Thursday, October 25, 2007

28th Annual National Oyster Cook-off

Pictured is this year's Grand Prize winner, "Oysters Saltimbocca with Lemon Butter and Sage Sauce," submitted and prepared by Lisa Grant of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It is a preparation of freshly shucked oysters on the half-shell placed in a baking dish on a bed of rock salt and then topped with a mixture of crisped prosciutto, garlic, sage, cracker crumbs, wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cheese. After seven minutes of baking at 450 F, they're served with a sauce of melted butter, lemon juice, sage, hot sauce, and pepper. Having tasted all nine dishes that made it to the finals, my personal opinion is that this one was worthy of the honors it received.

Every year since 1979, this cook-off and the National Oyster Shucking Contest, have been major attractions at the St. Mary's County Oyster Festival, for which the Rotary Club of Lexington Park, Maryland, is responsible with backing from numerous sponsors. Entrants from throughout the US submit well over 100 recipes annually to the St. Mary's County Department of Economic and Community Development. Three finalists and at least a half dozen honorable mentions are then chosen for each of three categories, which are Hors d'oeuvres, Soups and Stews, and Main Dishes. Anyone, including professional chefs, can enter. Interestingly, relatively few entrants have ties to the restaurant business. The grand prize winner receives a $1,000 cash prize. Lesser cash prizes are awarded to first, second, and third place winners in each category.

Here are this year's winners. You can see what all of them look like by going here:

Hors d'oeuvres:
First Place and Grand Prize Winner: Oysters Saltimbocca with Lemon Butter and Sage Sauce by Lisa Grant of Cherry Hill, NJ, as pictured and described above.
Second Place: Shogun Oysters: Mary Edwards, Long Beach, CA.
Third Place: Oven Fried Oyster Chimichangas: Frances Benthin, Scio, OR.

Soups and Stews:
First Place: Ale House Oyster Stew with Onion, Cheese and Bacon Croutons: Nacy Dentler, Greensboro, NC.
Second Place: New England Style Oyster Pot Pies: Veronica Callaghan, Glastonbury, CT.
Third Place: Maryland "Golden" Oyster Chowder: Ellynne Brice Davis, Leonardtown, MD.

Main Dishes:
First Place: Crispy Chipotle Oysters with Roasted Red Pepper and Corn Pudding: Michaela Rosenthal, Woodland Hills, CA.
Second place: Maryland Oysters Tagine with Apricots: Jack Campbell, Clackamas, OR.
Third Place: Oysters and Mushroom Crepes with Creamy Seafood Sauce: Ronna Farley, Rockville, MD.

The National Oyster Cook-off Committee holds the rights to these recipes. However, each year a cookbook is printed that includes not only that year's finalists, but numerous other interesting recipes never published before either in a past year's Festival cookbook or any other previously published cookbook or magazine. You can purchase this year's cookbook by sending a check for $6.00 to The National Oyster Cook-Off Contest, C/O St. Mary's County DECD, Cookbook, P.O. Box 653, Leonardtown, MD 20650