When the temperature drops in Maine, locals turn to their favorite winter comfort foods to take the chill off. Most Maine restaurants, bed & breakfasts and neighborhood eateries offer some form of these delicious comfort foods. The simplicity of these recipes (this is Maine, after all, where Yankee frugality reigns supreme – even in food preparation) makes these foods fairly easy to make even for those unfamiliar with this regional cuisine. Native Mainer cooks and chefs add their own special “something” to turn these comfort foods into compelling fare.
In winter, comfort foods take on even greater significance in the Pine Tree State. Whether you're out there tackling the trails or slopes on skis and snow shoes or prefer indoor coziness until spring arrives, cold weather comfort foods are what keeps you going as the frigid winds blow.
First on the list are the seafood-based dishes. Maine has and always will have strong ties to the ocean. For this reason, fish and shellfish figure prominently in its versions of comfort food. At the top of the seafood category is lobster mac and cheese. This variation on the more traditional macaroni and cheese features fresh chunks of lobster for a savory, heartier taste.
Lobster mac and cheese is Maine's variation on a time honored favorite. — Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik
Equally popular among seafood options is traditional New England Clam Chowder Among choice eateries for chowder is Gilbert's Chowder House in Portland. Now, this isn’t the red chowder from New York or even Rhode Island. This is the Maine favorite featuring thick, creamy white broth that is chock full of diced onions, potatoes, clams and, if you wish, bacon pieces. It’s the delicious stuff that warms and fills you up after a day full of winter fun in Maine’s great outdoors. A tantalizing variation is fish chowder with its appealing mix of salmon, haddock, cod and other cold water fish mixed within a creamy base.
New England Clam Chowder is a comfort food classic — Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik
Also highly regarded are the main course pies. In generations past, pies filled with meats and vegetables were ideal for making good use of fall harvest foods before they spoiled. Their preparation also meant more time spent in the kitchen – with the stove on – to warm up the home. The most familiar of these concoctions is chicken or turkey pot pie featuring chunks or shreds of meat with baby onions, peas, potatoes and corn combined within a thickened chicken stock and baked in a flaky crust. Among the best places to find such delicacies is The Front Room in Portland.
A variation on the pie theme are Shepherd’s Pie and, for a truly regional touch, French Meat Pie. Brought to Maine and New England by French Canadian immigrants, the French Meat Pie is characterized by ground pork and meat seasoned with spices such as cloves and cinnamon in a pastry shell for a zesty, hearty taste.
Indian Pudding makes winter much sweeter. — Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik
For dessert and breakfast, anything blueberry is truly a Maine treat. This is especially true during the late spring and early summer when wild blueberries are plentiful throughout Maine. This fruit of choice is featured in such classic fare as pancakes, breads, and of course, muffins. Indian Pudding is another Maine sweet winter comfort food with its welcome flavors of molasses, cornmeal, cinnamon and nutmeg – it has been satisfying the collective Maine sweet tooth for generations. The Wayfarer Restaurant has long been a favorite with blueberry lovers.
Finally, Rice Pudding with its smooth, custard-like consistency and hint of cinnamon and raisins is a great way to enjoy winter’s pleasures from the coziness of your own home or hotel room. Enjoy!