ minutes or until pureed. Add cream a little at a time while continuing to process until smooth consistency. Season to taste. Place mixture in 4 greased mousse cups. Place cups halfway submerged in a covered pan of water. Bake in a 350-degree oven until knife tests clean.

LOBSTER QUICHE

Partially pre-baked pie shell

1 Tbsp. salted butter

½ cup chopped onion

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

8 sliced mushrooms

1 lb. lobster or crab meat

¾ lb. sliced Gruyere or Swiss cheese

7 beaten eggs

2 cups heavy cream

1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

Dash cayenne pepper

Dash nutmeg

In a skillet, melt butter, and saute onion until transparent. Sprinkle onion in bottom of pie shell. Evenly spread parmesan cheese, mushrooms, and lobster in pie shell. Cover with slices of cheese. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs with cream, flour, salt, cayenne, and nutmeg. Pour over the lobster mixture. Bake in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325-degrees, and bake 15-20 minutes or until set and golden.

MAINE’S CRABCAKES

1 large egg

1 cup Italian bread crumbs

¼ cup premium mayonnaise

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 lb. crabmeat

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp dry mustard

In a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add bread crumbs, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and dry mustard. Fold in crabmeat gently and lightly mix thoroughly. Shape into patties. Cook in frying pan about 5 minutes on each side and golden brown.

BLUEBERRY CORNBREAD

1 stick salted butter

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ cups whole milk

½ cup fresh blueberries

Flour

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt while alternating with milk. Mix well. Fold in blueberries that have been dredged in flour. Bake in a greased pan in a 375-degree oven for 40 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Serve hot.

SECRET BLUEBERRY-BUTTERMILK PANCAKES

1 egg

1 Tbsp. Wesson oil

1 Tbsp. honey

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

¾ cup fresh Maine blueberries

In a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add oil and honey. Mix well. Add flour, baking powder, and soda while alternating with buttermilk. Stir just enough to mix ingredients. Use ¼ cup of batter per pancake. The secret to great blueberry pancakes is adding fresh blueberries after the batter is poured on the griddle instead of adding berries to the batter. The presentation and flavor are so much better.

MAINE BLUEBERRY-PECAN MUFFINS

1 ½ stick softened, salted butter

1 ¼ cups sugar

3 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup wheat flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

½ cup whole milk

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

2 tsp. grated lemon rind

1 cup fresh Maine blueberries

¾ cup chopped pecans

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. In a bowl, combine milk with lemon juice. Add flour, wheat flour, baking powder, and salt while alternating with the milk. Mix well. Fold in grated rind, fresh blueberries, and nuts. Mix well. Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until done. Cool 5 minutes. Makes 16 muffins.

FRESH BLUEBERRY SPREAD

8 cups mashed blueberries (or strawberries, blackberries, raspberries)

1 cup honey

2 cups finely ground dried apples.

In a pot, combine blueberries, honey, and apple. Bring to a boil while stirring. Boil for 10 minutes. Sterilize ½-pint jars in boiling water bath. Fill sterile jars within ¼-inch of the top. Seal and return to boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool on rack. Spread will be more liquid than traditional pectin jam but easy and delicious. Makes 8-8 oz. jars.

FRESH BLUEBERRY-BLUE RIBBON PIE

4 cups fresh Maine blueberries

1 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/8th tsp. salt

1 ½ Tbsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

1 Tbsp. salted butter

2 pie crusts

1 Tbsp. superfine sugar

Prebake pie crust as per pkg. directions in a 9-inch pie pan.  In a bowl, combine fresh blueberries, flour, salt, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Pour into pie crust. Dot top with butter. Cover with top crust and seal edges. Brush top lightly with cold water and sprinkle it evenly with 1 Tbsp. of superfine sugar. Make 4 slits in crust to allow for escape of steam. Bake in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350-degrees and bake for 30 minutes. Brush top with melted butter during last 5 minutes. While baking, cover if necessary to prevent top crust from burning.