Cook the Book – Apple Crisp

Some of my favorite shipboard memories are of times when we are at anchor, the awning is up, the decks are cleared and dinner is over. Jon and I are able to sit and look out over the harbor and watch the sunset with our passengers as we enjoy our after dinner coffee and dessert.

Apple Crisp from At Home At Sea

Apple Crisp

12 tart apples
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400°. Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4-inch wedges; toss them with the rest of the filling ingredients and spread them evenly in an ungreased 9 x 13-inch pan. In a separate bowl, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is coarsely blended.  Mix the sugar and salt into the topping; mixture should be crumbly. Place the topping on top of the apple mixture and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is browned and the liquid in the apples is dark.

Makes 15 servings

(c) Annie Mahle
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Cook the Book – Summer Vegetable Strata

Summer Vegetable Strata


12 slices of day old or dry French or Italian Bread, cut in 1/2-inch slices
1 clove garlic, slightly crushed
5 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup loosely packed fresh chopped basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 medium summer squash or zucchini, washed and cut into quarters lengthwise, then cut into pieces about 1/2-inch thick
2 tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Rub the top of each slice of bread with the garlic clove. Lay the slices in the dish in one layer, cutting them into pieces when necessary. Season lightly with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs then whisk in the milk, half of the cheese, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Add the basil and stir gently.  Set aside. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens and colors lightly. Stir the squash into the onion, spread everything in a single layer, and let it sit undisturbed for 1 to 2 minutes to encourage browning; turn and continue cooking another 1 to 2 minutes until browned. When the squash is lightly browned on both sides, stir in the tomatoes, stir to toss, and remove from heat. Use a slotted spoon to drain off any excess liquid and spread the vegetables evenly over the bread. Give the milk and egg mixture a stir and gently pour it all into the dish. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake until the milk and egg mixture sets, about 40-45 minutes. Cool at least 5 minutes, cut into squares and serve.

Serves 6-8

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Lobster, Mushroom, Spinach Risotto

This recipe is the perfect balance of colors with the bright reds and pinks of the lobster nestled alongside the gentle white of the risotto and the brilliant green of the spinach.  The flavors also balance well.  The spinach is a slightly bitter taste that pares well with the soft, cheesy risotto and the salty, creamy sea taste of the lobster.

Me, I’ll take risotto any way you can think of making it, but this one?  Tops.

Risotto has such a reputation for taking a long time to cook while the said cook stands over the stove with limp hair and a little damp with the heat as they endlessly stir and stir.  It doesn’t have to be so serious.  Just some coming back to the stove to stir, add more liquid, move away and repeat as needed, but not continuously.

Lobster, Mushroom and Spinach Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 t. salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3oz. or 4 cups lightly packed spinach, washed, drained and deribbed
1/2 pound cooked lobster meat
2 tablespoons butter

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and then mushrooms.  When the mushrooms begin to brown on the edges slightly, add the white wine and salt.  Bring to a boil and add the spinach and lemon juice, stirring quickly with tongs.  When the spinach has wilted, remove from heat and add the lobster meat and the butter.  Swirl the pan or stir with a wooden spoon and serve on top of risotto.

Serves 4


4 tablespoons butter, 1/2 stick
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups low-salt chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  If the onions begin to brown, reduce heat.  When the onions are done, add the rice and stir for one minute.  Add the salt, pepper and 1 cup of the stock and stir.  Continue to add the stock one cup at a time until it is all incorporated stirring frequently.  The rice is done when the liquid is completely incorporated and the grains are just the tiniest bit al dente in the center.  Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and reserve the second 1/2 cup for garnishing at the table.

Serves 4


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Cook the Book – Tomato Soup with Herbed Yogurt

This soup is not your average Campbell’s with a side of cheese sandwich, although I wouldn’t  pass on the grilled cheese.  It’s bright, tangy, zesty and imminently satisfying to the body for it’s flavor and to the mind for the childhood memories it brings to the fore.

This time of year, canned tomatoes are perfectly acceptable and actually preferred to the pink, mealy, tomato-ish things sold in the grocery store this time of year.  If you canned your own this year, lucky you for have escaping the blight that hit many of us.  Treat yourself and use up the last of them in this soup.

Tomato Soup with Herbed Yogurt

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice and zest of half an orange
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 29-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 square (1 ounce) bittersweet chocolate
Herbed Yogurt:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 green onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 small clove garlic, minced

Heat a stockpot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil, onion, garlic, orange zest, orange juice and spices.
Cook until the onions are translucent.  Add the rest of ingredients and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.  Meanwhile whisk the yogurt ingredients together.  Serve with a dollop of herbed yogurt.

Serves 4-6

Yankee Pot Roast with a rich, healthy gravy

Pot roast has to be one of my all time favorite meals.  From the simplest cuts of meat, comes the tenderest, melt-in-your-mouth meal.

Yankee Pot Roast with a Rich, Healthy Gravy

1/2 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3-4 pound chuck roast or pot roast
2 cloves garlic
1 carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 cups beef stock
2 cups red wine
1-2 tablespoons butter

Combine the first four ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Coat the chuck roast with the seasoning.  Heat a Dutch oven (or other ovenproof pot with cover) over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and carefully place the chuck roast in the oil.  Brown all sides, reducing heat to medium if the edges start to scorch.  This should take about 20 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients except the butter to the pot and cover.  Bake in 350° oven for 2 hours or until the roast is tender.  Set the meat aside and cover.  Pour the liquid, vegetables and all, into a blender or food processor.  Very carefully pulse the liquid and then puree.  Add butter one half tablespoon at a time.  Slice the meat with a sharp knife and serve immediately with the gravy.

Serves 4-6 generously

LOVE the smell of the house on days like today

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Nothing Beats Roasted Chicken for Comfort Food

I’ve decided.  People ask me all the time what my favorite thing to eat is and I can never choose.  Something highly unlike me in most circumstances.  But after making it last night for dinner, I’ve decided.  Roast chicken.  There is nothing more simple or more comforting that the delicious smell of roasting chicken.  That a simple sprinkle of salt and pepper liberally rubbed over dry skin and the interior cavity of a bird could produce delicate, crispy skin and moist, tender meat is a gift of nature.  Once roasted, it can be served sliced and with an elegant sauce or country style, carved at the table.

Last night I did it up simple and omitted the lemon and the rosemary.  I served it with a Roasted Chestnut and Squash Risotto.  The creamy, rich flavors of the rice complimented the cleaner, softer flavors of the chicken.  A big salad of greens and vegetables and I was in heaven.  If I were entertaining, I’d probably add the lemon or the rosemary and make the pan sauce too.

Lemon and Rosemary Chicken with Sea Salt
Roasting the chicken with the lemon underneath is a great way to add flavor and moisture to the dish.

4-6 pound chicken
1 lemon, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 tablespoon sea salt
3 sprigs rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 450º.  Remove the small bag on the inside of the chicken and then cut off any excess fat around the opening.  Cut off the wings and place them along with the lemon slices and the gizzards (what’s in the bag that was inside the chicken) on a roasting pan.   With the breast side down, make lengthwise cuts on either side of the spine with a sharp chefs knife.  Open the chicken up like you would a book.  Pat the chicken with a paper towel to dry.  Rub the whole chicken with salt and pepper and lay flat on top of the wings, lemon slices and gizzards, breast side up.

Roast for 15 minutes and then reduce oven temp to 375°.    Roast for another 50 minutes depending on how large the chicken is.  It is done when an internal thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 170-175º inserted into the thigh.  Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.  Carve and serve.

Serves 4-6

Pan Sauce
If you are feeling creative or have company coming, you can add this special touch to your dinner.

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup stock (or less)
Salt and pepper if needed

Once you’ve removed the chicken from the oven, transfer to a serving platter.  Strain all of the juice from the pan into a measuring cup.   Use any juice from the resting platter of chicken too.  Skim off any fat.  Add chicken stock to the remaining juice until it reaches 2/3 cup.  Place the roasting pan over a burner on the stovetop.  It’s okay if it doesn’t fit.  Over medium-high heat add white wine to the pan and whisk.  Add the stock and work any of the bits on the bottom of the pan into the stock.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour.  Once fully incorporated and bubbling, add the liquid from the roasting pan.  Whisk and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Test for seasoning and serve with the chicken.

Makes about a cup

Off to make a quick soup stock with my leftover bones

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Cook the Book – Pork Pot Pie

Individual Pork Pot PieI first created this recipe at Jessica’s Bistro on one of those really cold winter days when everyone was moving from one indoor place to another in a rush to get back into warmth. Its’ perfect for what most of the country is experienceing right now. You can make this as one big dish or prepare in individual dishes to swank it up a bit.

Pork Pot Pie

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound pork stew meat
1 cup chopped fennel
2 large onions, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tablespoon dried)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh black pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups beef stock
1 sheet puff pastry
Oil as needed to brush on the pastry.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Place the pork in the pot and cook until browned. Add the fennel, onions, carrots, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the onions are translucent. Dust with the flour, stir, and add the tomato paste.  Stir frequently for about 2 minutes. Add the beef stock; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours or until the meat is nearly done. Spoon the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch ovenproof ceramic dish. Rub the edge of the pan with water and cover it with the pastry dough.  Press down on the edges to seal the pastry to the edge of the pan and brush the pastry with oil. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Allow the pie to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8

You can also use this recipe with chicken. If you do be sure to only simmer your ingredients for 45 mintues. Two years ago I did a segment on Chicken Pot Pie for our local NBC affiliate WCSH’s  “207” program. We found the link for you, if you’d like to see.

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Sauteed Pork Chops w/ Balsamic, Rosemary Peppers & Onions

What I love about comfort food is the way you can dress it up or down.  It’s like that great black pair of pants that I have in my closet.  I can wear them to a board meeting, for a morning spent with 19 second graders and out to dinner with my husband.  The pants stay the same and only what gets paired with them changes.  They look good on me and they are comfortable.  Now if I could only find three more pairs just like them in different colors, I’d be all set.

Comfort food works the same way.  When you serve it family style, it’s simple and easy.  When you serve it buffet-style, you can dress it up a bit and it’s still comfortable and easy – the way entertaining should be.  When you plate it up for a romantic dinner for two, it becomes a lovely, elegant dinner to share with your honey.

This meal is one of those meals.  You could serve it to your family, your party guests or it could become your date night dinner for two.  The recipes are for the usual 4 to 6 people, but it’s easily reduced.  It’s forgiving enough to make for the kids, get them to bed and then have your grownup dinner.

Sauteed Pork Chops with Balsamic and Rosemary Peppers and Onions

If you can’t find boneless chops, it’s a simple task to cut out the small bone that can sometimes accompany the thin chops.  If you are serving 4-6 people, save those bones for a soup broth the following day.

For the pork chops:
4 thinly sliced boneless pork chops, about 2 pounds
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a little more to sprinkle
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon butter

For the peppers:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red or yellow pepper, sliced into long, thin strips
1 green pepper, sliced into long, thin strips
1 cup sliced onion, 1 medium onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
several grinds of fresh pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

Place one pork chop at a time on a cutting board.  Trim any fat (and bone if present).  Cover with a piece of plastic wrap at least twice the size of the chop.  With a meat mallet, pound the pork chops to 1/4-1/2 inch thick.  On a large plate, combine flour, salt, pepper, and paprika.  Dredge the pork chops in the flour mixture.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter in the pan and add the pork chops.  If you do not have a pan large enough to hold all of the pork chops at one time, sauté them in two batches.  You will need to use a bit more butter.  Sprinkle the pork chops with a pinch of salt.  Sauté for four minutes or until golden brown and flip with tongs.  Add a little more butter if needed and sauté for another three minutes.  Remove from pan, cover and set aside. 

For the peppers:
In the same pan that the pork was sautéed in, add the oil.  Add the onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add the peppers and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Stir often for another 8 minutes or until the onions and peppers are translucent and soft.  Add the rosemary and balsamic vinegar.  Add any juice that has collected on the platter containing the pork. 

Serves 4-6 people

Looking forward to dinner for two

© 2008 Anne Mahle

Fondue for a Blustery Night

While the wind whipped and the snow slapped at the windows all day yesterday and into the evening, we sat cozy and warm at our dinner table, dipping crusty bits of bread into silky cheese flavored with tangy white wine, Dijon mustard and garlic.  Fondue is such a simple meal and while we happen to have all manner of cheeses in the fridge right now, I choose to go the traditional route this time and stick with the conventional "Swiss" cheeses and white wine.

I found a variety of dipping vehicles on hand – some, time honored favorites and others, new successes.  Apples, carrots, bread and sausage always work well and are my favorites.  Roasted Brussels sprouts, cucumbers and some leftover flank steak rounded out the newcomers.  We added a glass of wine and it felt as if we were having a feast rather than the simplest of meals.

3/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup low salt chicken broth
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste
several grinds of fresh black pepper
3 oz. grated Gruyere, about 2 cups
3 oz. grated Emmenthaler, about 2 cups
1/4 cup flour

Bring the wine, broth, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper to a simmer.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss the cheese and the flour together.  When the wine mixture has come to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium add the cheese in three batches, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  When the cheese has melted, remove the garlic cloves and transfer to the fondue pot and serve with your favorite accompaniments.

Still digging out from over a foot of snow!

© 2008 Baggywrinkle Publishing

Hello Lovers of Comfort Food

One day about a two years ago, Elizabeth, who’s pictures will grace these pages and who is my right-hand super woman, said I should do a blog.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I had heard the term and it sounded like an online diary that I didn’t want anyone to read.  I resisted. 

After a year of suggesting, cajoling and badgering, I began the Maine Adventure Sails Blog about our adventures on our collective Maine Windjammers, the Schooners J. & E. Riggin and the Timberwind.  It was fun.

Two years later, I now begin this blog which is mostly about a passion for comfort food – the kind of dishes that get all us eating with each other around the table, that nourish our souls as well as our bellies, that give us a sense of connection to our food and where it comes from.  Food connects us on large and small scales.  Everyone needs to eat.  We could choose to simply view meals as fuel to keep our bodies going.  But what makes food wonderful is the joy that comes from the growing, producing, creating, sharing and savoring. 

This is why I love food.  It brings us joy.