Dishes that were popular and now out of favor are finding their way back into my kitchen.  For a while I was nuts over savory soufflés (never much liked the sweet variety) and for a short time several summers ago I revived the classic quiche to serve to lunch guests on  North Haven.  But most recently my attention has turned to popovers.

Popovers fresh out of the oven.

It’s a bread that’s in a class of its own. They’re really the American version of Yorkshire pudding that relies on an egg and milk batter that rises magically in the oven without any leavening whatsoever.

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Certain dishes remain locked up as seasonal holiday preparations when they could easily be unleashed to enjoy any time of the year.  Some examples include goose or prime rib for Christmas, lamb or ham for Easter and corned beef, the centerpiece of a New England boiled dinner, traditionally served on St. Patrick’s Day. But these are wonderful whenever you want to have them.

That’s what I thought when on a recent weekend I was at Bisson’s, the Topsham butcher, and spied their corned beef, which is in the meat case year-round.  It’s a great cut of beef, prepared traditionally–with the dividend of leftovers in sandwiches or corned beef hash.

Bisson’s corned beef wrapped and ready brined with salt, sugar, and pickling spices

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My small soiree for Thanksgiving dinner  turned out to be one of the best I’ve made (modesty aside) because the menu was simple, the ingredients the best available from local sources.  And I didn’t have the stress of serving a  crowd.

The turkey was from Alewive’s Brook Farm. It’s not organic but as close as one can get without the labeling. These are birds that flock and peck in the open, eating whatever is on the ground.    And they’re so fresh: slaughtered on Tuesday, they’re available at the farm or at Wednesday’s Monumemnt Square farmers’ market.

When I picked up the bird at the farm I asked Jodie Jordan, the patriarch of the farm, how long does it need to cook.  Fifteen minutes per pound? I asked.  He shook his head, answering, ” I cook it until it’s done, no hard and fast rule.” Figure on 15  minutes per pound, more or less; just use an instant read thermometer to register about 165 degrees; remove, tent with foil to rest.

Local turkey

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No dish typifies New England cooking better than baked haddock fillets topped with a white sauce and buttered crumbs.  The flavors are so inimitable and pure.  I like haddock best for this dish but cusk or pollock, though not as flaky, are fine alternatives.  What’s more, these fish, from local waters,  are so economical, running anywhere from $3.99 to 6.99 per pound. In New York at specialty fishmonger, Citarella, they’re priced at $15.99 per pound, termed  “wild caught” in New England waters (most likely Maine).

Season the haddock fillets on both sides before topping with sauce to bake

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Pudding cakes are an alchemy of baking, a luscious dessert that has two layers: a creamy pudding underneath crowned by a sponge cake that rises like a soufflé.

It takes minutes to prepare and the one featured here is a lemon pudding cake.  The batter has just few ingredients: egg yolks, whipped whites, melted butter,  flour, sugar, lemon and milk.  Voila! It puffs up in the baking leaving behind a luscious pudding underneath.

Serve the lemon pudding cake warm or refrigerate and serve chilled with whipped cream

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On the bone –or not–is a choice to make when you buy any of the big cuts of beef, lamb or pork. Generally, I prefer roasts that are on the bone.  They have more flavor and produce richer juices than their de-boned counterparts. The recipe I offer here is for a beef chuck roast on the bone.

Certainly, there are those who, for example, prefer a standing rib roast on the bone (without it how can it stand?).  Conversely, the boneless cut is easier to carve, cooks in less time and is just neater.  If the flavor difference is not crucial, boneless is a doable alternative.

Chuck roast on the bone

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The world of cobblers has many variations: biscuit, pastry or crumble toppings.  Then there’s the batter- dipped cobbler in which a simple batter is prepared and the fruit of choice is added on top.

The batter is put into a baking pan where a good amount of butter has been melted in the oven until both the dish and butter is hot so that when you add the batter it swells up; then you add the fruit and bake.

Peach cobbler

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With our farmers’ markets going full force rippling with tomatoes, corn, berries, fruits and every kind of harvested vegetable able to grow well enough in our climate, I look specifically at what I can use to make this–the quintessential summer cobbler with fruit, berries or a mixture.

Defining what a cobbler is can be tricky business.  In strict culinary parlance, it’s basically stewed fruit topped with a kind of drop-biscuit dough and baked.

Two types of peach cobbler: crunchy (left) and classic


But what also doubles in cobbler-speak are preparations like pandowdy, grunt, slump and sonker, which is a deep-dish pie unique to North Carolina country cooking.

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If there’s one dessert to make with strawberries, it’s this silken strawberry-rich pie with its distinctive addition of cream that lines the bottom of the pastry case before putting in the cooked jam-like strawberry filling.

I found the recipe in the excellent cookbook “The Farm” by Ian Knauer.  The recipes are a mix of the author’s old-family recipes and Knauer’s many years as food editor of Gourmet Magazine.

There are many versions of no-bake strawberry pie.  It generally employs the technique of crushing a portion of the berries and mixing in fresh strawberries enriched with sugar and cornstarch that cook until the mixture is clear and thick.

Cream Cheese Strawberry Pie

For the cream cheese filling (the cream cheese must be at room temperature) I used Casco Bay Butter company’s cream cheese, which is wonderfully rich and creamy.  I haven’t seen it at stores but found it at the Brunswick Farmer’s Market at Crystal Springs.


Strrawberries from Fairwinds Farm

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If there is one essential pair of late-spring early-summer vegetables to pair now it’s new potatoes and summer shelling peas.  I haven’t seen this duo in Portland’s farmers’ markets yet, but I encountered them at Beth’s Farm Market in Warren, the midcoast farm-store behemoth that always seems to be the first with the gems of summer produce.

Beth’s market in Warren–early strawberries, shell peas and new potatoes are plentiful now

At a recent trip there, the peas were just out, still somewhat small but bulging pods with sweet green peas.  Nearby were the basket of new red potatoes and those precious baby carrots that are just being pulled from the ground.

Baby carrots, peas and new potatoes

At the Portland Farmers’ Market today, English peas from Goranson Farm

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