LINCOLNVILLE – Ladleah Dunn is a sailor and a damn good cook. More importantly, she aims not to take the foodie industry in Maine so seriously or make it too precious. Her culinary adventures stem largely from her own small farm in Lincolnville; what’s ridiculous is how she makes it look so easy.
A good friend of Ladleah Dunn’s is up from Brookyn for a few days. Millicent Souris happens to be the author of the just-released cookbook, How To Build A Better Pie: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Flaky Crusts, Toppers, and the Things in Between (Quarry Books, 2102)
So what do we want to do while she’s here? Make a pie, naturally.
Typical of Ladleah and Millicent’s style, this is a pie on the fly. That is; there will be no trips to the grocery store—they’ll make it with whatever they can scrounge up on Ladleah’s farm she shares with her husband Shane Laprade. With beers on the beach, the ladies start to envision what to make, going off on their own culinary jam:
Millicent: “It’s too hot in the freaking kitchen. What do we want to make?”
Ladleah: “We want to make something that doesn’t take a lot of time.”
Millicent: “Right, so something crusty, like chess pie.” (Which is an easy custard pie.)
Ladleah: “Yeah, good—let’s use some of the duck eggs.”
Millicent: “How ‘bout some of that lemon verbena in your garden. I love lemon verbena.”
Ladleah: “And I’ve got frozen raspberries.”
Millicent: “Oh we’ll definitely use that. With some anise hyssop, also from your garden.”
Duck egg crème en glace (a loose custard) flavored with lemon verbena/anise hyssop atop a Dutch pancake. Done. Recipe in mind, we head back to the farm in Lincolnville as we come to find out how Ladleah and Millicent’s path crossed. As Millicent tells it, she and Ladleah met when she came up to Maine with some friends a couple of years ago and cooked at Salt Water Farm, where Ladleah had been the chef for 2.5 years. “We were luckily enough to have Ladleah there and she and I are just, you know, kindred souls.” Millicent is currently working to open a new restaurant in NY for a friend and is up for a few days to cook with Nancy Harmon Jenkins.
Technically what they have in mind is not so much a pie as a light, crusty dessert. “If we don’t make a pie then we don’t have to have the oven on for an hour,” Millicent says. “Making a real pie takes a lot of time. If you’ve got good custard and you’ve got beautiful fruit and herbs—that’s what makes a lot of desserts interesting. Sometimes it’s like: don’t get in the way of the food. Don’t try to be like some f***ing superstar when you should just be like: ‘All right, let’s just make this.’ ”
“Exactly,” says Ladleah.
Back in the kitchen, Millicent cracks several fresh duck eggs collected from Ladleah’s duck pen and mixes it into a bowl with sugar.
She then scalds milk with a couple of peppercorns and some of the lemon verbena from Ladleah’s herb garden. Whisking, Millicent notes, ““When peppercorns and lemon verbena come together it’s very flavorful and fragrant.”
Next, she explains how she mixes the two ingredients. “Eggs are difficult so you have to respect them. You aren’t looking to scramble them here, you’re looking to make a smooth sauce. So, any time you make an egg-based sauce, generally you need to temper them, which means you’re bringing up the temperature of the eggs by adding the hot milk, but in a small, steady stream.”
At this point, Ladleah produces the frozen raspberries and begins to thaw them as Millicent finishes the custard (thickens it up) over the double boiler. A double boiler can be as simple as a metal bowl sitting on top of a pan of simmering water—as it is in this case.
Next she prepares the batter for the Dutch pancake—which is, as she explains, sort of like a giant popover—cooked in a cast iron pan. It cooks up really easy and then it all comes together.
The finished result is the duck egg crème en glace and lemon verbena/anise hyssop stop a Dutch pancake. Sounds complicated, but for these two, a walk in the park.
“Let’s not even bother with forks and knives,” Millicent says, “just grab a hunk off of it and enjoy it.” That’s what we do.
For more of Millicent’s pie recipes visit: How To Build A Better Pie
Follow Ladleah’s blog, Sailor’s Rest Farm to see what else she’s got cookin’.