Having a Maine moment
Kysha Harris | 7/10/2014, 2:33 p.m.
I love traveling to places in the United States that I have never been to before. Normally, Fire Island or Martha’s Vineyard would see me this summer, but I was lucky enough to be invited to return home with a friend to Kennebunkport, Maine, the home of the Bush compound and lobster.
We left on Thursday in the early evening for the almost six-hour car ride. Traffic and Hurricane Arthur prevented us from making better time. Driving under lightning protected only by a mammoth cloud provided a brilliant fireworks preview in the distance.
The next morning after introductions over coffee and bagels, and then a rousing workout at the gym, we returned home to prep for the big Fourth of July festivities. My friend was put on the family’s potato salad, prepared chunky with eggs and red onion without mayonnaise.
My invitation came with a request for an appetizer—something easy and seasonal that everyone could enjoy. Bruschetta (a tomato basil compote served on toasted bread or crostini) would be perfect for this partly Italian family. I started to make the traditional bruschetta (tomato and basil), but when I saw that innocent seedless baby watermelon on the counter (the first one got cut up and was soaking in vodka for cocktails), I had to switch it up and add both a watermelon basil bruschetta and the ultimate combination of tomato and watermelon. All combinations had basil, salt and extra virgin olive oil, but only the traditional had minced garlic.
Served with a bowl of crumbled feta for guests to add a savory, salty note to their bite, the trio of bruschetta flew off the table. Even the old school Maine men said the tomato-watermelon variety was their favorite of the three.
In exchange for preparing my “city-fied” bite, the party was treated to a quintessential Maine barbecue, starting with raw clams on the half shell. After chilling the five dozen clams over ice (relaxing the clams, making them easier to open), the patriarch of the family skillfully shucked and served the clams with cocktail sauce, lemon and a periodic “It doesn’t get any better than this!”
If clams on the half shell weren’t enough, the mountain of perfectly cooked steamers (another type of clam) did the trick. Served with individual ramekins of pot liquor/broth for cleaning and drawn butter for dipping, these succulent little devils were done before they hit the table.
I have to quickly mention the hamburgers, hotdogs, barbecue chicken and pasta salad just because it’s the right thing to do at a time like this, but ultimately, the star of the Maine Independence Day celebration was lobster. Forty…forty…forty, one and a half pound live lobsters were delivered that day. May they rest in peace.
A propane stove with a 10-gallon pot sat in wait for the moment while we took lobster selfies. I asked for the not-so-secret recipe for perfectly cooked lobster. Just bring three inches of water with sea salt to a boil, add live lobsters then cover and cook for 12 minutes and serve.
Brown butcher paper covering the kitchen island, ramekins of drawn butter and grilled basil-butter corn on the cob set the stage for what would be a crustacean free-for-all. Countdown: bibs, shell crackers, wet naps … GO! I stopped at one, but unc’ went in for three! They were that good!
If it weren’t for hurricane Arthur, we would have been at the outdoor pit making smores. We just followed suit with the cancelled fireworks and made them the next night. Heavenly.
It was a great first visit to Maine and a proper barbecue/lobster boil! A big, big thank you to my friend for the invitation and to her family for welcoming me with open arms, good times and plenty of food.
Until next time …
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl and on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.