Lobster and Haddock Casserole

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This post was challenging for me to begin writing, which is not typically an issue. It’s just that so many memories came flooding back to me from when we were in Maine in October of 2021. But that’s exactly how this post came about, from an incredible day on a lobster boat.

Having never been to Maine before, a guide from Experience Maine recommended various activities, and one was spending a day with Linda Greenlaw on her working lobster boat. The day would end with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a lobster feast. I was certainly excited about dinner, but I knew the day would also be educational.

So, who is this Linda Greenlaw? This can’t be answered in one sentence. She is a daughter of a lobster fisherman, born and raised in Maine, lives on Isle au Haut, and certainly one claim to fame is being America’s only female swordfishing captain.

Here she is – small but mighty – second from the left.

From her website, Linda Greenlaw Books, Greenlaw first came to the public’s attention in Sebastian Junger’s book The Perfect Storm, where Junger called her “one of the best captains … on the entire east coast.” She was also portrayed in the movie The Perfect Storm, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

But it doesn’t end there. She also wrote the following books:
The Hungry Ocean, 1999, about her life as a swordfishing captain.
The Lobster Chronicles, 2001, about her life on a very small island.
All Fishermen are Liars, 2004, true stories from real fishermen.
Seaworthy, 2010, an inspirational story of her return to the sea.
Lifesaving Lessons, 2013, a memoir about her experience as an “accidental mother”.

Then, Ms. Greenlaw wrote mystery books! Here I’ve photographed 3 of many…

Because this is a food blog, I’ll get to yet another one of Linda Greenlaw’s achievements. Actually, two. Here are cookbooks written with her mother Martha, on regional Maine cuisine. Recipes from a Very Small Island was published in 2005, and The Maine Summers Cookbook, in 2011. Now do you see how I wasn’t too sure how to start writing about Linda?! She does everything!

The actual name of this recipe, one of her mother’s, is Head Harbor Lobster & Haddock Casserole. And I guess if you are married to a lobster fisherman, you get very creative with lobster!

Or, just serve it steamed. On a boat. As the sun sets.

Head Harbor Lobster and Haddock Casserole
Serves 10-12

2 pounds haddock filets
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup white flour
3 cups half and half
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon horseradish
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 ounces medium-dry sherry
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
3/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 pound, about 3 cups, diced cooked lobster meat
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Butter a shallow 3-quart casserole dish. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the haddock in a skillet, add water to cover, bring to a simmer, and cook gently until the fish is no longer translucent in the center, about 5 – 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. When cool enough to handle, break the fish into small chunks.

I ordered lobster tails so I prepared the meat by boiling them for 1 minute per ounce, placed in iced water, then removed the meat.

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium to medium-high heat, whisking, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the half and half, bring to a boil, and cook, whisking for 1 minute. Whisk in the ketchup, horseradish, mustard, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Whisk in the sherry and parsley and season with salt. The sauce will be very thick at this point; it will thin out with the addition of the seafood.

In a large bowl, combine the haddock and lobster meat with the sauce. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Transfer to the prepared dish, sprinkle with the crumbs, and drizzle with melted butter.

Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes.

I served the casserole with a cherry tomato salad in a zingy parsley vinaigrette with capers.

I love the flavors of the bechamel in this casserole. They were spot on. And what a delight to enjoy the fresh haddock and lobster in this way.

A nice green salad, perhaps with a lemon dressing, would also be good.

Ultimate Christmas Pudding

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We have a new member of our family – our British son-in-law. My daughter and he have been at our home for Thanksgiving the last two years, but because of the pandemic, they won’t be back in 2020. In fact, they married in Brighton, England, and of course we couldn’t attend. My daughter said I could include a wedding photo in this post. I just couldn’t pick one. Aren’t the pics beautiful!

I’ve been wanting to make a steamed Christmas pudding for years, not just now with a Brit in our family. Ironically, he doesn’t like Christmas pudding! (I’m actually trying to figure out who does!)

I don’t enjoy alcoholic desserts, but Christmas pudding isn’t similar to American fruitcakes, in that they’re not slogged with brandy or rum weekly before being served.

It’s recommended that one start a Christmas pudding up to 3 months in advance of serving, which I did. I chose Nigella Lawson’s Ultimate Christmas pudding from her book Nigella Christmas, which is my favorite book of hers, probably because I love Christmas so much. And I love Nigella.

This took me a while to understand, but desserts in England are called puddings, like sticky toffee pudding isn’t a pudding, nor is this Christmas pudding.

Nigella Lawson’s Ultimate Christmas Pudding
From Nigella Christmas

150 grams currants
150 grams sultanas
150 grams roughly chopped prunes
175 millilitres pedro ximenez sherry
100 grams plain flour
125 grams fresh breadcrumbs
150 grams suet
150 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 medium cooking apple (peeled and grated)
2 tablespoons honey
125 millilitres vodka (to flame the pudding)

You will need a 1.7 litre/3 pint/1½ quart heatproof plastic pudding basin with a lid, and also a sprig of holly to decorate.

Put the currants, sultanas and scissored prunes into a bowl with the Pedro Ximénez, swill the bowl a bit, then cover with clingfilm and leave to steep overnight or for up to 1 week.

When the fruits have had their steeping time, put a large pan of water on to boil, or heat some water in a conventional steamer, and butter your heatproof plastic pudding basin (or basins), remembering to grease the lid, too.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining pudding ingredients (except the vodka), either in the traditional manner or just any old how; your chosen method of stirring, and who does it, probably won’t affect the outcome of your wishes or your Christmas.

Add the steeped fruits, scraping in every last drop of liquor with a rubber spatula, and mix to combine thoroughly, then fold in cola-cleaned coins or heirloom charms. If you are at all frightened about choking-induced fatalities at the table, do leave out the hardware.

Scrape and press the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, squish it down and put on the lid.

Then wrap with a layer of foil (probably not necessary, but I do it as I once had a lid-popping and water-entering experience when steaming a pudding) so that the basin is watertight, then either put the basin in the pan of boiling water (to come halfway up the basin) or in the top of a lidded steamer (this size of basin happens to fit perfectly in the top of my all-purpose pot) and steam for 5 hours, checking every now and again that the water hasn’t bubbled away.

When it’s had its 5 hours, remove gingerly (you don’t want to burn yourself) and, when manageable, unwrap the foil, and put the pudding in its basin somewhere out of the way in the kitchen or, if you’re lucky enough, a larder, until Christmas Day.

On the big day, rewrap the pudding (still in its basin) in foil and steam again, this time for 3 hours. Eight hours combined cooking time might seem a faff, but it’s not as if you need to do anything to it in that time.

To serve, remove from the pan or steamer, take off the lid, put a plate on top, turn it upside down and give the plastic basin a little squeeze to help unmould the pudding. Then remove the basin – and voilà, the Massively Matriarchal Mono Mammary is revealed. (Did I forget to mention the Freudian lure of the pudding beyond its pagan and Christian heritage?)

Put the sprig of holly on top of the dark, mutely gleaming pudding, then heat the vodka in a small pan (I use my diddy copper butter-melting pan) and the minute it’s hot, but before it boils – you don’t want the alcohol to burn off before you attempt to flambé it – turn off the heat, strike a match, stand back and light the pan of vodka, then pour the flaming vodka over the pudding and take it as fast as you safely can to your guests.

If it feels less dangerous to you (I am a liability and you might well be wiser not to follow my devil-may-care instructions), pour the hot vodka over the pudding and then light the pudding. In either case, don’t worry if the holly catches alight; I have never known it to be anything but singed.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP: Make and freeze the Christmas pudding for up to 1 year ahead. Thaw overnight at room temperature and proceed as recipe on Christmas Day.

Maplev Bourbon vButter

3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar bourbon, or your choice of liquor
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of allspice

With a mixer, beat the softened butter until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and mix while scraping the sides of the bowl, so the sugar and butter come together evenly. Add the vanilla, bourbon, and spices.

Mix, scraping the sides again, to combine. Spoon the sauce into a bowl.

This is brown sugar bourbon.

Serve warm or at room temperature, along with some of the maple bourbon butter.

Well, I do like Christmas pudding. And I really like this butter, which I adapted from Ms. Lawson. They’re a great combination.

Well, I liked it!