Friday, August 19, 2022

Maine Lobster Rolls

While the first documented lobster roll may have been served at a restaurant in Milford, Connecticut, there is no doubt that the lobster roll is an icon of Maine cuisine. Anyone who takes a vacation in Maine -- from Kennebunkport to Lubec -- will inevitably have the opportunity to try a roll. And, there are many places across the State to get one. 

However, there are a lot of stories behind this sandwich. It is the stories about the lobsters and those who catch them that need to be told more. 

One of those stories is presently unfolding in the Gulf of Maine. Climate change is clearly making its presence known. The waters in the western part of the Gulf of Maine - such as Casco Bay (near Portland, Maine) - are beginning to get warmer. As anyone who has cooked a lobster will tell you, lobsters don't like warm water. As the waters of Casco Bay get warmer, the lobsters move north and east. As one fisher told Norah Hogan, a journalist with WMTW, "[w]hen I started [about 30 years ago], almost half of the lobsters in the state of Maine were landed in this part of the state - Casco Bay region." He added, "[w]e're not in the ballpark anymore." 

Lobsters thrive in waters that are between 54 degrees and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The waters in the western portions of the Gulf of Maine exceed 68 degrees from time to time. This means that the lobsters will migrate to where it is cooler, which is toward the northeastern shore of the State and into Canadian waters. It also pushes the lobsters further offshore, to cooler, deeper waters. 

This means that, as the waters warm, there will be less lobsters around the shores of Maine. Less lobsters mean that the already high prices for lobster rolls will only go higher (as long as the demand is there). In fact, I was quite surprised that the cost of a lobster roll could be from $28 to $38 for each roll. If both my beautiful Angel and I had a lobster roll, we would be looking at paying $56 to $76 for a meal (and that is without any beer or anything else). 

As it turns out, I had brought my trusty steam pot to Maine for our vacation. As I noted in my post about Steamed Lobsters, I was able to find a seafood market that sold whole lobsters for anywhere from $8.00 to $12.00 per pound, depending upon the lobster. The market only had soft shelled lobsters (that is, those who had recently molted). Soft shelled lobsters come with a lot of water since they have not fully regrown into their new shells. So, part of what one is paying for with that $8.00 to $12.00 per pound is water. I knew this fact when I bought them, but I could buy 4 soft-shelled lobsters for the price of 2 lobster rolls. 

With those lobsters, I proceeded to make my own lobster rolls. I found a recipe, which is set forth below, and tried to follow it as best I could. I also decided that I would do the "presentation piece" and have a whole lobster claw served on the top of the sandwich. However, I think in the future that I perhaps do a rough chop of the claw into pieces. I think that would be better than a whole claw.


Recipe from Food & Wine

Serves 2


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chervil or tarragon
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced celery
  • 1 pound cooked, shucked and chopped lobster meat (from knuckles and 6 pincer claws)
  • 6 top split (New England style) hot dog buns, separated
  • 2 tablespoons salted (or unsalted butter), softened
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, plus more for garnish
  • 6 butter lettuce leaves


1. Prepare the lobster. Whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice and chervil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir in celery and fold in chopped lobster meat. Cover and chill up to 4 hours.

2. Prepare the buns.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Butter the sides of buns and toast in skillet until golden and heated through, about 2 minutes. 

3. Finish the dish. Fold chives into lobster salad. Place a lettuce leaf inside each bun. Divide lobster salad evenly among buns. Sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately. 


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Thai Hot

When it comes to spiced ales, the typical offerings - pumpkin beers, Christmas ales, and the like - don't usually get my attention, let alone hold it long enough for me to consider buying them. (There are some exceptions, but that is the general rule.) But, when I find a mole stout - a beer incorporating the ingredients that typically find their way into a mole sauce (for example, chiles, chocolate, and nuts), that beer has my attention. Indeed, until very recently, mole stouts were the only spiced ales that I would purchase. 

However, while on a recent vacation, the Savage Boleks visited Fogtown Brewing Company's tap room in Bar Harbor, Maine. According to its website, Foghorn brews farmhouse ales, saisons, sours, spiced ales, and other styles. The beers are brewed with malts, grains and hops that are grown in Maine. 

While sitting at a table, I looked over at the beer fridge. There was a four pack that caught my eyes. The red labels with a golden script that I could not recognize. The only thing that I could understand was the print at the bottom: "Thai Hot." I picked up the four pack for a closer inspection. The beer is an ale brewed with grains from Maine, along with rice, lemongrass, basil, toasted coconut, lime and thai chiles.

The beer pours a golden yellow, with a thin foam that quickly gives way to the liquid. The lemongrass and limes provide featured aromas, but I think I could sense some grass as well. 

The beer has a very light body, with the lemon and lime at the front of the taste. My initial reaction seemed to prepare myself for something along a sour beer; however, any thoughts of sourness soon gave way to the heat from the chiles, which could be felt both on the tip of the tongue and in the back of the throat. 

With an ABV of only 4.7%, this beer would be a very drinkable, except that burn from the Thai chiles can set the pace from time to time. It's a good think that I love spicy food and that I have experience cooking with Thai chiles, so that I know what to expect. 

In the end, if you find yourself in Maine, near Ellsworth or on Mount Desert Island, you should check out Fogtown Brewing Company. And, if you are like me and always willing to try something different, check out the Thai Hot if it is available. Until next time ...


Monday, August 1, 2022

Togolese Grilled Chicken

I have a hard time keeping up with my cooking hobby. Times have been so busy lately that I need to actively plan to cook. One plan is my effort to make lunches for the workweek. I try to find a relatively simple, yet interesting recipe, and then make it. The end result gets packaged into three to four containers that become my lunches.

Recently, I came across a recipe for Togolese grilled chicken. Togo is a very small country sandwiched between Ghana and Benin along the Gold Coast of Africa. The country has a very thin rectangular shape, with only thirty-two (32) miles of coastline and three hundred and twenty (320) miles of interior. Yet, there are thirty (30) different ethnic groups that can be found in that very small country. The indigenous groups include, among others, the Gurma and the Kwa. Other groups emigrated to this area, including the Ewe, Yoruba and Temba. All of these indigenous groups have contributed to the cuisine of Togo. In addition, as is with much of the African continent, there are European influences as well. In the case of Togo, those influences stem from periods of colonization by both Germany and France.

Yet, for me, this recipe evokes images of food stalls located near one of the markets in the country's capital of Lome, or perhaps a small restaurant in one of the interior cities, such as Kpele, Bassar or Dapaong. (Please note that I have never had the chance to visit Togo, so much of this is my own imagination and speculation.) Some small stall or restaurant where the aromas of grilled chicken - such as koklo meme - fill the air.  The recipe for koklo meme is a traditional Togolese way to prepare chicken. They marinate drumsticks with ginger and garlic, as well as traditional spices, and then grill the chicken over an open flame until the skins are scorched and the juices run clear.

I was very intrigued by this recipe, so I decided to make it for my lunches. I made a couple of changes to the recipe. First, the recipe calls for red palm oil, which is traditionally used to make this dish. I have a source for red palm oil, which is a small local African market. However, that market was not open when I tried to buy the oil. So, I used a substitute - vegetable oil. Better substitutes could be rapeseed oil or sunflower oil; however, regardless, the substitutes lack the one thing that red palm oil can provide for the dish - a slight reddish hue. I added some cayenne pepper, but it is no substitute for the red color. The other change I did was to take the skin off the drumsticks. While this is not the traditional way to prepare the dish, it did make it slightly healthier, which is something that I need to do more of with my cooking. 

In the end, this recipe did fulfill my visions of a possible Togolese street food. They also provided some very tasty lunches for the week. If only I had made some Jollof Rice to go with it. I guess I always need something to improve on when I return to recipes like this one. Until next time ...


Recipe from Explorer Compassion

Serves 4-5


  • 2 tablespoons red palm oil 
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper (and/or cayenne pepper, for heat)
  • 8-10 pieces of chicken, bone in and skin on
  • 1 large white onion, sliced in thick rings
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced, for serving


1. Prepare the chicken. Since red palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature, place it in a glass bowl and microwave for 20-30 seconds until liquid. Mix in lemon juice, followed by ginger, garlic, salt and pepper(s). Roll each piece of chicken in the bowl of marinade and then place in a brining bag or large zipper bag. When all pieces are in the bag, add onions and then seal. Through sealed bag, use hands to further work the marinade into the chicken. Let marinade for at least one hour, overnight is best if you have the patience.

2. Grill the chicken. Preheat the grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove chicken pieces from bag and grill until cooked through, about 15-17 minutes per side. When done, the skins will be almost blackened and the juices will run clear. When the meat is nearly done, add the onion rings and grill to soften them but do not let them burn. 

3. Finish the dish. Serve chicken with grilled onion rings and sliced fresh tomatoes.