Russ James accepts his First Place Awards from contest emcee Louise MacLellan
Retired policeman Russ James from Plainville, CT, took top honors in this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest. His recipe for “Pan Seared Sea Scallops & Lobster Medallions with Lemon Butter Sauce” wowed judges and audience members alike with its delicious taste and artful presentation.
Russ cooks up his lemon-butter sauce for his scallop and lobster medallions.
“I came up last year to the Lobster Festival and I was in the audience of the cooking contest. Coming to Maine and the festival is a wonderful way to spend a vacation. I enjoy cooking at home, and my wife encouraged me to enter the contest. She tried my recipe and said it was ‘the best thing I ever made,’ so I knew this was the recipe I’d make. I packed a cooler and brought all my ingredients with me and here I am.
Lobster tails and…
Scallops were the main ingredients in this contest winning dish.
“This is an easy, original recipe that is also very pretty. I enjoy trying out different reduction sauces at home. The reduction sauce for this recipe delicately enhances the seafood. It has a rich, mellow flavor. It is great on cod, scallops, lobster, and other white fish.”
Russ says this recipe is fun to plate and present. He is currently an artist, and spends time doing paintings in oil and drawings in pencil. One of his favorite subjects is lighthouses. He also works designing web pages. His finished dish is an artistic inspiration in its own right: it appears the lobster is offering up the bounty of the sea.
Russ used lobster heads in an artistic presentation of scallop and lobster dish.
“I would play with that lobster carapace and think of how to best use it on the plate. I saw the creative possibilities in my mind and envisioned the artistic presentation of that meal long before it got to the plate.”
It appears the lobster is offering up the bounty of the sea.
Upon learning he had won 1st place, Russ said, “I can’t believe it! Everyone was so busy dicing, mincing, and chopping all around me. Each finalist’s dish was amazing and I had very tough competition. But I had made this recipe about 50 times in the past few weeks to perfect it,” he laughs. “I could literally make it blindfolded at this point!”
Russ’s table was set with striped placemats and sun napkin holders, sunflowers, and shells. And here is his recipe for you to create and plate at your table.
Pan Seared Sea Scallops & Lobster Medallions With Lemon Butter Sauce
Russ James, Plainville, CT
This fantastic Maine seafood combination is hard to beat. Can be served as an elegant appetizer or as a main entrée at your backyard picnic. It’s fun to make and is easy to serve. A great way to introduce inlanders to the classic rich flavor of our New England Ocean without the mess of nutcrackers and lobster bibs!
4 Maine Lobsters, (chix) 1-¼ pounds each
1-½ pounds of large sea scallops, fresh
1 bunch of fresh broccolini (small heads of broccoli will due)
Sea salt (in a small cup for pinching) & fresh crushed black pepper in another cup
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ pound of butter
Put lobsters in large covered pot. Add 2 inches of water, just enough to steam them. When steam comes out, cook for 20 minutes and remove from heat. Spill lobsters out into sink and spray with cold water, removing white yogurt looking stuff (lobster blood). Set them aside for cooling.
While lobsters are cooking, spread out a 5-sheet length of paper towels. Lay sea scallops atop the towels. Lay another 5-sheet length atop the scallops and lightly press down to dry the scallops, top and bottom. Get them as dry as possible. Dust the tops and bottoms with salt and black pepper.
Pre-heat large saucepan until the edge is too hot to touch with the side of your hand. Add olive oil and one small cube of butter until melted. One by one place scallops into pan. Do not overcrowd pan! It may take several separate pan cookings to do them all. Flip them around with tongs as they become brown. When they’re done remove, set aside, and sear the next batch. You may have to add more oil and butter to the pan should it become dry.
Don’t overcook the scallops! Here’s how to tell when done: Make a tight fist with your left hand. Use the index finger on your right hand to poke the soft meaty part of your left hand, just below the thumb. Tap the scallops with the tong. If they feel like that soft part of your hand, THEY’RE DONE! Remember, they will continue cooking for a short time after being removed from the heat. Set all cooked scallops in a covered bowl to stay warm and moist.
In the meantime, place a small steamer pot on to boil. Cover and steam your broccolini. Lobsters will now be cool to handle. Remove claws and pull lobsters breastplate out. Pick the meat out of small legs and thoracic shell pockets. Use a spoon to scrape the tomalley (green stuff) and red roe out of lobster. Set the tomalley and roe aside in separate dish. Crack open claw and remove meat, also set this aside.
Twist the tail section from the body. Use kitchen scissors to cut along the length of the underside of tail shell, front to back. Press down on shell edges and it will crack open. Pull chunk of tail meat out and set out on cutting board. Make a shallow slice down the bottom center of tail meat. Remove and discard the dark strand, especially where it thickens at the tip of the tail. Press tail meat flat on cutting board and slice it into crosswise pieces, making thin round medallions, about ¼ of an inch thick.
Use kitchen scissors to cut each of the 4 carapace shells. Trim along the edges to make a wider opening and trim the bottom so that it sits nicely upon the plate!
Intermingle scallops and lobster medallions piled high in center of plate. Crumble tomalley atop the pyramids. If you were lucky enough to have found red roe, use this as the crowning glory on each mound of succulent seafood. Place the carapace, standing, as if to be offering its bounty. Stuff one broccolini stalk into the carapace that delicately flowers out atop seafood, looking like a spray of sea kelp. Lastly, drizzle lemon butter sauce (see separate instructions) over the entire seafood medley, until it makes a golden pool of deliciousness in the plate!
I made a delicate white butter sauce from some common things found around the kitchen. It starts with white Riesling wine and shallots, and ends with cream sherry, lemon, and butter. Once you try it you’ll find it easy to make, and delicious with any seafood. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the rich mellow flavor. One word of warning: This delicious topping has a “one time only” shelf life. In other words, this ambrosia cannot be refrigerated. After that, it separates and does not taste the same. While it’s warm try it on cod, scallops, lobster or other white fish to add the air of eloquence to any party.
1 cup Riesling wine
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon white sugar
¼ cup cream sherry
½ fresh lemon, squeezed and juiced
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold butter cut into small ¼ inch cubes
Pre-heat large saucepan and add wine, lemon juice, and shallots.
Use medium heat to bring mixture to mildly bubbling simmer. Stir occasionally until mix reduces to about 75% of original liquid.
Turn heat to lowest setting available on your stove. After mix reduces, use a whisk to mix the heavy cream into the reduction. Add 4 or 5 small cubes of butter to the pan and gently “rub” them into mix with whisk. After they’ve slowly melted into the hot reduction, add another 4 or 5 cubes and repeat the process until all the butter is melted. The cold butter is used to flavor and cool the mix.
Turn off the heat and add remaining ingredients: White pepper, sugar, and cream sherry. Gently whisk the mixture until it takes on a pure ivory white color.
Let sit for 2 or 3 minutes, and then ladle the reduction atop any seafood.
The judges sample Russ James’ dish as the audience lines up for a taste.