Although I was born in New Orleans and spend much of my time writing about Louisiana food, nothing gives me more pleasure than visiting my family and fishing off the coast of Maine.
Minus the heat, Maine and Louisiana cooking share some striking similarities. Sure, Maine recipes are hardly ever as spicy, and you’ll rarely hear reference to the word “roux.” But, if you look closely, both states’ cooking traditions value similar ingredients and techniques.
In Maine and Louisiana, chefs take pleasure in abundant coastal resources.
Summer menus burst with freshly caught fish and shellfish, and locals tend to eat with their hands, pulling apart lobster meat with the same vigor as my friends tear open crawfish.
But, what I like best about Maine is how the food reminds me of Louisiana even when I’m 2,000 miles away. Iconic recipes like the Maine lobster rolls or boiled lobsters (where you have to wear a red and white bib) resemble my favorite Louisiana crawfish po-boys and crawfish boils.
My family has always called lobsters “bugs,” and it’s common to be invited over for Sunday lunch to “boil some bugs.” There’s an obvious reason for these similarities: after all, a significant portion of Maine Acadians eventually migrated to Louisiana, making up part of our state’s Cajun community.
For this recipe, I take a cue from my summer in Maine to feature lobster meat as part of a light and easy hot weather dip.
Typically, I find crawfish an excellent lobster substitute, but in this case, I suggest the use of crabmeat instead.
Both crab and lobster meat are naturally sweet, but lobster’s natural butteriness is a real treat here. Plus, lobster is at its most affordable market value during summer months.
Many New England seafood companies ship Maine lobster year-round, and you can get a great deal during the peak of summer.
Don’t have access to Maine lobster meat? Substitute fresh crabmeat or warm-water lobster instead.
In making this dip, the key is to keep things light and simple. Instead of large quantities of mayonnaise, combine a blend of freshly squeezed lemon juice with a smaller portion of mayo.
Many seafood dips use heaping tablespoons of fatty mayonnaise, an ingredient that doesn’t hold up well in high temperatures.
Here, the fresh lemon juice dilutes the mayonnaise so that the dip stays lighter (and brighter) on a hot summer day. This addition is healthful and does little to mask the sweetness of lobster or crabmeat.
Although I have to admit that for every similarity between Maine and Louisiana, there are just as many differences. I find that in the kitchen, my families’ recipes couldn’t be more alike.
Plus, regardless of where I’m cooking, both remind me of home.
Helana Brigman is a food writer, photographer and cookbook author. She can be reached with daily recipes at http://clearlydeliciousfoodblog.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.