This year’s winner of the Lobster Fest Seafood Cooking Contest ($200 prize), Julia Irace, is a native of Camden, Maine. Her memorable dish featured lobster in a pot pie format with a cut out puff pastry lobster design artfully baked on top.
Newly married, Julia enjoys cooking for her husband at home. “He had this recipe four times last week to test it, and he loves it,” she says of her prize-winning dish she calls “Julia’s Lobster Pot Pie.” It was a comfort food she said she developed after experimenting with her mother’s chicken pot pie recipe. “I thought seafood would work nicely in this format, and the puff pastry, sherry cream sauce, and a bit of nutmeg seem to complement the lobster well.”
Julia’s cooking secret? “Don’t overcook lobster. It is so easy to do. The minute they turn red, they should be immediately removed from heat.”
An insurance adjuster by day, Julia would like to pursue a career in cooking. She now resides in Portland, where she says there are a wealth of great restaurants to enjoy. Among her favorites is Cinque Terre, where she recommends first time visitors try the tasting menu.
Julia said she would encourage more locals to participate in the contest, and she looks forward to entering again next year. Until then, she can be seen tooling around Portland on her moped or walking her Basset Hound, Sylvio, in the dog park.
A profusion of white hydrangea in a vase filled partway with blue mussel shells adorned Julia’s table. A pretty blue tablecloth runner, white plates, and dark blue napkins completed the setting.
Julia’s Lobster Pot Pie
By Julia Irace, Portland, Maine
3 1-1¼ pound Maine lobsters
2 cups red/white gourmet potatoes, cut in ½-inch cubes
1½ cups chopped yellow onion
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for buttering dishes
½ cup dry sherry
½ cup flour
2 cups lobster/seafood stock
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon pepper, plus more for seasoning
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
½ cup fresh chopped parsley
1 package puff pastry – thawed in refrigerator (I prefer Pepperidge Farm)
1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
Large lobster cookie cutter (optional)
Butter 4 individual soufflé or gratin dishes and set aside on a sheet pan.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Put lobsters in a pot with about 2 inches of boiling water and cover and allow them to cook until just red in color, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered while you prepare the rest.
Put potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover the potatoes, add 1 Tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil and cook until just fork tender – about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain potatoes and put in large mixing bowl and set aside.
Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.
Add onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add sherry and cook for 1 minute on high heat. Return heat to medium and add flour, whisk together, and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in seafood stock and allow to cook until thickened – about 4 minutes. Whisk in heavy cream and cook until starts to bubble – 2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and nutmeg; set aside.
Crack lobsters and remove tail and claw meat. Cut into small chunks and put in large mixing bowl with potatoes.
Add peas, corn, and parsley to bowl with lobster and potatoes. Fold in sauce. Separate mixture into the 4 buttered dishes.
Roll out puff pastry on floured surface. Cut out lobster with cookie cutter or cut into four large strips – about 6 inches long by 4 inches wide (alter this depending on size of baking dishes).
Use egg wash to brush the rim and sides of the gratin dishes. Lay the puff pastry over the dishes and allow to drape over the sides. Brush the puff pastry with the egg wash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake in preheated oven 20 – 25 minutes until light brown and the pastry has puffed up.
Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes – ENJOY!
Total preparation and cooking time: 1¼ hours.
MF&L Staff at Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.