Maine's colonial heritage and important coastline define its local food. Most dishes in Maine are simply prepared, and there is a strong preference for local ingredients. That means seafood is extremely popular, both as an appetizer and main course. Old-fashioned seafood Newburg—shrimp, lobster, and fish in a sherry-cream sauce—is one of the fancier dishes. Steaming or boiling is usually preferred, and this technique is used on mussels, crabs, clams, and lobster. Lobster is one of Maine's most important products, and is a local favorite as well as an important export. Boiled lobster usually comes to the table whole for diners to crack and dip in melted butter. The lobster roll, the state dish, is not much more complex. Most people in Maine dress chilled lobster meat in a little mayonnaise and serve it on a buttered hot dog roll, preferring to let the flavor of fresh lobster dominate the sandwich.
Clams are another favorite. The clambake, which involves digging a pit on the beach and roasting the clams in the open air, is a favorite warm-weather outing. When time and weather don't allow for a real clambake, people steam clams on the stovetop with corn on the cob and potatoes for a one-pot meal. Clam chowder, a standard along the north Atlantic coast, is also a strong favorite in Maine, where potatoes, onion, celery, and bacon are simmered in cream with fresh clams to make the soup. Mussels are locally available, and are often served steamed with a bit of onion and celery as an appetizer or main course. Crab is also popular, simply steamed or in crab cakes seasoned with mustard and Worcestershire sauce, and bound with egg, mayonnaise, and very few bread crumbs.
Although meat and chicken aren't really local products, they're certainly part of the local diet. Brunswick stew is an old Maine favorite. In the past it was normally made with rabbit meat, but today it's more commonly a thick chicken stew with carrots, potatoes, onions, and celery. A little ham is sometimes added for flavoring. Maine has its share of hunters, and most prefer deer. Venison stew is a particular cold-weather favorite. The meat is usually cooked slowly with onion and a few root vegetables such as carrot and potato.
Vegetables include yellow eye beans, Maine relatives of the kidney bean, which are typically baked with onion, salt pork, maple syrup or molasses, mustard, and a bit of brown sugar. This dish dates from colonial times. Potatoes are an important local crop, so fish or meat are likely to come with a side of boiled or baked potatoes. Greens like spinach, beet greens, or Swiss chard are often steamed or boiled and served with a little vinegar as a side dish.
Yeasted bread flavored with molasses is another standard accompaniment to lunch or dinner. Maine is in maple country, so pancakes often come with real maple syrup, and maple syrup or sugar is often used in place of molasses or sugar when a touch of sweetness in needed. Most home cooks turn to fruit-based concoctions for desserts. Maine summers are short, but strawberries are a local crop often served for dessert with whipped cream or ice cream. Strawberry-rhubarb pie is a longtime summer favorite. Maine blueberries turn up in muffins, pies, and coffee cakes. Apple pies and crisps are common everyday sweets. Cranberries have grown in Maine for many years, and are still used in sauces and chutneys. Nowadays it's more common to add them to sweet bread or blend a few into apple pie filling. In autumn, cider is a popular drink served cold or, as the weather cools, warmed up with a little cinnamon.
-World Trade Press