My very own personal food resolutions for 2019:

1) (Finally) learn to cut up a whole chicken with confidence.

2) (Finally) learn to cook rice so that it turns out perfectly every time, be it basmati, jasmine, sticky rice or brown rice.

3) (Finally) learn to sharpen my knives. In fact, I have learned this last skill before. Several times. Or rather I have grilled experts on the technique, read up on it, practiced it and purchased both a steel and a sharpening stone. But as you would know instantly if you visited my kitchen today – or any day – and rummaged around in the knife drawer, I have not mastered the skill. Nowhere near.

When I mentioned No. 1 to an acquaintance at the YMCA last month, she looked at me in disbelief and said, “You don’t know how to cut up a chicken?!?!?!” I am officially outing myself here in the hopes that I will be too embarrassed to reach 2020 still buying chicken parts, producing mediocre rice and struggling to slice and dice with shamefully dull edges.

I phoned around to ask other Mainers, both in the food industry and out, if they too had culinary resolutions for 2019. I put no parameters around the answers, which could be professional, personal or both. As long as vows involved food or drink, interviewees could strive to shed a few pounds, to grow a better tomato, to score a seat at Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy – named last year the Best Restaurant in the (entire!) World by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants – or maybe just manage to snag a table come summer tourist season in any old Portland restaurant without an hour’s wait. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Thus far unruffled

Mattie Daughtry, House District 49 (part of Brunswick) state representative and co-owner of Moderation Brewing in Brunswick

There is one cake I have wanted to make for 15 years. It is Alice Medrich’s chocolate ruffle cake that she made with Julia Child. I saw this (on TV) when I was maybe 12 years old. It’s one of the most complicated but delicious-looking cakes I’ve ever seen. This has been my vow for about 15 years, and I still haven’t done it. I knock one of my vows off every year, typically, but this one just doesn’t go away. The brewery and I have the same birthday – March 9 (Daughtry will turn 32, the brewery will turn 1), so maybe I’ll make it for that. It’ll be a process. I want to try that ruffle technique many times before I make the cake. My poor legislative committee and my brewery co-workers and all my family might be subjected to my chocolate ruffle rejects.

I have a business (resolution), too. We specialize in using local ingredients. I am hoping to use some unusual ones in the new year, to take that further. We’ve used local foraged juniper, elderberry, lemon balm. So definitely more local ingredients and more unusual grains.

Also, I am hoping to take the Cicerone training, which is a sommelier for beer. The brewery combines all of my loves – my love of Maine, politics, food and agriculture. But what I love most is when people come in and tell me what they are making for dinner and ask me what beer will go with it. So I want to get better at not only making our beer go with food, but also developing specific recommendations for people. Maybe if I get better at it, I can pick the perfect beer to go with the chocolate–raspberry ruffle cake.

Editor’s Note: We had planned to include the recipe here until we took a look at it in our copy of “Baking with Julia”: The cake runs 5 1/2 single-spaced 8-by-11-inch pages.

Six, the shucker said

Diane Hudson, fine arts photographer and part-time restaurant writer

I’d like to learn how to shuck oysters. I love oysters. I just lost my significant other of 30 years. He loved oysters. We probably didn’t have them as much as – well, they are sort of a luxury. I think maybe his love of those has come over into my consciousness. One time during his illness when he was hospitalized, instead of sending flowers, our friends sent something like three or four dozen oysters. I had a tenant shuck them for us. But I don’t want to be dependent on my tenant every time I want to eat oysters.

Then – it was about a year before Eddie (Fitzpatrick) died, I took him out on a little cruise in Casco Bay; I was doing photographs. There was an oyster shucker there. You could eat as many oysters as you liked. I warned Eddie not to overdo it because of the salt – he had congestive heart failure. But I think Eddie decided before he died he was going to eat as many as he could. At the end of the trip, I asked the shucker, “How did he do? He didn’t have too many, did he?” Six, the shucker said. I thought he meant six oysters, but (Eddie) actually ate six dozen oysters in about three hours! The shucker said, “I tried to get him to eight, but he said at six, ‘No I’ve had enough.’ ” Maybe if I learn to shuck oysters, I can have enough, because I don’t think I’ve ever had enough oysters.

(Eddie) was also a food lover. He owned the Pepperclub (in Portland). He had to leave it about three years before it closed because of medical issues. He had everything written down. I remember seeing the books. He’d do a new recipe and then he’d write it down in his own writing. I can’t imagine that anyone would just destroy (those books). He did all the curries and the dal and this wonderful slow-roasted Greek lamb. I used to cook, but then being with him for 30 years, he did all the cooking, so it’s just coming to me again that I do like to cook. I want to get all those handwritten recipes and teach myself. I miss his curries. He used to grind his own spices. He did it right from scratch. I want to do that. It’s a goal. And all the people who enjoyed those, who had them, come and enjoy them – with me!

At 15, making food that’s just scrummy

Sophie Routhier, 10th-grader at South Portland High School and daughter of Press Herald features writer Ray Routhier. Sophie is obsessed with “The Great British Baking Show” and is an accomplished baker and cook herself.

I’d really like to make an English trifle, because I just recently purchased a trifle dish, this beautiful glass dish that’s just sitting on my counter, and I’d really like to use it. It was my mother’s find. She saw it at Goodwill. I got some raspberry liqueur in my (Christmas) stocking for my cooking so I’m going to make a raspberry trifle. I have seen (trifle) on “The Great British Baking Show” many times, which inspired me to make one once. It tasted great. It didn’t look that good. I used a Blue Willow bowl that I make my mashed potatoes in. Not ideal. I’ve been looking for a trifle dish for, like, forever.

Oh ghee – and curry, paneer and kheer

Meredith Goad, Portland Press Herald food writer

Many revelers vow that, in the New Year, they’ll get back in touch with old friends – a laudable notion, to be sure. But for me this year the “old friend” is one of my favorite cookbooks that I have let languish on a shelf for far too long. It’s “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking” by Yamuna Devi.

This is the cookbook that – along with a few Indian friends – taught me (25 years ago!) to prepare authentic Indian food. This is the book that taught me not only how to make ghee before it was trendy, but encouraged flavoring the clarified butter with cloves, sesame seeds and nutmeg. I used the gigantic tome to learn how to make paneer (Indian cheese), which I tied up in cheesecloth and hung from my kitchen’s water faucet, for use in one of my favorite Indian dishes, saag paneer. It taught me the difference between mung beans and black lentils, and in winter I lived off of the big pots of dal I made with them. Kitchari became one of my staple savory comfort foods, and kheer a favorite dessert.

Best of all, I discovered a springtime vegetable chowder, including new potatoes, peas, carrots, green beans, zucchini and spinach, all floating in a light cream base. It’s flavored with mint leaves, coriander seeds, black peppercorns and cinnamon sticks. Making it – like a lot of Indian food – is an all-day task, but that first delightful spoonful releases an explosion of flavors. Everyone who tries it loves it.

I long to make that soup again. And there are 500 other recipes in “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine” still waiting to be discovered and mastered. In the New Year, I plan to dive back in.

Seeking authenticity

Jessica Mathews and Lea Verrill, co-pastry chefs at Botto’s Bakery in Portland. Mathews is also a co-owner.

MATHEWS: Botto’s in 2019 is turning 70, so we are launching a bunch of new stuff. Every month of the year, we’ll have something different. The whole idea is getting people reacquainted with Botto’s, one of those older businesses that have been here a long time and are still super good, or maybe getting people off the peninsula to try something new – that is definitely our main goal for 2019.

Lea and I are really invested in getting people to try what they don’t think is Italian food. We try to stick to pretty authentic Italian, so expanding people’s palates to try something that maybe hasn’t been Americanized. A lot of people equate Italian cookies with a butter cookie with a maraschino cherry in it. You won’t find that anywhere if you go to Italy. We are trying to educate people that there is more to Italian sweets than that.

VERRILL: People seem to be embracing the savory end of more authentic Italian but have been reluctant to on the sweet end. Even though we are 90 miles away, you get people who come in who are so used Mike’s Pastry Shop or the Modern Pastry Shop in Boston. We say, “They are great, but that’s not Botto’s.” We try to offer things that are as close to the Italian cooking and our family recipes that we grew up with as possible.

Same time next year

Kristina Egan, executive director of Greater Portland Council of Governments and an avid cook

I didn’t know how to cook at all until I got to Maine and I married a Mainer who had a beautiful kitchen. And I took to cooking like a fish to water, reading a lot, trying things, talking to people, asking really stupid questions of my neighbors, calling my mom.

Now I have two overflowing binders with those plastic sheet protectors that I have been stuffing recipes into ever since I started cooking. They are very loosely organized. There are all kinds of recipes in them. Many of them have handwritten exclamations about who likes or doesn’t like what: My son likes this. My husband loves that. They range from being from my grandmother, from my mom, from bloggers and from friends. Opening the binder is like walking into a room full of people I love.

I’d like to be able to give them back in some way from all of the community from which I borrowed them. My resolution is to figure out how to digitize them, capturing all of the color and handwritten exclamations – it’s very much like a scrapbook – and then give them out next year for the holidays. If you’re going to publish this in a newspaper, I better get to it. I’m really glad I didn’t tell you I am going to cook healthy all year!

Other people do yoga

Guy and Stella Hernandez, partners in Lolita restaurant in Portland. Guy Hernandez is the executive chef; Stella Hernandez is the wine director.

STELLA: Guy started out as a baker, but I don’t know how to bake bread, and I even grew up with a mom who baked bread. I am getting a sense that I should learn how to do this. Our son is 12 now. As he gets more independent, it opens up a few minutes here or there to do something by yourself. There are times on Sunday morning when it would just be nice to put on NPR and bake. I bake sweet things now, but not bread. Other people do yoga. I just have a higher-calorie hobby. I have been gifted with a little bit of the sourdough starter we have (at the restaurant), and I hope not to kill it. This is a starting-from-zero situation for me.

GUY: I have (a resolution) that is both professional and personal, where the two things overlap. At the restaurant, we’re not so interested in the latest trend as we are in the pleasure of eating and cooking and providing good hospitality. The personal side is I would like to be at the table more. Over the holidays, being with my family and having meals with friends – we all enjoy being together around food, but it wasn’t so much about the food. Obviously we try to outdo each other with what we are going to cook at Christmas, but when I look back at those meals, it’s more the company I kept and the conversation we had. So in the new year, being able to spend more time with friends and family, and yes food is a great catalyst for that.

STELLA: It’s something you give up when you own a restaurant. There is always a part of service every night where I look out and I see some table really enjoying themselves and I think, “I’m a little jealous.”

Can’t bleat these

Christelle Mckee, owner, with her husband Jon, of Copper Tail Farm in Waldoboro. The couple raises chickens and Nubian and Nigerian Dwarf goats and produces cheese, yogurt, kefir, cajeta, caramels, soap and eggs.

Since we make (goat) cheese here at our farm, one of (my resolutions) is to try a new recipe each week that features one of our cheeses. Customers ask us all the time for ideas. It’s nice to have a couple different ones in mind, ones that I’ve actually done myself, not just seen online. Both my husband and I cook a lot. This week I am trying to make (goat milk) ricotta pancakes. The second (resolution) is we want to expand our garden. We already have a small kitchen garden in back, but we’d like to expand it so we can grow as much of our own food as we can. We’d like to put in asparagus, but it won’t be ready this year because it takes two years to come in. It’s one we keep delaying because it doesn’t give instant gratification (she laughs). The last (resolution) is that whatever we can’t produce ourselves, we want to try to get from the farmers market. It’s really important for me to know where my food comes from and to support the local community and farmers in the area.

Gin surprise

Josh Rogers, owner of Heritage Seaweed in Portland, which sells products made from seaweed (and other ocean-based items) that range from tea to soap to snacks to salt.

My background before the shop was in food writing. I was an editor at Zagat’s in New York and I worked at Google as a content strategist working on dining. I am from Maine so I kept up with things here, and Portland is basically this national destination for foodies. And so I care a lot about the local dining scene for those two reasons and it is amazing. But I really want to see more local chefs working with Maine seaweed. I really see this next year as trying to introduce local chefs to local seaweeds, all the culinary possibilities. It seems like it is the missing link in the local farm-to-table movement. When people visit here, I want them to seek out seaweed. Everyone is asking, “Where is the best lobster roll? Where are the best oysters?” I want people to be doing that with seaweed. It’s going to be a busy year.

That leads into my personal resolution, which is that I’ve discovered there are about eight or 10 seaweed-infused gins. They are mostly in the U.K., one in San Francisco, a bunch in Canada. I am a big gin fan. I’m on a mission to try those all. Gin has always had the botanicals; seaweed just makes a lot of sense.

Just like the song

Clorinda and Richard Noyes, musicians in the Portland Symphony Orchestra, Clorinda Noyes plays violin and loves to cook; Richard Noyes plays cello and loves to grow vegetables. They have been married for almost 49 years and have played in the PSO for 35 of those years.

CLORINDA NOYES: We’re not really changing or making new directions for the New Year, but we have always had – for the last 20 years or so – a very large garden.

RICHARD NOYES: We grow most of our vegetables. Essentially, I grow, and she is the chef. We do a lot of canning.

CLORINDA: Basically, the garden gets us foundational veggies. We have tomatoes that will last us a year …

RICHARD: A couple years.

CLORINDA: We have a lot of greens – arugula, beet greens, spinach.

RICHARD: Onions.

CLORINDA: Garlic. Dick has processed it, minced garlic, and we put in it in jars and in the freezer.

RICHARD: Shallots.

CLORINDA: We were mostly eccentric or old-fashioned for a while, but we became really hip and cool.

RICHARD: We also grow and dry herbs so we have dried herbs all year. Parsley.

CLORINDA: Sage.

RICHARD: Rosemary.

CLORINDA: And thyme. Just like the song. Oregano and basil. We have tubs of pesto made with the basil in the garlic in our freezer to pull out at will. (Our resolution is to) stay the course. Enjoy the ride …

RICHARD: … with a heavy emphasis on Italian cuisine.

Local – no, really

RICHARD BILODEAU, lecturer on entrepreneurship in the University of Southern Maine’s School of Business and Food Studies Program

I really want to try to figure out how to enjoy more local food, particularly at home. Typically, we eat at home three days a week and out four days a week. We do that because Portland has such a great restaurant scene, and there are so many wonderful places to try. But one of these things I did this past holiday season is I made a deal with myself that I would do all my holiday shopping locally, and it took a little more time, but it was a much better experience. I am hoping to adapt some of that local thinking into how we do our grocery shopping, to really expand our thinking about what we purchase and what we cook.

From a business perspective, one of my hopes is that the farmers market continues to expand – it has some logistical challenges. Hannaford and Whole Foods try to do what they can, but at the grocery store local often has this interesting definition. The other day I was in Whole Foods and there were some “local” apples coming from Pennsylvania. Sure that’s more local than Argentina but … I teach courses in sustainability. We don’t often think of the carbon footprint of the food we eat. When you think about that apple you buy at the grocery store, if it came from South America, it had to travel a great distance. So it had to be preserved in some way. There is a carbon cost to refrigeration or we are putting fruit into inert gases that escape into the atmosphere. When you start to think about the realities, that apple, even though we call it fresh fruit, it’s not that fresh.

Garden goals

Zora Margolis, Wiscasset resident and passionate hobby cook, with a special interest in local food, jam-making and pickling –”That’s my thing,” she says.

The top of my list is to take better care of my garden this year – vegetables, herbs, and I have fruit trees, too. I didn’t pay enough attention last summer. I didn’t feed it enough. I didn’t water it enough. I didn’t weed it enough, and consequently, what I got from it was very disappointing. So if I’m going to plant a garden, I’m going to take better care of it.

No. 2, I am going to use what is in my freezer. I am going to cook down the freezer this year before I buy more stuff and put it in there.

The third one is I am going to eat more salad. Because my husband doesn’t particularly like salad, I don’t make salads that often. But for my own health, I need to eat more salad.

My fourth one is I want to cook for friends more often. I ended up not giving as many dinner parties as I would like to (because of my husband) Jonathan’s health problems, and I miss it. I love to cook. I enjoy feeding my friends and giving them pleasure. I am a very good cook. It is one of the few areas in my life left where I can get creative, and there is more than a little ego involved because I love getting the feedback that my efforts are appreciated.

Full of serendipity

Kate Christensen, novelist and memoirist, whose books include “The Epicure’s Lament,” “Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites” and “How to Cook a Moose.” She lives in Portland and New Hampshire.

I want to have more fun with food and eat more things that I’ve never eaten before. I just made a goat tagine from a goat we bought at a store in North Conway. By accident. I thought it was lamb. The guy who owns the store raises goats. I wanted a leg of lamb. I reached into the freezer and got it. I bought it and brought it home, and it was goat. We went to Morocco this summer and came back with ras el hanout spice, and I thought, what the hell? Let’s make a goat tagine, so we did. And it was best thing we had eaten ever in our stupid lives. I thought, what a pleasant surprise! Moroccan food made with New Hampshire food with a spice we brought back from our trip. So as soon as you asked me your question, I thought I want 2019 to be full of this kind of serendipity of new food that I haven’t eaten before. Bugs, seaweed, and if it’s wild or foraged or sustainable or local, so much the better. And I want to eat more buckwheat. I really want to have more fun in the kitchen and more surprises and be open to mistakes that turn out to be wonderful.

 


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