The First 5 Recipes to Cook from Erin French's "The Lost Kitchen" Cookbook (2024)

Already dreaming of your next trip? So are we. Which is why we’re starting a new column dedicated to cookbooks that will inspire your next trip. If you’re stuck at home, you may as well satiate your appetite for travel by diving into a new type of cuisine. Each week, we’ll choose a cookbook that features a culinary destination or culture, highlighting five of our favorite recipes for you to try at home. This week: a peek into the life of a small-town Maine chef who cooks up award-winning food all year long.

Cookbook addicts know that a good cookbook isn’t just about food. In addition to delicious recipes, the best cookbooks tell a story. The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine by Erin French (also available on Amazon) does just that — it’s the kind of cookbook you actually want to sit down and read.

I happened to receive The Lost Kitchen as a gift for Christmas a few years ago. That year we celebrated the holidays at a lake house in Maine, and on Christmas Day, I curled up by the fire to read this cherished gift from cover to cover. In addition to being a talented chef and James Beard semifinalist, Erin French is also a beautiful writer. When I finally came up for air, I’d fallen in love with this book and I hadn’t yet cooked a thing.

Recipes and a Good Life Found

The First 5 Recipes to Cook from Erin French's "The Lost Kitchen" Cookbook (1)

Besides featuring an abundance of gorgeous photos and farm-fresh recipes, The Lost Kitchen also doubles as an autobiographical piece. Throughout the book, French reveals anecdotes about her life that range from hilarious (accidentally harvesting poison ivy as a centerpiece) to heartbreaking (her first business failing after a difficult divorce). Ultimately, it’s a story of perseverance, as French is a self-taught cook who, after creating a supper club in her own home, went on to open a world-renowned restaurant in a renovated mill.

French’s food is without pretension, instead choosing to celebrate Maine’s seasonal bounty — a trait that goes hand-in-hand with living in a region that recognizes the tradition of small, organic farming. The result is a book filled with detailed information on how to shuck oysters, forage plants, eat lobsters, buy shellfish, make DIY cleaner, and most importantly, cook good food.

Living and Cooking with the Seasons

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What I love most about this cookbook, which moves through its recipes seasonally, is that it accurately depicts the life of a year-round Maine resident. I’ve only lived in Maine for five years, and while I could never call myself a true Mainer — I’m “from away,” as they say — in these pages, I’ve recognized a life somewhat similar to my own.

That’s because, here in Maine, we know how to live with seasons — all four of them. We work hard in the summer and try to get some rest in the winter. We plant garlic in the fall, we forage in the spring, and we go to the Common Ground Country Fair every year. We enjoy an abundance of seafood and produce year-round, we know how to shuck oysters, and we heat our homes with wood-fired stoves.

This Maine lifestyle comes alive throughout The Lost Kitchen’s words, photos, and the following five recipes, which I implore you to try.

Macerated Shallot Vinaigrette

All Year-Round

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Another title for this recipe could be, “Easiest, most delicious, vinaigrette ever.” French’s technique for macerating shallots is used throughout the book, from the potato salad to the oyster mignonette. In truth, making your own salad dressing has never been so easy. Mince a shallot, let it macerate in seasoned rice vinegar for 20 minutes, and then add olive oil. The end result is perfection, finding the right balance between sweet and salty to dress your favorite greens.

Spring Bread Salad

Spring

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This springtime salad celebrates the beginning of the growing season at its best. I love this recipe because the timing always works out perfectly. Whenever the peas are shooting up in my garden, the radishes are also ready to harvest. Add in some asparagus from the store, homemade croutons, and the aforementioned vinaigrette, and you’ll be delighted by the flavors of spring.

Summer: A Classic Clam Boil

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“Summer is meant for lazy days, not sweating over hosting a party for friends and family.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Here in Maine, our summers are short but oh-so-sweet, and it is not the time of year to be slaving over a stove. That’s why French’s recipe for a classic clam boil, which requires bivalves, hot dogs, and farm-fresh corn being tossed in a lobster pot with some seawater, is an all-time fave for hosting in the summer.

Fall: Waldorf Salad

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Despite the fact that I still have not mastered homemade mayonnaise (psst — I just use Hellman’s), French’s recipe for Waldorf Salad is one of my favorites. I like to make it for Thanksgiving, and it’s always a hit. However, one stipulation for this recipe is finding and using the best produce available. (Read: get good apples.) With fresh ingredients, the result is a bright, bitter, and sweet salad that hits all the right notes and provides the perfect amount of crunch.

Winter: Dad’s Meatloaf

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Meatloaf is one of my go-to comfort foods, thanks in part to my dad cooking it on Sundays throughout my childhood. French’s meatloaf, which is also inspired by her own father, beats out the recipe from my youth. (Sorry, Dad!) There’s something about the meatloaf’s mixture — shallots, carrots, chunks of sourdough bread, and pecorino cheese — that give it the perfect texture. And the glaze, a sweet and salty blend of mustard, ketchup, and brown sugar, is divine. I always make it with mashed potatoes and parsnips for the perfect meal on a cold winter’s eve.
The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine | Bookshop.org | Also available at Amazon

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The First 5 Recipes to Cook from Erin French's "The Lost Kitchen" Cookbook (2024)

FAQs

Why is Lost Kitchen closing? ›

The Lost Kitchen, which opened in the Gothic building in 2011, closed this spring with the only explanation for the sudden departure a blog post by owner and chef Erin French, who said she was taking a break after “going deep.”

Is Erin French still married to Michael Dutton? ›

Marriage: French was married to Michael Dutton from 2006 to 2018. Divorce: French and Dutton divorced in 2018. Remarriage: French married Todd Perrin in 2020. Current status: French is currently married to Todd Perrin.

What does it cost to eat at The Lost Kitchen in Maine? ›

Maine's storied Lost Kitchen accepting reservations; cost of dinner rises to $265. Dinner at The Lost Kitchen now runs $265 a person, excluding drinks. The restaurant said it got about 20,000 reservation requests in 2023.

Will The Lost Kitchen be open in 2024? ›

FREEDOM (WGME) -- The Lost Kitchen in Freedom has announced details for its 2024 postcard reservation system. Details for the postcard reservations system were announced on The Lost Kitchen's website on Tuesday.

Is The Lost Kitchen still in operation? ›

The current top search question for The Lost Kitchen on Google is "Why is The Lost Kitchen Closing?" But as the restaurant continues to build its presence as a marketplace shop and farmers' market while maintaining its unique dining tradition, the damaging rumor generated by that question could not be further from the ...

Why did chef let Erin leave? ›

Den of Geek writes that the clap we hear as she bites into her burger might hint that the meat is poisonous. That's why Slowik let her escape: he knew she was going to die anyway after eating the burger.

Why did Lost Kitchen lose staff? ›

Many of those who quit were good employees that cared deeply about the homeless population they served, but left due to an overtly hostile work environment," the letter reads.

What does Michael from Lost Kitchen do? ›

Michael has consistently been sought out as a strategic advisor to startups and early-stage ventures. He is the Co-Founder of 6ccMedia, a content strategy and production company. He is also manages Media Relations for Chef Erin French and her brand, The Lost Kitchen.

Does Erin French have children? ›

Erin French's children, Odin and Anya, are an important part of her life and work. She often speaks about the role they play in her family and her restaurant, The Lost Kitchen. In an interview with The New York Times, she said, "My kids are my everything. They're the reason I do what I do."

How much does a bottle of wine cost at The Lost Kitchen? ›

The menu is posted on the cellar door for those who'd like to pair their wine choice with the main course. Prices for the wine were quite reasonable–starting at about $30 per bottle.

Is Erin French a real chef? ›

Erin French is an American chef and author. She is the owner of The Lost Kitchen, a renowned 40-seat restaurant in Freedom, Maine.

How did Erin French make her money? ›

Her restaurant, The Lost Kitchen, located in Freedom, Maine, has gained widespread acclaim for its farm-to-table cuisine and intimate dining experience. Erin French's net worth as of 2024 is estimated to be around $3 million. This impressive figure is a testament to her success as a chef and restaurateur.

Does The Lost Kitchen pay its employees? ›

It is our duty to give you an experience that not only feels magical, but priceless at the same time. Our dinners reflects the value of the best ingredients we can find, and our commitment to pay our staff fairly and consciously, the unique experience we work so hard to provide you with.

How many dinners does The Lost Kitchen do a week? ›

Inside a hydropowered grist mill in Freedom, a town about halfway between Augusta and Bangor, she cooks a set dinner for 40 people, four nights a week, editing the menu each day to keep up with subtle changes in season and supply.

How many postcards can you send to The Lost Kitchen? ›

Please do not send more than one postcard per person. Duplicate submissions will be disqualified.

What does Michael Dutton do for a living? ›

Michael has consistently been sought out as a strategic advisor to startups and early-stage ventures. He is the Co-Founder of 6ccMedia, a content strategy and production company. He is also manages Media Relations for Chef Erin French and her brand, The Lost Kitchen.

Will there be a 3rd season of The Lost Kitchen? ›

Watch The Lost Kitchen Online | Season 3 (2022) | TV Guide.

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