March 9, 2011

These are a few of Maine chefs' . . . favorite things

We consulted with 20 Restaurant Week chefs and asked them to share tricks, tips, tools, recipes -- anything, really -- that they've grown to love in the past year.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

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Staff art by Michael Fisher

-- Charlie Cicero, chef, Anneke Jans, Kittery

My favorite kitchen tool: a wooden-handled fish spatula by TableCraft. We use them for everything from turning fish to stirring polenta. Truly a versatile tool. Also, any John Boos cutting board.

-- Troy Mains, chef, No. 10 Water, Captain Daniel Stone Inn, Brunswick

The creme de brie with our house-made grape relish is so delicious. We bake off a small portion until it's fondue-like and ready for dipping. Our grape relish that we make in-house is the perfect complement to the cheese-soaked bread. It is one of our newest additions and the star of our "hands-on" menu, a collection of half appetizer-sized starters to have while reading over the dinner menu.

The menu started from this talk we had about there being something very special about picking up food and eating it with your hands. Maybe it hits on being primal or animalistic; I think it's more fun too. This creme de brie with the grape relish is the best bite I've had all year.

-- Bo Byrne, chef, David's 388, South Portland

Pate a choux is this old-school technique that many learn in culinary school to make cream puffs, eclairs, etc. It is also used to lighten potatoes, and in the French tradition, it is used to make gnocchi. We use this pate choux base to make flavored gnocchis.

Traditionally, the first part of the mixture is made of equal parts of milk to water. We substitute the milk with a vegetable puree, carrot, pea, apple brown butter. We replace the water with the juice of the vegetable or fruit, then we cook it on the stove with flour until it comes together and whip in the Kitchen Aid with eggs. We load the mixture into a piping bag and drop into boiling water until they float. Cool on a sheet tray, coat with oil, then fry on the pick-up. It is light, and the flavor of the ingredient really comes through.

-- Lynette Mosher, chef/co-owner, Lily Bistro, Rockland

"Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy" by Diana Kennedy is our new favorite book. Not only is it a cookbook, it also sheds light on the various cooking styles, interpretations and unusual ingredients of one of the most culturally complex regions of Mexico. We're featuring picadillo-stuffed jalape?en escabeche from this book on our Restaurant Week menu.

Karl Okerholm (my right-hand at El Rayo) recently reunited me with a set of those handy empanada molds in various sizes. Saving crimping and forming time, they're great for forming the elegant Mexican hand pies, resulting in a professional look.

Ginger syrup for adding depth to our hand-crafted non-alcoholic drinks, and hibiscus leaves for adding vibrant color to cocktails and desserts. Both of these ingredients add a fun and intriguing element to our food and drink. Red dye No. 2 begone; hibiscus butter cream, anyone?

-- Cheryl Lewis, executive chef, El Rayo Taqueria, Portland

The newest technique that I have found to be very helpful in the kitchen is using my food processor in some of our charcuterie processes. Before I read about this technique, I relied solely on my meat grinder for processing meats, which works great for coarse, country-style sausages and pates. But when I want to make something a little more refined, with a smooth, delicate texture, I will grind the meat first and then use the food processor to finish the process. Doing this helps me to make beautiful mortadella, which has become a favorite on our daily charcuterie board.

-- Peter Sueltenfuss, chef, District, Portland

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


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