Adam Marcus from Owls Head took 2nd place honors in this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest with his Cajun inspired recipe for Owls Head Lobster Étouffée. Inspiration for his dish came from his youth, growing up in New Orleans and going to school in the south. The real estate developer says love of food, family, and southern roots all come into play when being creative in the kitchen.
Of his culinary background, Adam found necessity to be the mother of invention. “I started cooking in college in Austin, Texas, because the food was so bad. The first dish I cooked was my Mom’s Rock Cornish Game Hens. That first experience of cooking for myself and friends taught me that not only did I like eating good food, I also enjoyed the accolades it brought from friends. Cooking reminded me of home and my loving family which made me less homesick. This new common interest with my Mom is one I still share with her as she approaches her 82nd birthday on August 14th. We talk food and recipes often.”
While in college, Adam discovered Whole Foods. “If you can believe it, back when I was in college there was only one Whole Foods company in the country. Lucky for me it was in Austin.” This started his affair with fresh local produce and ingredients. He now says Whole Foods has gotten too big and he prefers farmers’ markets and knowing where all his foods come from with an emphasis on fresh and local. After college, Adam returned to his home town of New Orleans and watched the development of chefs like Emeril, Paul Prudhomme, and John Harris. He enjoyed eating the inventive and classic food of New Orleans and evolving his own repertoire of regional dishes.
Sharing recipes and family meals has extended to his own family, as Adam now shares this love with his daughter and two sons. When they were growing up, he took on all the family cooking. He introduced them to favorites like soft shell crabs, shrimp creole, herb-stuffed roast chicken, and crawfish étouffée. Adam’s gumbo is a family tradition at noon on Christmas Day.
One night last year at the bar in Primo, Adam and a friend struck up a conversation with a local lobsterman and his wife about cooking lobster in non-traditional dishes. He became inspired. Acadian/Cajun and Creole dishes of southern Louisiana like étouffée, gumbo, jambalaya, etc. use shellfish like crawfish, oysters, shrimp, and crab. He decided to apply his knowledge of regional Louisiana culture and mix in his love of Maine to create a stand-by favorite – étouffée, using Maine lobster and corn instead of crawfish.
Adam sourced produce for his special dish from the Rockland Farmers’ Market, items like cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and corn. Oil was sourced locally from Fiore, and his lobsters were harvested from Owls Head water at 7am on the morning of the contest. His table was set to evoke the setting of the Maine coast, with a candle centerpiece and surrounding rocks creating a replica of Owls Head Light.
Try your hand at a taste of fine Southern cooking with Adam Marcus’s Owls Head Lobster Étouffée!
Owl’s Head Lobster Étouffée
Adam Marcus, Owls Head, ME
1 pound of cooked lobster meat (tail and claw)
Cook according to favorite method and chop claws and tails into bite-sized pieces. Set aside while you prepare the étouffée .
1 large onion, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Heat 3 Tablespoons olive oil in heavy bottomed stockpot. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery, sauté for 3 minutes, then cover the pot and sweat the vegetables at a med-low simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and replace cover. Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until onions seem almost melted but not browned.
½ stick unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon flour
Pinch cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
Add ½ stick of butter to the cooked vegetable mixture. Once the butter has melted, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon flour over mixture, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Add pinch of cayenne if you want a hint of spice. Sauté, stirring constantly over med-low heat for 3 minutes.
½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
2 bay leaves
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 cups seafood stock (homemade or store bought)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound lobster meat
Salt and pepper to taste
Add cherry tomatoes, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in seafood stock until well blended with flour and butter mixture. Bring to a boil. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, corn, and lobster meat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook étouffée, stirring occasionally until heated through, 3-4 minutes.
2 green onions – discard white parts, slice thinly
Crusty bread or rolls
Ladle the étouffée into bowls, sprinkle each bowl with thinly sliced green onion, and serve with olive oil toasted bread.
Serves 4 as a main or 8 as an appetizer.
Melanie Hyatt is the editor of Maine Food & Lifestyle and the Plating Up blog.