Shrimp Stew and The Lost Kitchen

The Lost Kitchen, a TV show on the Magnolia Network, features Erin French, who returned to her hometown in Maine at the age of 23, after a post-high school “escape” and a plan for medical school. As things didn’t go as planned, she returned and opened a restaurant called The Lost Kitchen in the town’s restored 1834 grist mill.

Part of the reason the kitchen is “lost” is that the restaurant itself is very hard to find in the backwoods of Maine. It’s also one of the hardest restaurant reservations to secure; a postcard must be mailed to the restaurant and reservations are made by a lottery system. The Lost Kitchen is open May to October.

Although completely self-taught, Ms. French honed her cooking skills from a young age at her father’s diner. That’s where her love of food and cooking began. Her first cookbook is called The Lost Kitchen.

Chip and Joanna Gaines from the Magnolia Network chose to feature Erin French in a tv show, of the same name, because they admire people who have “stories,” who’ve dealt with roadblocks. Ms. French was certainly not handed anything, and if nothing else she should be highly admired for her resourcefulness and determination. Because of quite a tumultuous period in her life, she also wrote a memoir, called Finding Freedom. Let’s just say her trajectory towards success was not straight, given a bad marriage, a child at a young age, a stint in rehab, the pandemic…. You name it.

What strikes me the most with every episode I watch, is how innovative Erin French is. She’s innovative in her creative cuisine, which she claims is not fancy, but it showcases everything grown and harvested in Maine. Her presentations of her multi course meals look fancy with the addition of local flowers and herbs.

Ms. French has also been innovative in her career. I can’t tell the whole story of what’s she’s done, but she had to get creative. When the pandemic hit and she couldn’t serve diners inside, she started a farmer’s market, allowing local farmers to sell to locals. She then switched to an outside dining venue at the mill for paying guests, although inconvenient from a cooking and serving standpoint.

Fortunately, now the dining at The Lost Kitchen is back to normal. Ms. French has proven herself as a success story, and basically lives her dream. Plus she has a new cookbook publishing soon.

This cookbook is broken up by seasons, which I love. I decided to make her shrimp stew first. Part way through making this recipe, I was second guessing my excitement for this dish. But just wait! It is magnificent.

Shrimp Stew with Toasted Fennel, Lemon & Chives
Printable recipe below

1 tablespoon fennel seed, I included a few white peppercorns
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 shallots, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 pound shelled Maine shrimp
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh chives

In a small skillet over medium-high heat, toast the fennel seeds, tossing frequently, until they become aromatic, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

Combine the cream, milk, and butter in a medium saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Add the fennel seeds, turn off the heat, and cover the pan. Let the seeds steep for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain to remove the seeds.

Meanwhile, heat the shallots in a medium skillet with the olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper over low heat until soft and deeply browned, about 20 minutes.

Add the caramelized shallots to the fennel-infused cream and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat.

Add the shrimp and lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with chives, and serve.

The stew needed a little more salt, but other than that, the flavors were perfect.

I wouldn’t have minded more shrimp, either.

One thing I learned from one of Erin’s shows is how she loves to mix bone marrow and butter. She calls it marrow butter, and it is fabulous. I did about a 50-50 mixture.



About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. Lori March 28, 2023 at 6:34 AM - Reply

    I read Finding Freedom a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I also have caught a few episodes of The Lost Kitchen. Erin is a remarkable woman. I can’t wait to see her new cookbook. Your Shrimp stew looks amazing!

    • Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 6:56 AM - Reply

      She’s lived quite a life!!! I’ll have to read it. The stew was wonderful.

      • Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 6:57 PM

        Like I mentioned in the post, I started to doubt the outcome of this stew recipe, but wow. It’s heavenly!

  2. Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 6:56 AM - Reply

    A girlfriend gifted me the cookbook, which is how I found out about the show and watched it. Very impressive. Great stew!

  3. March 28, 2023 at 8:05 AM - Reply

    Erin appeared on the cover of Cherry Bomb (Issue No. 20) with a lengthy article inside. She was one of the first guests on Ina Garten’s new show “Be My Guest” (Food Network) where she made her Dad’s meatloaf (in the cookbook). Finally, she has this fabulous dark chocolate tart in Ina’s new cookbook Go-to-dinners which I have been hoping to make. Interesting history and a fabulous chef :) If only I could get a reservation – Kind of like Rao’s and The Herbfarm in Seattle!

    • Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 7:03 PM - Reply

      It’s worth a shot! I’m sending in my postcard! I don’t know about Rao’s… I’ll have to check that out! Erin is really an amazing young woman.

  4. Gerlinde March 28, 2023 at 11:19 AM - Reply

    Wow , I would love to go to her restaurant. Thanks Mimi for the great post.

    • Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 7:01 PM - Reply

      I would, too! I’m sending in my postcard! Hope you can catch her show.

  5. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen March 28, 2023 at 11:48 AM - Reply

    This looks really delicious Mimi, and I agree, more shrimp! I’ve heard of the restaurant, but guess I wasn’t quite willing to do the whole reservation/lottery thing! I’ll have to see if I can find the show.

    • Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 7:00 PM - Reply

      I’ve been to Maine once, and and very willing to go again! Maybe because you already live in beautiful New England, that part doesn’t really entice you!

      • Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen March 29, 2023 at 7:23 AM

        We head to Maine at least once and usually a few times a year, even if just for a weekend, off season is best. It’s just a couple hour’s drive, but a different world! Once there, I eat my fill of fresh seafood, stock up on my little treats from Stonewall Kitchens, like the Maine applewood smoked sea salt I love. There’s also good antiquing, and a nice quilt shop where I stop.

      • Chef Mimi March 29, 2023 at 3:24 PM

        I would so love to go back. We went out on a lobster boat, and what a wonderful day!

      • Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen March 30, 2023 at 7:01 AM

        What fun!

  6. Healthy World Cuisine March 28, 2023 at 1:54 PM - Reply

    Love the spices and fennel in this recipe along with the creamy sauce and bread to lop up all of those delicious stew drippings. I have not heard of this chef but will have to check out the book.

    • Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 6:59 PM - Reply

      And I’m not a huge fennel fan, which is why I included a few white peppercorns. But wow! You’ll love it!

  7. Pauline March 28, 2023 at 2:47 PM - Reply

    Just a fabulous story Mimi. I love that Erin’s passion for cooking and her talent has shone through adversity. Sounds like she has taken Maine by storm. Would love to read both her books and make the stew, it would be prawn stew here, yum. Weather is cooling down, so a perfect option with our seafood. Great post thanks.

    • Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 6:58 PM - Reply

      Prawns of course wouldn’t change the flavors, and I think you’ll love this stew. Yes, she’s a very impressive young woman.

  8. Mary March 28, 2023 at 3:12 PM - Reply

    Just what I would like right now!!
    Have just ordered both books from the library so I have a treat in store.
    Thanks Mimi :))

    • Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 6:57 PM - Reply

      I haven’t read her autobiography yet, but I love the cookbook and her show!

  9. Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 6:56 PM - Reply

    She is so talented and really an impressive human being! Hope you can catch her show.

  10. Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 6:59 PM - Reply

    I hope you can catch the show where you live!

  11. Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 7:02 PM - Reply

    No, not years, but booking will start april 1st for this year’s reservations. I would really love to go, too!

  12. Chef Mimi March 28, 2023 at 7:02 PM - Reply

    And oh, it was!

    • Chef Mimi March 29, 2023 at 3:23 PM - Reply

      I’ll take that as approval!

      • Chef Mimi March 29, 2023 at 9:03 PM


  13. Charlie DeSando March 28, 2023 at 9:56 PM - Reply

    I watch that show and we put in a postcard for dining there this year

    • Chef Mimi March 29, 2023 at 3:24 PM - Reply

      I did too! Fingers crossed for both of us!

  14. David Scott Allen March 29, 2023 at 11:41 AM - Reply

    She has a great story and the recipe looks fabulous. I look forward to trying it!

    • Chef Mimi March 29, 2023 at 3:23 PM - Reply

      It photographed very yellow. The cream should be more white. But nonetheless is so so good!

  15. Chef Mimi March 29, 2023 at 3:22 PM - Reply

    Oh, good. No, quite inclusive, but limited on seating! I hope you watch the show – it’s wonderful.

  16. Chef Mimi March 30, 2023 at 8:48 AM - Reply

    Oh good! I just sent mine yesterday. Glad you see the show – I really love it, too!

  17. Tandy | Lavender and Lime March 31, 2023 at 2:47 AM - Reply

    This looks amazing! I am a huge supporter of restaurants that made a plan during the pandemic. One of our favourite locals turned part of their establishment into a curated foods market. And they did special dine at home meals until they could open again to serving customers :)

    • Chef Mimi March 31, 2023 at 8:07 AM - Reply

      Nice. Of course, they really had no choice, did they? They had to have some kind of online feature, and make do. I feel so sorry for small business owners, but it seems like many made it through. Thankfully.

  18. Sherry M March 31, 2023 at 4:01 AM - Reply

    this looks absolutely fab mimi. i wish hubby ate prawns – sigh …

    • Chef Mimi March 31, 2023 at 8:06 AM - Reply

      Oh Jesus. Those damn hubbies!

  19. Raymund March 31, 2023 at 4:12 AM - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this post about The Lost Kitchen and Erin French’s journey. It’s amazing to see how she turned her setbacks into success and how innovative she is with her cuisine and career. The concept of the restaurant being “lost” and the difficulty of making a reservation through a lottery system is intriguing. I’m also impressed with how she adapted during the pandemic by starting a farmer’s market and switching to an outside dining venue. I’m definitely interested in checking out her cookbook, especially after reading about the shrimp stew recipe. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Chef Mimi March 31, 2023 at 8:06 AM - Reply

      You are so welcome. I’m so glad I was introduced to her show. She’s very lovable, and her whole staff is as well. It’s not surprising she’s become successful in so many ways.

  20. David @ Spiced March 31, 2023 at 6:38 AM - Reply

    Wow, what a great story! The whole idea of mailing a postcard to the restaurant to then end up in a lottery system is crazy…I get it, though. Kudos to Erin for being so innovative. Food is like that – it rewards innovation if you’re creative like Erin. And this shrimp stew sounds fantastic, Mimi! The fennel cream base would be amazing. I definitely want to give this a try during “non-diet season!” :-)

    • Chef Mimi March 31, 2023 at 8:04 AM - Reply

      Yes, it’s definitely not low calorie but wow it’s good. And I don’t even love fennel, but she knows what she’s doing in the kitchen! The lottery simply reflects the numbers of diners that are limited in the main dining room, and with just one dinner per week. Very unique!

  21. Chef Mimi March 31, 2023 at 8:02 AM - Reply

    Any lottery, right/!! Fingers crossed for my postcard.

  22. April 1, 2023 at 1:26 AM - Reply

    Wow. In order to get a reservation you have to mail a postcard to the restaurant? Even then you go into a lottery? Must be an amazing place. Well actually the recipe does look pretty amazing! Yum!

    • Chef Mimi April 1, 2023 at 2:42 PM - Reply

      I would call this simple shrimp stew amazing! And I think dining at the restaurant is an experiential sort of thing – the ambiance the setting, plus the great food.

  23. Chef Mimi April 1, 2023 at 2:41 PM - Reply

    It’s a nice cookbook! And the restaurant is such a lovely experience. Hope I get to go some day!

  24. Kathi Monicatti December 6, 2023 at 3:02 PM - Reply

    Hi Mimi, how many servings are in this recipe.
    Thanks, Kathi

    • Chef Mimi December 7, 2023 at 6:38 AM - Reply

      That’s a tough question. It would serve 4 as a hearty luncheon soup. But 8 for a first course.

  25. […] she does behind the stove is extraordinary. There’s more about her in my post Shrimp Stew and The Lost Kitchen. If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend it. Ms. French hires girlfriends, for the most […]

  26. Elena Bourke July 15, 2024 at 10:32 AM - Reply

    Just reading this now. I loved how you wrote the story, along with this luscious recipe. And I am very into putting the toasted seeds into the cream mixture to flavor!k This is a recipe I will try.

    • Chef Mimi July 15, 2024 at 11:46 AM - Reply

      So simple, and so so good!

Leave a Reply. I love 'em!