This week’s Virtual Potluck features recipes from Annie Mahle’s book Sugar & Salt: A Year at Home and at Sea. Annie is the Chef/Owner of the two-masted restaurant and sailing schooner J. & E. Riggin, based out of Rockland, Maine. Keep reading to discover how you can win your own copy of Annie’s book.
Appropriately, I read Sugar & Salt cover to cover while I was vacationing in New England. Each of the 12 chapters in the book covers a different month, so you get a feel for what Annie does in-season and off-season. In-season, she cooks on a wood stove with minimal refrigeration and limited access to water for 30 people daily. Off-season, she cooks for her much smaller family. Despite the season, she understands that “the importance of gathering to pause, give thanks, eat well and laugh together is not to be underestimated, no matter how mundane or routine.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Annie between trips during her busy summer schedule.
Why did you call the book Sugar & Salt? What inspired you to write it?
Annie Mahle: Sugar and salt are two of the most basic ingredients that a chef can use and I loved the connection of sugar to the land (sugar beets etc.) and, of course, salt to the sea. The book is about both our life and the food that surrounds that life on both land and the ocean, so it seemed both fun and fitting. Our guests are always asking for the new recipes that I create and the first book just wasn’t covering it anymore. Also, they ask about all of the handmade items on the boat, such as aprons and trivets, that it seemed a natural to include those as well.
What is a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner served on the boat?
AM: For example, today we’ll have
BREAKFAST – Blueberry, Orange Buttermilk Pancakes with Maine Made Maple Syrup or Cinnamon and Pecan Syrup; Butchers Thick-cut Bacon; wedges of cantalope and white nectarines
LUNCH – Saffron Lobster Stew with Shaved Parmesan and a Garden Tomato Relish with Pickled Onions; Golden Northern Corn Bread; Greens with Avocado and Radishes with a Lemon Sunflower Dressing; Banana Chocolate Chip Cake
DINNER – Stuffed Chicken Breast with Corn, Tomato, Basil and Ciabatta Stuffing; Whole-Wheat Walnut Bread; Steamed Fresh Snap Peas and Carrots with Blood Orange Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil; New Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Brown Butter
What are some of your passengers’ favorite recipes?
AM: Often it’s the ones that are the homiest and most approachable that they ask for again and again – just like you would with your mom’s spaghetti sauce with meatballs. It’s just what you want when you need to feel nourished and cared for. So it’s Congo Bars, Root Beer Cake, Tapioca Pudding with Vanilla Bean and Pistachio, Salmon with Tri-Pepper Salsa, White Bean and Chicken Chili…
Can you accommodate special diets (diabetic, gluten-free, vegan, etc.)?
AM: Yes, and do often.
Cooking on a boat is so much different than in a home kitchen – what adjustments have you had to make? What is your cooking set-up on the boat?
AM: I have a really small galley that forces me to be wicked organized and to let go of the recipes that are too fussy or temperature sensitive. If you think about how your grandmother (or your great-grandmother, depending on how old you are!) would have cooked with wood heat on a wood stove with big pots and breads and pies streaming out of the oven, then you have a sense of how it is that I cook – minus the petticoats, plus a chef’s apron. I just take advantage of the flavorful heat source that I have rather than see the wood stove as limiting. Plus, who doesn’t love pizza out of a wood-fired oven?
How have you adapted your menus over the years?
AM: As more local food and purveyors have become available and the farmer’s market has grown, so have the choices that I have with my ingredients and the less it needs to come from my own hands and my own garden.
Do you count on being able to catch fish, lobsters, etc. while at sea or do you purchase all food needed for the trip ahead of time?
AM: We don’t count on it but absolutely take it as a boon when a clammer arrives alongside with an extra bushel of clams, crabs or mackerel.
I love that you focus on using sustainable, local foods. Do you grow herbs or anything else on the boat? How often do you get back to your garden at home?
AM: Don’t grow anything on the boat, but bring all the herbs, flowers and vegetables from the garden everytime we leave on a 4 or 6 day trip.
When do you plan the meals? How much time do you have to do it?
AM: I plan the last day of the trip for the next trip in about 30 minutes, hit the dock, shop for an hour, stock for an hour, garden for an hour, nap!, and welcome guests the following day.
How can someone book a trip on the J. & E. Riggin?
AM: Visit our website, www.mainewindjammer.com or call us at 1-800-869-0604.
I’ve added a trip on the J. & E. Riggin to my bucket list; how about you? Here are the recipes that will be posted this week from Sugar & Salt as prepared by the Virtual Potluck team:
- Cauliflower, Cheddar, and Jalapeno Soup from Cookistry
- Cucumber and Roasted Corn Salsa on Grilled Bread with Feta Cheese from 30AEATS
- Homemade Macaroni & Cheese from Cooking with Books
- Lemon Poppy Seed Waffles from Thyme in Our Kitchen
- Cinnamon Pecan Granola from Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine
- Raspberry Cinnamon Galette from Miss in the Kitchen
- Millet Rum Raisin Muffins from Diabetic Foodie
Giveaway I’m giving away a copy of Annie Mahle’s book Sugar & Salt. To enter, visit the J. & E. Riggin website and leave a comment below telling me what you think your favorite part of a trip on the schooner would be. The contest will run through Friday, August 31, 2012. The winner will be chosen at random on Saturday, September 1, 2012. You must be at least 18 years of age with a U.S. mailing address to win. No purchase is necessary; void where prohibited. The winner will be notified by email and must respond within 24 hours or another winner may be selected. (Please make sure email from firstname.lastname@example.org doesn’t end up in your spam folder.)
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Sugar & Salt by Annie Mahle plus a second copy to give away. All opinions are my own.