If you’re an avid explorer, artist or writer, you can hardly find a better place to visit than the coast of Maine. With its 67 harbors – from Lubec Harbor in the northern most point to Bar Harbor, Camden, Rockland, Boothbay, Kennebunkport and York in the South – Maine offers unrivaled vistas for the painter’s eye, solitude and inspiration for contemplative writing and a treasure trove of shops, cafés, antiques, museums and gardens for the ultimate seeker of unique trinkets or treasures.
One such treasure – a pleasant place for a rest stop when traveling up the coast of Maine – is Stonewall Farms in York. Known for their specialty foods and gifts (especially their jams), they also have a café that offers deliciously prepared, fresh food sourced from local farmers and bakers – including everything from “Truffle Lobster Mac and Cheese” and “Curry Mango Chicken Wraps” to a refreshingly tasty “Summer Berry Salad.”
If you enjoy cooking like me, and happen to find yourself inspired by the café’s offerings, you might also want to head over to Stonewall Farm’s “state-of-the-art classroom cooking school” to pick up a schedule for their monthly cooking class offerings that are hosted by a variety of renowned restaurant chefs, cookbook authors and cooking professionals.
Most recently, Chef Edward Lee, a “Brooklyn-bred son of Korean immigrants”, “acclaimed Southern Chef/Owner of 610 Magnolia and MilkWood in Louisville, Kentucky”, “three-time James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef: Southeast” and “an Iron Chef America winner who competed on Top Chef: Texas,” taught a class on “Korean and Southern Fusion.”
Demonstrating some of the secrets and techniques that professional chefs use, Chef Lee also educated us on little known ingredients, such as sorghum* (which, according to him is, “all the rage now”) and the Asian spice togarashi.**
Appetizer: Warmed Oysters with Bourbon Brown Butter
Main course: Brined Pork Chop with Peach Ginger Glaze and Pistachio Gremolata
Side: Butter Beans with Garlic-Chili and Celery Leaves
Dessert: Togarashi Cheesecake with Sorghum
Aside from being absolutely delectable, the class was a fun way to learn about the similarities between Korean and Southern food (one of which is the abundant use of pork and pork products). It was a trip certainly worth taking – and one that I’d encourage all food lovers to make!
I’ve shared the recipes from our class below. Enjoy!
*Sorghum has experienced a resurgence of late. Originating in Africa – where it has grown for over 4,000 years – it is thought to have been brought to America on slave ships. It once was the staple sweetener in the south because it was cheaper and more plentiful than other pricier sweeteners. A thick golden syrup that adds a “unique flavor” and “a lot of depth to what you’re cooking” (according to Chef Lee in The Huffington Post article: “What Is Sorghum? And Why Is The South So Obsessed With It”), sorghum is considered a cereal grain that grows tall like corn and is used as a livestock feed that can also be turned into ethanol. It is also drought resistant.
**Togarashi is a Japanese word for “red chili peppers” and a general name for a varying combination of spices/condiments such as red chili peppers, black pepper, sesame seeds, green nori seaweed flakes and dried mandarin orange peel.
Warmed Oysters with Bourbon Brown Butter
Ingredients for oysters:
Enough rock salt to cover the bottom of your skillet
12 fresh oysters in the shell, scrubbed clean under cold water
Zest of 2 limes
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
Preheat your oven to as hot as it will go. Place a layer of the rock salt in a heavy cast-iron skillet and heat the salt in the oven for at least 15 minutes. Place the oysters over the hot salt. Bake for 4-6 minutes. The oysters are ready when you see a slight bubbling coming out of the sides of the shells.
The tops of the cooked oysters should easily pop off using an oyster knife. Remove the tops and place the oysters back onto the salt bed on their bottom shells. Serve with warm bourbon brown butter either drizzled on top or served on the side. Garnish with chopped cilantro and lime zest.
Ingredients for Bourbon Brown Butter:
6 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup bourbon
A few drops of lemon juice
Warm the butter in a small pot over medium heat until it begins to foam, about 2 minutes. Add the salt and continue to cook until the butter begins to turn brown and a nutty aroma wafts through the air, about 2 minutes. Turn off theheat and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the bourbon, add a few drops of lemon juice and keep warm until ready to serve.
Brined Pork Chop with Peach Ginger Glaze and Pistachio Gremolata (pictured above)
Feeds 4 as a main course
Ingredients for Brine:
1 cup of gin reduced to ¼ cup
2 cups water
4 tbsp. salt
3 tbsp. sorghum
3 tbsp. brown sugar
Ingredients for glaze:
¼ cup white wine
2 tsp. ginger grated on a microplane
2 tsp. honey
Pinch of salt and pepper
Ingredients for Pistachio Gremolata:
1 cup pistachios
¼ cup bread crumbs
Zest of 1 lemon
1 ½ tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 ½ tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
4 one-inch thick bone-in pork chops, about 11 ounces
2 tbsp. olive oil
To make the brine:
Heat the gin in a small sauce pot over medium heat until reduced to about a ¼ cup. Add the remaining ingredients and warm over low heat just long enough to dissolve the brown sugar. Take off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Place the pork chops in a large gallon-size zipper sealed bag and pour the chilled brine into the bag. Close the bag and brine the pork chops in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight up to 24 hours.
Peel the peaches and cut each peach in half to remove the pit. Cube and flesh and transfer to a small sauce pot. Add the wine, ginger, honey and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for ten minutes or until the peaches are very soft. Let it cool off a bit, about 15 minutes, then puree in a blender on high until smooth. Reserve in the refrigerator until ready to use.
To make the gremolata:
Combine all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse about 10 times just until all the ingredients are well combined. You can also grind it in a mortar and pestle until a rough paste forms. It should look coarse and crumbly. Keep this chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Remove the pork chops from the brine and discard the brine. Pat the chops dry with paper towels.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the pork chops and cook for 3 minutes on each side.
Brush a dollop of the reserved peach glaze over each pork chop. Then sprinkle a generous, even layer of the pistachio gremolata over the peach glaze. Transfer the pan with the pork chops into the oven. Bake for 12-14 minutes until the pork is cooked to a medium rare. The juices should run clear when pierced with a knife close to the bone. The glaze will set and the pistachios will look just a shade brown and crunchy on top.
Let the cooked meat rest in the pan for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Butter Beans With Garlic-Chili and Celery Leaves
Feeds 6 to 8 people
2 ½ ounces bacon
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup tomatoes, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound fresh butter beans, shelled and rinsed
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper
1 few drops of lemon juice
Small handful of celery leaves
Heat the bacon in a medium pot over medium heat and render out the fat, about 3 minutes.
Add the onions, tomatoes and garlic. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the butter beans, chicken stock, 1 cup water, vinegar, red pepper flakes and butter. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season with salt and pepper, add the lemon juice, and spoon into bowls and top with a few fresh celery leaves.
Togarashi Cheesecake with Sorghum
Ingredients for crust:
2 cups ginger snap cookie crumbs
1 ½ tbsp. sugar
5 tbsp. melted butter
Ingredients for filling:
14 ounces fresh goat cheese
6 ounces cream cheese
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup sugar, plus 2 tbsp.
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. togarashi (Asian spice)
1 tbsp. sorghum, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Stir cookie crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a medium bowl with a fork until evenly moistened. Press the mixture onto the bottom of a 9-inch Springform pan. Bake until golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the goat cheese, cream cheese and buttermilk until smooth and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Add ½ teaspoon togarashi and mix together. Pour the filling into the pan. Sprinkle the top with the remaining ½ tsp. of togarashi.
Place the cake pan inside a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to have it come a third of the way up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed when done.