Cooking at Home with Pierre Janelle
Good taste, good smells, good conversation, and good cheer emanate in equal measure from Pierre Janelle’s beautifully manicured and highly functional farmhouse kitchen in Falmouth.
It’s one of those spaces that, if you’re lucky enough to get invited to dinner with Pierre and his interior-designer wife Katy Gannon-Janelle you’ll manufacture any cockamamie excuse to show up early, slide into one of the four woven chrome stools set around a repurposed wooden workbench that extends from Pierre’s white stone-topped island, and thoroughly enjoy the afternoon.
From these seats, you’ll have a prime perch from which to witness the enthusiastically practiced home cook improvise on a loosely organized plan for dinner. He’ll want some wiggle room to incorporate your input and make substitutions for the ingredients he may have forgotten to pick up at the market.
You’ll also have a bird’s eye view of the swoon-worthy Italian, cobalt blue, Ilve gas range and the matching vent hood above it. The range was the splurge item included in the couple’s latest renovation three years ago, according to Katy, who designed the kitchen and managed the project. Neither regrets the big purchase as the cost seems to be more worth its price tag every day Pierre engages the pilot light and has tens of thousands of BTUs at his disposal. Pierre found a second wall oven a Bosch with a built-in thermometer that helps him roast meats to temperature on Craig’s list.
The best thing you’ll witness, though, from your comfortably curved accommodations, is the demeanor of an accomplished cook who has the confidence to take on nearly any culinary adventure but, refreshingly, none of the ego that would make your experience anything but absolutely delightful.
Pierre’s family has operated the Edgewater Motor Inn in Old Orchard Beach since 1953. And as a third-generation innkeeper, he makes hospitality seem an effortless task.
Should you be a bit peckish when you arrive, he’ll have already boiled a few duck eggs, sliced them to expose their huge, bright yolks, and dolloped on a bit of herb aioli. You might admire the view of the garden through the nine-foot, west-facing window set into white subway-tiled walls right above a deep farmhouse sink. Pierre will be spurred to open a jar of dilly beans, plucked from the garden and canned by Katy last summer.
You’ll learn Pierre is an avid mushroom forager. And if you recall that it was an amazing year for all varieties, he’ll invite you to sample a pickled maitake, picked by him, preserved by Katy. When talk turns to wine, you’ll discuss the great selection at RSVP Discount Beverage in Portland and soon you’ll be sipping a sophisticated Italian red he thinks was a total bargain and would be perfect with the mustard-marinated leg of lamb he intends to serve you.
Once Pierre is assured that you’ve settled in nicely, he will get down to making dinner.
“I used to cook breakfast as a kid. But not much else,” he says.
Early in their marriage, Katy did all the cooking. Pierre’s interest expanded beyond eggs and waffles when he turned 30 and spent whole weekends in the kitchen with a favorite brother-in-law tackling very involved culinary projects, like making sausage. He picked up more everyday cooking techniques from Jacques Pepin on PBS. With enough watching in the living room and practicing in the kitchen, his skills improved.
Pierre credits Pepin for teaching him to respect high-quality local ingredients with a waste-not attitude that leaves no morsel with any flavor potential unused.
“He’s a leftover magician,” says Katy. Together they reminisce about the time he took leftover salmon and made quenelles, delicate French dumplings he served in a fortified lobster broth.
“You can’t buy really good commercial stock. So every carrot peel, onion end, and lobster body or chicken bone that comes through this kitchen eventually goes into a pot,” says Pierre.
Just then, he gets the idea to save the liquid he’ll poach whole leeks in before he roasts them. He’ll use the poaching liquid to flavor the polenta he’ll serve with sautéed black trumpet mushrooms and onions. He suddenly remembers he didn’t buy the cream he likes to add to his polenta, but Katy finds a bit of sour cream in the refrigerator that will do the trick. Pierre is still not sure whether he’ll cut the onions into wedges or rings.
“What do you think would be better? That’s where I get distracted. There are just so many options. So many ways to go,” says Pierre, chuckling to himself and throwing an impish look in Katy’s direction. Katy explains she chose to install open shelving on the walls over the Ilve so Pierre could organize his optionslike a selection of a dozen vinegars and various sized plates for serving in plain sight.
It took Katy developing serious food sensitivities to push her husband into high gear in the kitchen.
“We couldn’t eat out a lot like we had been doing. But we still had access to all of this great food around us. It was a blessing in disguise because it pushed me to be more creative,” says Pierre.
By that point in his culinary trajectory, he’d already eschewed specific recipes in favor of ingredient ratios in most dishes as a matter of course. So he now finds that swapping out ingredients Katy can’t eat in the dishes he knows, is a simpler exercise than seeking out recipes that specifically contain those she can eat. Take spanakopita, for example.
“Pierre makes me kalekopita because I can’t have spinach,” says Katy, and he uses spelt flour instead of the regular wheat flour that she also can’t eat.
As I listen to the litany of ways Pierre has adapted Katy’s favorite dishes so that she can still enjoy them, it strikes me that as aesthetically pleasing as this kitchen is, the real draw of this space is the accommodating cook.
Blanched and Roasted Leeks
6 leeks, white and light green part only, trimmed
Preheat oven to 375°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add leeks to the pot and simmer until they just start to soften, 4–5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer leeks to a baking dish. Reserve blanching water for another use. Drizzle leeks with olive oil. Place leeks in oven and roast until soft and the outer layers are slightly browned, 20–30 minutes. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and serve warm.
Roasted Squash with Sheep’s Milk Feta and Pesto
4 cups cubed butternut squash
4 ounces sheep’s milk feta cheese
⅓ cup basil pesto
Preheat oven to 375°. Toss squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread it out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast squash until soft, 20–30 minutes. While still warm, toss with feta cheese and drizzle with pesto.
Creamy Polenta with Charred Onions and Black Trumpet Mushrooms
For the polenta
4 cups reserved leek blanching liquid, stock, or water
1 cup course-ground cornmeal or grits
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup cream
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
For the mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 small onions, sliced into rounds
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups fresh or frozen black trumpet mushrooms
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
To make the polenta, bring liquid to a rolling boil and stir in cornmeal or grits. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring regularly, until cornmeal is completely softened, 20–40 minutes depending on how finely ground the cornmeal or grits are. When cornmeal or grits are cooked, stir in butter, cream, and Parmesan cheese, if using. If not using the cheese, you may need to season the polenta with salt.
To prepare the mushrooms, combine 2 tablespoons each butter and olive oil in a wide skillet. Place over medium high heat. When butter is melted, add onions so they lie flat in the pan. Let them cook undisturbed until they are slightly charred, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat, flip onions over, and cook until they are softened, another 10 minutes. Transfer to a warm plate.
Wipe out skillet. Combine remaining butter and oil. Place back over medium heat. When butter is melted, add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms, stir and cook until mushrooms soften, 4–6 minutes. Season with salt and stir in thyme leaves. Keep warm until polenta is cooked.
To serve, ladle polenta into bowls and top with charred onions and sautéed black trumpets.
Mustard, Herb, and Soy-Marinated Leg of Lamb
½ cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced thyme
2 tablespoons minced rosemary
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 (8–10 pounds) leg of lamb, trimmed
Combine all marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Rub marinade over lamb. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook, remove lamb from the refrigerator and let rest on the counter while you preheat the oven to 375°.
Place a rack inside a roasting pan and place the lamb on the rack. Slide the roasting pan into the preheated oven. Roast until a meat thermometer reads 120°. Pull the roasting pan from the oven and place an aluminum foil tent over the lamb. As the lamb rests, it will continue to cook from the internal, residual heat. A temperature of 125° is medium rare, 130 is medium, 140 is medium well, and 150 is well done.
Christine has lived in many places, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, England and France. But her professional world has consistently been grounded in just two: in journalism and in the kitchen. Throughout her 30-year writing career, she’s covered sports, politics, business and technology. But for the past 10 years after completing culinary school, she’s focused on food. Her words and recipes about eating locally and sustainably have appeared in publications from The Portland Press Herald to Fine Cooking. Her award-winning cookbook Green Plate Special (link is: https://www.amazon.com/Green-Plate-Special-Sustainable-Delicious/dp/1944762140) was published in 2017. When she’s not laboring over a cutting board or a keyboard, she’s learning from her two semi-adult children, a community of food-minded friends, hundreds of productive Maine farmers, thousands of innovative chefs near and far, and her 30,000 honeybees.