Words and Recipes by
Salt Water Farm Cooks for Winter
Cold comfort in the kitchen and at the table
For many of us, memories of a summer vacation picking blueberries or a road trip up the coast beneath a canopy of autumn leaves made us fall in love with Maine. But if you live here year-round, there is a different kind of love that grows for this place, even a pride that comes with complete commitment to it. It’s the difference between a few fairytale first dates and a sustaining love that deepens over time. We see beauty in the bareness and stillness of winter. We seek pleasure in its solitude, whether on a pair of cross country skis beneath a quiet snowfall or beside the wood stove in the comfort of an old armchair.
For cooks, winter holds tremendous fulfillment. When the sun sets in the late afternoon and there are hours of darkness before bed, we turn to the stove for company. In classic New England tradition, the late summer and autumn months are the time to “put up” the harvest, stocking pantries, root cellars and freezers, so that come winter, a proper homesteader need not leave the house. A day of rest can be spent in slippers, sweatpants and a bulky knit sweater, moving between the fireplace and the kitchen, where most of the activity occurs.
Unlike the hurried days of summer, quiet winter nights invite longer, more dedicated culinary projects, offering comfort in both their preparation and consumption. On a snowy afternoon, I’ll thumb through the winter chapters of my favorite cookbooks in search of a dish that warms both head and heart.
Baking a hearty loaf of rye that comes steaming and crackling out of the oven adds a welcome crunch to a Norwegian inspired cod and root vegetable stew. Slow roasting beets until they are sweet and soft brings an earthy element to a zingy dish of orange segments and sour cream. Loading crisp apples with warm winter spices, melted butter and maple syrup and then baking them until tender is a simple dessert with universal appeal on a cold winter’s night.
Just as we find ways to make the most of the season in the warmer months,--watching a late sun set over the lakes, catching mackerel at high tide, or walking through the woods after a good rain in search of mushrooms, we do the same when the temperature drops. We create a sense of security, warmth, and well-being in our homes. We cut wood for fires, light candles, wrap ourselves in woolen blankets and blow on hot cups of tea to sip slowly. We play instruments, indulgent in long reads in the comfy chair, and sleep in on Sundays allowing the dogs onto the bed for cuddles.
I do find, however, that a walk or two each day is paramount. It’s important to expose the cheeks to a bit of vitamin D, especially in the late afternoon before the long night sets in. A few deep breaths of cold air and moving the blood only deepens our appreciation for the warmth and comfort within the home and better yet, it builds an appetite!
Maine Potato Vodka Martini, Ice Cold and Up
Makes 1 Drink
2 ounces Cold River Vodka
1 ounce dry good quality white vermouth
Twist of lemon
Fill a cocktail shaker to the top with ice. Pour vodka and vermouth over ice. Cover. Shake at least 20 times. Pour ice cold vodka through strainer into a chilled martini glass, garnished with a lemon twist.
Smoked Haddock, Fingerling Potatoes, Crisp Apples and Thick Cut Bacon
For the salad
1 pound smoked haddock, fresh or frozen
1 bay leaf
1 crisp apple
1 head Bibb lettuce, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
⅓ pound thick cut bacon strips, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 shallot, peeled and very thinly sliced
8 fingerling potatoes, sliced in half
For the dressing
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or clotted cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste
If the haddock is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Then place fish in a frying pan and cover with water. Add the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook until flesh softens, about 10 minutes. Pour off water and discard bay leaf. Let fish cool on a plate. Flake fish into bite sized pieces.
Place the potatoes in a small saucepan and cover with water. Salt well. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 12-15 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Make the salad dressing: Mash garlic in mortar and pestle with a big pinch of Kosher salt to a paste. Coat the interior of the mortar bowl with the garlic paste. Add the apple cider vinegar, Dijon, lemon juice and crème fraiche and mix with mortar until thoroughly combined. Then mix in the olive oil and cracked black pepper.
Place a frying pan on the stove over medium heat. Add bacon and render fat slowly. Cook until the meat begins to crisp, about 10 minutes. Pour off half of the fat into the pestle with the salad dressing and mix. Add the shallots to the frying pan, along with the bacon and place over medium heat. Cook until they soften and then begin to crisp, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Place Bibb lettuce in a large wooden bowl. Cut apple into thin slices and scatter over top. Once cooled, add bacon and shallots. Then distribute potatoes and the smoked haddock across the salad and toss with half the dressing. Taste and add more dressing in necessary or serve additional dressing alongside the salad.
Roast Beets, Sour Cream, Dill, Parsley and Orange Segments
3 medium beets, greens removed
½ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
2 squeezes of lemon juice
2 navel oranges, skinned and segmented
½ bunch parsley, leaves picked from stems, left whole
¼ bunch dill, fronds picked from stems and roughly chopped
1 celery heart, including leaves roughly chopped
⅓ cup shelled, salted pistachios, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small roasting pan, place beets (skins on) along with 1 cup of water. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife tip. Let cool, peel and slice into wedges. Toss them in a tablespoon of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a big pinch of salt.
In a small bowl, toss herbs and celery heart with a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
On a platter, smear the sour cream on the base of the plate. Lay the beet slices on top, with the orange segments intermingled. Then place the herb and celery salad on top and scatter with the pistachios.
Cod and Root Vegetable Stew with Parsley Oil and Rye Bread Crumbs
4 tablespoons cold butter
3 leeks, whites and light green parts cut into thin rounds
2 carrots, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 yellow onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 parsnips, cut into thin rounds
1 small celery root, diced
8 small yellow potatoes, diced
4 cups fish stock
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bunch parsley
5 tablespoons, plus ½ cup olive oil (for parsley oil)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 pounds cod, cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces
¼ bunch dill, roughly chopped
½ loaf rye bread, torn into bite sized pieces
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F. In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and a big pinch of salt. Cook over medium low heat until onions are transparent, about 10 minutes.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Now combine the parsnips, celery root, and potatoes in a bowl and season them with salt. Toss them with two tablespoons of olive oil. Spread them onto the sheet tray with a couple cold tablespoons of butter. Place sheet trays in the oven until the butter melts. Then toss the vegetables a bit to distribute the butter. Bake the root vegetables until tender and a little crisp on the edges, about 25-35 minutes.
Make parsley oil: In a blender, combine picked parsley, a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon and ½ cup olive oil. Blend until you have a beautiful green oil. Add a little water if you need more liquid.
Make the rye croutons: Coat the torn bread with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a generous amount of kosher salt. Place in the oven until they begin to turn golden brown, but are still soft in the middle, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
Once baked, move the root vegetables to the soup pot. Add the Worcestershire sauce and fish stock and bring to a boil. Add the milk and cream and bring to a simmer. Add the fish and cook until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season the soup to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with rye bread croutons, dill and a spoonful of parsley oil.
Brown Sugar and Butter Apples with Spice and Cold Cream
(Don’t be afraid to do this over a low fire!)
4 baking apples (Jonagold, Honey Crisp, Braeburn)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 tablespoons maple syrup
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Core the apples and place them in a baking dish side-by-side. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Distribute this mix among the apples, where the core once was. Place in the oven and bake until the apples are soft within and caramelized at the base, about 25 minutes. Add a little water if they begin to burn. Remove apples from oven and move each to individual plates. Pour a little cold cream over top and serve.
Annemarie Ahearn is the author of Full Moon Suppers at Salt Water Farm and offers classes and monthly meals at her seaside home.