Summer on Moosehead Lake

It has been a beautiful summer on Moosehead Lake. Here are some of the highlights.













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Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies


Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am always looking for new cookie recipes to try, especially ones that sneak in some healthy stuff but are still delicious. This week, I tried a recipe from Martha Stewart that blew me away. These cookies are phenomenal. Imagine you combined a banana bread with an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. The banana flavor is not too strong, the old-fashioned oats and walnuts give them a nice crunch and who doesn’t love chocolate? I really liked these cookies. I know you will too!

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

1 Cup All-Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Whole-Wheat Flour

1 tsp Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

3/4 Cup (1 1/2 Sticks) Butter, Softened

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar

1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

1 Large Egg

1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 cup Mashed Banana (about 1 large)

1 Cup Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

8 Ounces Chocolate Chips (I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet)

1/2 Cup Coarsely Chopped Walnuts (about 2 ounces), Toasted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla. Mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.


Using a 2 tsp disher, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or roll into balls about one inch in diameter) spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, about 9 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers up to 2 days.

Lobster Ravioli

fresh lobster ravioli
Lobster Ravioli with Blistered Tomatoes and Sherry Cream

The highlight of the week here on the island is Lobster Night. Our signature dinner is eagerly anticipated and greatly enjoyed week after week, year after year. Occasionally, we are left with extra lobster at the end of the night.

Finding new and interesting dishes to make with lobster is one of my great joys in life. This week I made Lobster Ravioli with Blistered Tomatoes and Sherry Cream. It turned out even better than I hoped and I am excited to share my recipe with you!

fresh ravioli
Lobster Ravioli

Makes: about 45 ravioli

Ingredients:

1 Recipe Fresh Pasta

1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1 Cup Diced Celery

1 Large Shallot, Minced

2 Tbsp White Wine

2 Cups Cooked Lobster Meat, Roughly Chopped (plus extra for sauce, optional)

6 Ounces Cream Cheese, at Room Temperature

4 Tbsp Cold Butter, Cubed

1 Lemon, Zested

1 Tbsp Lemon Juice

1 tsp Kosher Salt

1 Pinch Cayenne Pepper

1/4 Cup Fresh Chives, Finely Chopped

Egg Wash (I used 2-3 of the egg whites left over from making the pasta mixed with 1 Tbsp water)

Directions:

Step 1: Make the Pasta

Make the pasta dough, wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator at least one hour and up to one day.

Step 2: Make the Lobster Filling

While the dough is chilling, heat a large sauté pan and add vegetable oil, celery and shallot.


Cook over medium heat 3-4 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add the lobster and remove from heat.


Transfer the contents of the pan into a food processor and pulse until chopped finely.


Transfer mixture into a bowl and set aside. Add cream cheese, butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper to the food processor and process until smooth. Return lobster mixture to the food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chives. Chill in the refrigerator at least one hour and up to two days.


Step 3: Fill and Shape the Ravioli

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it on a floured cutting board.


Dust the dough with flour and cut it into four equal pieces. Remove one piece and cover the remainder of the dough with a clean, dry kitchen towel to keep it from drying out.


Dust a countertop with flour and place the dough in the center. Press the dough down with the palm of your hand and roll it out into a long oval until it is as thin as you can make it.


If you have a pasta roller, use it instead but cut dough into eight pieces instead of four. Start at one and work up until you reach number six on the roller. I do not have one here on the island, so I just rolled it out with a rolling pin.

After rolling, cut in half lengthwise and make two strips about 5 inches wide. If using a pasta roller, you should have one long strip that is the perfect width. 

Using a 2 tsp disher or pastry bag fitted with a round tip, place the filling along the center of the dough at 3 inch intervals.


Brush the dough with egg wash and fold it over, pressing between the filling with your fingers to make a seal.


Working from the fold in the pasta toward the edge, press the pasta together around the filling. Try to work out as much air as possible and seal the filling inside completely.


Using a round cutter, cut around each filling, leaving a border of about 1/2 inch.


Transfer to a baking sheet that has been dusted with flour and repeat until you run out of pasta or filling. Ravioli may be cooked immediately or frozen until ready to use.

ravioli
When ready to serve, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook ravioli for five minutes. Remove from boiling water and toss immediately in prepared sauce.


Blistered Tomatoes with Sherry Cream

Makes: 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Shallot or Small Onion

2 Pints Grape or Cherry Tomatoes

2 Tbsp Dry Sherry

1/2 Cup Heavy Cream

2 Tbsp Chopped Parsley

Salt and Pepper to taste

Cooked Lobster Meat, optional

Directions:

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the shallots and cook for one minute. Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato skins start to blister.


Using a potato masher or other blunt object, smash about half of the tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2-3 minutes.


Add Sherry, heavy cream, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until sauce has slightly thickened, about five minutes. Add lobster meat if using and fresh pasta and toss in the sauce. Serve immediately.

Beautiful Morning on Moosehead Lake

kineo dock
Even after five summers in Rockwood, Maine, I am still struck by the sheer beauty of the Great North Woods and Moosehead Lake. On mornings like this, it is easy to see why this place is called America’s crown jewel.

rockwood community church
It’s not just the place, although the scenery is truly magnificent and changes constantly. The people that live here are a true community. Everybody knows everyone else and people wave to you as you drive down the road. As I stop in the Post Office to pick up the mail, a friendly golden retriever pokes his nose through from the opposite side of the mailbox to say hello and give me a sniff.


I head across the street to the Kineo Dock and enjoy the gorgeous view while I finish my morning coffee. Mount Kineo towers above the town of Rockwood and Moosehead Lake like a cathedral, beautiful and majestic.

mt  kineo moosehead lake
I enjoy watching the few boats come and go and listening to the sound of the waves on the shore. I feel like I could sit here all day and watch the clouds blow by, one by one.

kineo docks rockwood
After what seems like a peaceful eternity, I pick up my empty coffee cup and start heading back to camp. I stop at the local store on my way to pick up a few things and catch up on the local gossip. There is going to be live music and a celebration at the local bar and grill tonight, maybe I will go.


As I pull off the tar onto the gravel road leading to camp, I reflect on the last five summers spent on Moosehead Lake with my family. I feel grateful my wife and children have been able to spend their summers surrounded by natural beauty, far away from the stresses and worries of the big city. We are truly lucky to have found a life filled with hiking through the forest, swimming in the lake, picking blueberries, catching frogs and skipping stones here in Rockwood, Maine.

Smoked Fish


It’s been a beautiful week on Moosehead Lake. It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over. There is a feeling of change in the air, of seasons shifting and changing weather. It is about this time every year that I smoke the salmon and trout that has not found another purpose in our summer menu.


Every year I have been here, I have learned a little more about this process. Every year I have made minor adjustments to my technique that improved the final product. This is my fifth year cleaning, brining and smoking fish from Moosehead Lake and I am thrilled to report that it is the best ever. I am excited to share my technique with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Smoked Fish

Total time: 5 hours

Step 1: Make the brine


Ingredients:

8 Cups Water

1 Cup Kosher Salt

2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

1 Bay Leaf

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature or colder.


The quickest method I have found for cooling the brine is in an ice bath. Fill a large bowl or other container  halfway with ice and place a slightly smaller bowl or container on the ice, pushing it down so the ice comes up around the sides. Pour hot brine into the smaller bowl and leave to cool. The brine should be chilled in about 30 minutes.

Step 2: Clean the fish


It is important when smoking small to medium fish that the skin be kept on. This will help the fillets keep their shape and insulate them so they do not dry out.


If you are working with fish that still have the head attached, position your fillet knife just behind the gills and the front fin. Cut through the skin and follow the bones to remove the fillet.


If your fish already have the head removed, I find it is easier to remove the fillet from the tail end.


Simply start at the tail and follow the bones to remove the fillet.


Repeat this process on the opposite side to remove both fillets.


Finally, remove any bones along the belly you may have missed while filleting the fish as well as anything else that looks like it should be removed.


Step 3: Brine the fish

Lay out your fillets side by side in a roasting pan or other shallow container. Completely submerse them in brine and allow to sit for one hour at room temperature, or longer if your fillets are particularly thick.


After one hour in the brine, remove the fillets and place them on a rack for another hour. Do not rinse them .


After an hour drying on the rack, the fillets should have a shiny appearance and feel tacky. They are now ready for the smoker.


Step 4: Smoke the fish

I like to use an electric smoker because A: I have one and B: It maintains a constant temperature with minimal effort on my part. If you do not have an electric smoker, there are many alternatives available that are just as good or even better. Feel free to use the resources that are available to you.


I use alder wood because it is a traditional choice for smoking fish. It has a sweet, mellow flavor that does not overpower the fish. Feel free to experiment with whatever hardwood is available to you and decide which one you like best.


I like to fill my chip pan all the way and get it smoking before I put the fish in. That way I can be confident that the smoker is doing its job.


When the chips are smoking, I open the door and place the racks with the fish already on them in the slots nearest the center of the smoker. I like to keep them away from the relatively higher heat of the top and bottom of the smoker.


After closing the door, I smoke the fish for 3 hours. During this time, I change the chips in the smoker twice, about once per hour. This relatively short smoking time creates a product that is tender and moist but still has great smoke and fish flavor. If your fillets are very thick or you prefer a drier, smokier product, increase the smoking time accordingly.


After two hours, the fish are ready. Remove them from the smoker and cool on the racks. I find it difficult to keep myself from enjoying them right away but they will keep in the refrigerator at least a week and up to a year in the freezer.

Basil Pesto

basil
This summer was an exceptional summer in the garden. I ended up with a large harvest of fresh basil. After making caprese salads, marinara sauce and Oven-dried tomato spread, I still had bunches of it left over.


It was time to make pesto. This simple Italian sauce is the perfect way to take a large amount of fresh herbs and consolidate them into a small container that can be stored in the freezer until you are ready to use it.


Basil Pesto

Makes: 2 1/2 Cups

Ingredients:

3 Large Cloves Garlic

1 tsp Kosher Salt

1/2 Cup Pine Nuts

2 Cups Shredded Parmesan Cheese

4 Cups Packed Fresh Basil

1 Cup Olive Oil

Directions:

Wash basil thoroughly in cold water and place on a towel to dry.


Pick leaves from stems and discard all stems and flowers. Place on a towel until ready to use. Don’t worry if there is still a little water on them. It will help to emulsify the sauce.


Toast pine nuts in a 350 F oven for 4-5 minutes. Cool on pan until ready to use.


In a food processor, combine garlic cloves and salt. Pulse until chopped.


Add toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese and process until you have a thick paste.


Add the basil all at once. If your food processor is not large enough to do this, add it in 2 batches.


Secure the lid and run the food processor until the basil is about half chopped. At this point start adding the olive oil in a thin stream until all the basil is chopped finely and sauce is emulsified.


Use immediately or store in the freezer until needed.

Beer Can Chicken


Year after year, there are certain dishes that I just can’t seem to get away from, dishes that people remember and repeatedly request. One of those dishes is Beer Can Chicken. I can see why so many people like it. The beer keeps the chicken from drying out, ensuring a juicy, tender bird all the way through. The  sweet and savory rub complements the flavor of the hardwood smoke and cooking the chicken whole on the bone ensures maximum flavor. This dish does not require any special ingredients or expensive equipment. I like to use hardwood to cook over but you can do the same thing with charcoal and achieve delicious results. I have scaled the recipe for one 5 pound chicken, but you can cook as many as you can fit in your grill. I regularly cook five or six at a time when I have a big crowd.


Beer Can Chicken

Ingredients:

1 Five Pound Chicken

Kosher Salt

1 Can Beer

1 Bay Leaf

Dry Rub:

1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

1/8 Cup Smoked Paprika

1/2 Tbsp Granulated Garlic

1/2 Tbsp Onion Powder

1/2 Tbsp Black Pepper

1/2 Tbsp Chili Powder

Prep Time:

60-90 minutes

Cooking Time:

60-90 minutes

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients for dry rub in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside until ready to use.


Rinse chicken well, dry with paper towels and place on pan with a rack. Make sure the cavity of the chicken is empty.

Liberally salt the chicken, inside and out and let sit for at least an hour. This step is called dry brining and will help the chicken retain its natural juices while cooking.


While the chicken is brining, build a raging fire in a kettle grill and let it burn down to coals or start your charcoal in a chimney smoker (a hardwood fire will take about an hour to burn down, charcoal will be ready in about 15 minutes). When the fire has burned down to coals, bank it to either side of the grill, put the grate on and close the lid, making sure the vents are open and you have good airflow.


Open the can of beer (I typically use Budweiser) and drink half, after all, you’re the one doing all the work! I have used 12 and 16 ounce cans and they both work well. With a church key style can opener, make two extra holes in the top of the can. This will allow the maximum amount of steam to escape from the can while the chicken is cooking. Crumble the bay leaf and put it in the can with the remaining beer.


Apply dry rub to the chicken liberally, inside and out. You may have some left over. You can store it in a spice jar and it is good on all sorts of stuff, including  BBQ Ribs.


Check the temperature of the grill.  The internal temperature should stay around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If the grill gets too hot, close the vent to kill the fire. If the temperature drops too low, add more fuel and stoke the fire. Once you have the temperature where you want it, Insert the beer can into the chicken cavity and place on the grill grate so the chicken balances on the can. I find it helps to use a metal grill pan to provide more stability but it is not necessary.


Close the lid of the grill, being careful not to accidentally knock over the chicken. Make sure the vents are open and you can see smoke coming out. Resist the temptation to frequently open the lid and check on the chicken. Every time the lid is opened, heat is allowed to escape, making it difficult to maintain a consistent temperature. For the first hour, do not open the lid unless you have to.


After the first hour, open the lid and take a look. Cooking over a live fire is not an exact science. There are many different variables that can affect cooking time. If all goes well, your chickens should look like this after an hour. A few times I have opened the grill only to be horrified at finding black, carbon-coated chickens inside. Every time I was pleasantly surprised to find that the chicken was still cooked perfectly inside and completely delicious!


Check your chicken’s temperature by inserting a thermometer in the breast and along the thigh bone. Chicken is ready when the breast temperature measures 160 degrees and the thigh measures 175 degrees. If it isn’t ready, don’t rush it. Just close the lid, open another beer and cook a little longer. 


When the chicken is ready, carefully remove from the grill and tent with foil. Allow the chicken to rest for 10-20 minutes before carving. Remove the beer can carefully (it will likely still have some hot liquid in it) and cut the chicken into pieces and serve.