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Chefs Entertain at Home, with Recipes

Award-winning chefs make a low-key, high style dinner in Ogunquit, Maine

Written and produced by Stephen Exel
  • Matthew Benson

    Menu

    Deep-Fried Pemaquid Oysters with Bacon and Green Pepper Relish
    Cream of Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
    Agnolotti with Brown Butter
    Paprika Roasted Duck with Warm Brussels Sprout Salad and Chive Mashed Potatoes
    Bibb, Pear, and Endive Salad
    Sesame Truffles & Kirsch Truffles

    Rewarding patrons with cuisine that's a fusion of local Maine traditions and hints of Asia, the Mediterranean, and Europe earned chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier the James Beard Foundation's 2010 award for Best Chefs of the Northeast. While gentlemen are respectfully requested to wear jackets for dinner at Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine, one of their three restaurants, chef coats and formal service are left behind when the two head home at the end of the day.

    Home is a shingled cabin-style residence furnished with classic contemporary furniture and excellent examples of mid-century abstract expressionism art. Purchases from travels abound-wanderlust takes over from January to mid-March, when Arrows shutters for the winter season. The two have commissioned such treasures as a pair of red-stained chests from Thailand with handles depicting the signs of the zodiac and brought home bright yellow silk pillows from Laos.

    Mark and Clark often gather friends for a meal founded on a traditional American repertoire. Given their "best chef" status, it's no surprise they can raise tomato soup and grilled cheese to an art form.

    Front and center on the dining table stands an oversized crystal candelabrum from Villeroy & Boch. Small silver souvenirs from Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in Cambodia surround its base. Woven silk placemats purchased in Thailand complement gold-hued English damask napkins. The eclectic place settings combine porcelain plates, found on a trip to Florence, with L'Objet's dinnerware in the Greek neoclassic-inspired "Mythologie" pattern.

    "We love the whimsy of it all," Mark says. "We rarely set the table the same way twice."

    "Restaurant settings require some uniformity," Clark chimes in. "At home, we can get personal and use our collections."

    Their culinary partnership is a yin-yang of diverse backgrounds. Mark is a Midwesterner who started cooking in Boston restaurants; Clark is a Californian who became interested in Chinese cooking while studying in Beijing. They met in 1985 while working at Jeremiah Tower's San Francisco restaurant, Stars. In 1988, they purchased Arrows, slowly renovating the design and menu of the restaurant housed in a 1765 farmhouse into one of Maine's premier fine-dining destinations, known for extensive gardens, flawless service, and cuisine that is both classic and innovative.

    When friends arrive at Mark and Clark's for dinner, they're greeted with cheery hellos, a glass of sparkling wine, and encouragement to come into the kitchen and lend a hand. Deep-fried Pemaquid Oysters with Bacon and Green Pepper Relish are sampled. Their briny, lemony taste is a perfect counterpoint to the Champagne.

    "We set ceremony aside at home," Clark says. Complicated restaurant techniques are also set aside-nothing on the menu requires a culinary degree to prepare.

    When the first course is served, the Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese earns its "oohs" and "aahs." Garlic and thyme flavor the creamy soup; its counterpart sandwich is one part crisp and one part gooey, cooked "low and slow" in a buttered pan.

    Naturally, a certain amount of restaurant discipline-and artistry-manifests itself when the two cook at home. Plates are lined up according to course. Their shape and pattern might determine how the dish is presented-a ribbon of cheese-filled Agnolotti Pasta with Brown Butter breaks over the border of an octagonal plate; the large, square dinner plate becomes a blank canvas for presenting Paprika Roasted Duck, a swirl of rich pan sauce, and warm Brussels Sprout Salad. The duck rests on a mound of fluffy Chive Mashed Potatoes.

    To keep things informal, the Bibb, Pear, and Endive Salad with a bright hazelnut-lemon dressing is served in a well-worn, well-loved wooden bowl.

    When Kirsch and Sesame Truffles are offered, just half the plate is dusted with cocoa powder, allowing the motif on the other half to be visible. This visual trick mates truffles to dish in a clever, graphic way.

    It's a fitting end to a meal that's low-key, high style, simple to prepare, and complex in flavor. Tell everyone to leave their jacket at home.

    Photography: Matthew Benson

     
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  • Matthew Benson

    Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier easily mix Asian accents and classic elements. Fabrics, such as vintage Thai silk, are often used as table runners.

    Recipes begin here.

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  • Matthew Benson

    "Playfulness is important," Clark says. "Scale adds drama to the table." A round bowl and stacked octagonal and square plates add crispness to the setting. The bowl and octagonal plate are in L'Objet's "Mythologie" pattern. The square plate is Florentine.

    Recipes begin here.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Clark and Mark incorporated a restaurant kitchen design staple into their own small kitchen-butcher block-topped "metro racks"-which provide ample storage and prep space and can be rolled out of the way when not in use.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Mark joins his guests while Clark takes care of the soup course. In this case, two cooks in the kitchen is not one too many, and no one spoils the broth-the two share cooking and hosting responsibilities equally.

    Recipes begin here.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Agnolotti (Italian for "priests' caps") filled with a rich ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano mixture are brushed with brown butter before serving. The homemade pasta uses both finely and coarsely ground pasta flours for texture.

    Recipes begin here.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Arrows is located in Cape Neddick, Maine, near the coastal town of Ogunquit. Dry-cured meats and cheeses are made in-house; lettuces and produce come from the on-site greenhouse and raised beds. (Arrows, 41 Berwick Road, Cape Neddick, Maine. For reservations, call 207/361-1100.)

    Recipes begin here.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Deep-Fried Pemaquid Oysters with Bacon and Green Pepper Relish

    Pemaquid oysters are large oysters from Maine with a briny, lemony flavor; Malpeque oysters can be substituted. Corn flour is finely ground cornmeal; it is used for breading and in combination with other flours for baking. Cornmeal can be substituted here; the texture will be a bit coarser.

    • 2 large green sweet peppers
    • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
    • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
    • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • 4 cups canola oil
    • 16 fresh Pemaquid or Malpeque oysters in shells, shucked and bottom shells cleaned and reserved
    • 1 cup corn flour
    • 2 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
    • 16 fried sage leaves (optional, recipe follows)

    For charcoal grill, grill sweet peppers on rack of uncovered grill directly over medium coals 10 to 12 minutes or until pepper is lightly charred, turning occasionally. (For gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place peppers on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.) Place peppers in large bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let stand 10 minutes. Loosen edges of skin with sharp knife; gently pull off skin in strips and discard. Reserve pepper juice. Chop peppers; set aside.

    In medium non-reactive saucepan combine vinegar and brown sugar. Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, until mixture is reduced to 2 tablespoons and forms thin syrup, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in shallots, thyme, salt, and crushed red pepper. Stir in chopped peppers and reserved pepper juices. Cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to bowl. Cover; chill until serving time or up to 3 days.

    In 3-quart saucepan heat oil to 350°F. Coat oysters in corn flour. Fry oysters 1 to 2 minutes or until golden and oysters float, turning once.

    To serve, place relish in reserved oyster shells. Top with oysters and crumbled bacon. Garnish with fried sage leaf. Makes 8 servings (2 per person).

    Fried sage leaves: Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in small saucepan over moderate heat. Add sage leaves, in small batches, and cook, until crisped, about 30 seconds. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels; drain.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Cream of Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

    The tomato soup base can be made up to 3 days in advance, keep covered and chilled in refrigerator.

    • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole pear tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes in juice
    • 1 medium onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 cups whipping cream
    • 1 (7-ounce) container purchased crème fraîche
    • Milk

    Drain tomatoes, reserving juice. In 4-quart Dutch oven cook onion in hot oil over medium heat 5 minutes or until just tender. Stir in garlic. Cook and stir 2 minutes or until onion is lightly browned. Stir in thyme. Cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes. Cook and stir 5 minutes. Stir in reserved tomato juice. Bring mixture to just boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, until mixture is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.

    Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper. Cool slightly. With an immersion blender blend until smooth, or transfer mixture, in half batches, to food processor. Cover; process until smooth. Transfer mixture to storage container. Cover; chill up to 3 days.

    To serve, in large saucepan combine tomato base and whipping cream. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. In small bowl combine crème fraîche with enough milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to drizzling consistency. Drizzle over soup. Makes 8 (1 cup) servings.

    Grilled Cheese
    Cook these sandwiches "long and slow" for equal parts crisp and gooey.

    • 8 slices white bread
    • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 6 ounces sliced cheddar cheese

    Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter; place, buttered side down, on waxed paper. Top four slices with cheese. Top with remaining bread slices, buttered side up.

    Cook sandwiches in very large skillet over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes or until bread is golden brown, turning once. Cut sandwiches into quarters. Makes 8 (2 quarters per person) servings.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Agnolotti with Brown Butter

    • 8 ounces semolina pasta flour (1 1/3 cups)
    • 8 ounces Italian-style flour (00 ground pizza flour) (2 cups)
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 11 egg yolks
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 recipe Ricotta Filling (follows)
    • 1 recipe Brown Butter (follows)
    • Freshly ground black pepper

    In large bowl stir together semolina flour, 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) of Italian-style flour, and salt. Make well in center of flour mixture. In medium bowl combine egg yolks, water, and olive oil. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir to combine. Sprinkle clean kneading surface with remaining Italian-style flour. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total).* Cover; let dough rest 10 minutes. Divide the dough into four equal pieces.

    On lightly floured surface roll one portion dough into 14-inch square. Cut square into four 3-1/2 inch wide strips. Pipe or spoon 5 mounds of Ricotta Filling at 1-inch intervals on each strip of dough. Using pastry brush or your finger, moisten long sides of each dough strip with water. Fold one long side of each strip over filling and seal to the other side. With fluted pastry wheel, cut pasta between mounds of filling. Use pastry wheel to trim to even shapes. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

    Fill large pot with water. If desired, add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to simmer. Add agnolotti, about 12 at a time, and simmer gently 2 to 3 minutes or until pasta is tender. Remove with slotted spoon to serving dish; keep warm. Repeat with remaining pasta. To serve, drizzle pasta with Brown Butter. Sprinkle with black pepper. Makes 10 servings (8 agnolotti per person).

    Ricotta Filling:
    In large bowl combine 2-3/4 cups ricotta cheese, 3 egg yolks, 1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Makes about 3 cups.

    Brown Butter:
    In 2-quart saucepan heat 8 ounces unsalted butter over medium heat about 15 minutes or until butter turns golden brown. Makes 1 cup.

    Make Ahead:
    Shape and fill pasta; sprinkle generously with semolina pasta flour. Arrange in single layers in a freezer container between sheets of waxed paper. Cover; freeze for up to 3 months. Remove agnolotti directly from freezer; prepare as directed.

    *If desired, combine semolina flour, 1-1/2 cups Italian-style flour, salt, egg yolks, water and olive oil in large bowl of stand mixer. Use a dough hook to mix ingredients 4 minutes.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Paprika Roasted Duck

    This recipe works equally as well for whole roasting chickens and bone-in turkey breasts.

    • 2 (5-pound) domestic ducklings (whole ducks)
    • 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    • 16 sprigs fresh rosemary
    • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
    • 2 tablespoons paprika
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    • 2 tablespoons butter

    Pull neck skin of ducks to back; fasten with skewer. Using small, sharp knife, make 1-inch incisions into duck skin. Insert sliver of garlic in each incision. Place rosemary and thyme in cavities. Twist wing tips under backs. Sprinkle ducks with paprika.* Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place birds, breast side up, in large shallow roasting pan (place side by side in pan; do not let sides touch). Add 3 cups cold water to pan.

    Roast 5 minutes at 450°F. Reduce heat to 400°F. Roast 20 minutes more, until the duck starts to turn golden. Spoon some of the liquid in roasting pan over ducks. Continue to roast, spooning liquid over ducks every 20 minutes, 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until skin is glossy brown and meat is tender (an instant read thermometer inserted into thigh should registers 180°F). Cool slightly. Transfer ducks to serving platter. Cut into serving size pieces.

    Carefully pour liquid from roasting pan into large bowl. Skim fat from liquid and discard. Pour liquid through colander lined with cheesecloth. Measure 2 cups of liquid. Return 2 cups liquid to roasting pan. Place roasting pan on stovetop over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in flour. Bring to boiling, scraping up any loose bits in roasting pan. Cook and stir until reduced to 3/4 cup and slightly thickened. Stir in butter until melted. Serve pan sauce with duck. Makes 8 servings.

    Roasted Chicken:
    Replace ducks with two (3-1/2 to 4 pound) whole broiler chickens. Rinse chicken; pat dry with paper towels. Prepare as directed above except, roast, uncovered, 1 to 1-1/4 hours total or until chicken is no longer pink and an instant read thermometer inserted into thigh registers 180° F. (If necessary, cover with foil the last 15 minutes of roasting to prevent overbrowning.)

    Roasted Turkey:
    Replace ducks with 2 (3 to 3-1/2 pound) bone-in turkey breast halves. Prepare as above, except roast 1 to 1-1/4 hours total or until thermometer registers 170°F and juices run clear. (If necessary, cover with foil the last 15 minutes of roasting to prevent overbrowning.) Let stand, covered, with foil 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

    * To evenly sprinkle duck with paprika, place paprika in small fine-mesh sieve. Hold sieve above duck; with back of spoon stir and press paprika through sieve.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Warm Brussels Sprout Salad

    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, cored and separated into leaves (8 cups)
    • 1/4 cup chicken stock or chicken broth
    • Kosher salt

    In large skillet heat butter over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts. Increase to medium-high heat. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until browned. Add stock or broth. Cook, covered, 3 minutes more or until sprouts are tender. Season to taste with salt. Makes 8 (1/4 cup) servings.

    Chive Mashed Potatoes

    • 2 pounds (4 large or 6 medium) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
    • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup whipping cream or whole milk, at room temperature
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
    • Kosher salt

    In large saucepan cook potatoes and 2 tablespoons salt in boiling water, covered, 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender; drain.

    Transfer to stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whip potatoes on medium speed (or transfer to large bowl and beat with electric hand mixer on low speed)*. Gradually add butter, whipping cream and chives. Season to taste with additional salt. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

    * Or, pass potatoes through ricer or food mill into large bowl. Whisk in butter, whipping cream, and chives.

    Make Ahead:
    Potatoes can be peeled and stored in refrigerator in bowl of water up to 1 day.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Bibb, Pear, and Endive Salad 

    Light, lemony Hazelnut Vinaigrette dresses this salad.

    • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
    • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup hazelnut oil
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 6 ounces arugula, washed and dried (9 1/2 cups)
    • 1 large head Bibb lettuce, torn (5 cups)
    • 3 heads Belgian endive, separated
    • 3 medium pears, thinly sliced
    • 1/4 of small bunch Italian (flat-leaf) parsley (about 2-1/2 to 3 cups, long stems removed and loosely packed)

    Preheat oven to 350°F. On 15x10x1-inch baking sheet bake hazelnuts 10 minutes or until golden brown. Place nuts on clean dry kitchen towel. Rub nuts until skin is removed. Coarsely chop nuts; set aside.

    For dressing, in small bowl combine lemon juice, hazelnut oil, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk until combined; set aside.

    In large salad bowl combine arugula, Bibb, and half the dressing; toss to combine. In another bowl combine endive leaves and half the remaining dressing. In third bowl combine pears and remaining dressing. Alternately arrange endive leaves and pear slices around edge of salad. Scatter parsley over top. In dressing bowl, toss nuts with residual dressing; add to salad. Makes 8 servings.

    Make Ahead:
    Hazelnuts can be toasted, peeled and coarsely chopped up to 5 days in advance and stored at room temperature. Salad dressing can be made up to 5 days in advanced and stored, covered, in refrigerator. Whisk again before using.

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  • Matthew Benson

    Sesame Truffles and Kirsch Truffles

    Sesame Truffles:

    • 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup whipping cream
    • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    • 4 ounces white baking chocolate
    • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

    Place semisweet chocolate in small bowl. In small saucepan bring whipping cream and sesame oil to just boiling. Pour over semisweet chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted. Chill 45 to 60 minutes or until mixture is just firm.

    Meanwhile, melt white chocolate. Line tray or baking sheet with waxed paper. With small cookie scoop divide chocolate mixture into 8 portions; shape into balls. Place melted white chocolate in small bowl. Dip balls in melted white chocolate. Place on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Chill 15 minutes or until set. Store in single layer in airtight container in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving. Makes 8 truffles.

    Kirsch Truffles:
    Substitute bittersweet chocolate for semisweet chocolate, reduce whipping cream to 2 ounces, substitute kirsch for sesame oil, replace white chocolate with 2 ounces semisweet chocolate and 1/2 teaspoon shortening. Eliminate sesame seeds. Prepare as above, rolling truffles in unsweetened cocoa powder before serving.

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