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August 8, 2014

Lobster Festival 2014 Seafood Cooking Contest

Once again, our congratulations go out to all contestants in this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest! A special thanks to sponsor of the event, Pat O’Brien of Fiore Artisan Olive Oils & Vinegars and Celia Crie Knight, Festival Director and emcee. A great job everyone, and a fun time was had by all!

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From Left to Right: Tyrrell Hunter, Pat O’Brien, Maynard Stanley, Jr., Adam Marcus, Andrew Hohns, Edith Khurana, and Celia Crie Knight.

August 7, 2014

Maine LobsterFest 2014: Seafood Cooking Contest Judges

Judges for this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest were:

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(from left to right) Elizabeth Watkinson, owner of Owl’s Head Lobster Company; Chaz Doherty, Chef at Trackside Station in Rockland; and Susan Axelrod, food writer for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday.com

August 6, 2014

Dr K’s Lobster Fried Rice: LobsterFest 2014 Finalist

This is Edith Khurana’s 4th year attending the Maine Lobster Festival, and her 1st year as a contestant and finalist in the Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest. She is an emergency room doctor from Chicago, IL. An avid home cook, Edith taught her son to cook as well. He was in attendance to cheer his mother on.

“We really don’t have any lobster out in Chicago, you have to go to a specialty shop and pay a high premium for it,” Edith says. My recipe for Lobster Fried Rice is a traditional Philippine staple, and a favorite in my home. I usually use shrimp in this dish, since it is more readily available.” For this year’s contest, she used fresh, local lobsters.

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Edith says her recipe is easy to make at home, and involves three basic ingredients: rice, garlic, and eggs. Then you add whatever ingredients to this base that you’d like. For her dish, Edith uses Jasmine rice, and always adds chopped green onions on top. “You can add scallions, jalapenos, peppers, chicken, whatever you feel like eating,” she adds.

A side garnish of cucumbers, shallots, and tomatoes with a blueberry balsamic vinaigrette was offered to judges. Edith’s table was set with delicate orange flowered serving bowls, chopsticks, and soy sauce.

We hope to see Edith return next year to the Lobster Festival and the Seafood Cooking Contest. Her Lobster Fried Rice was outstanding, and we encourage you to try making it at home!

Dr. K’s (Edith Khurana) Lobster Fried Rice
Edith Khurana, Chicago, IL

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5 pounds of raw, de-shelled lobster, cut into fours
3 cups of Jasmine long grain rice
1 head of finely chopped garlic
A dozen eggs, scrambled and cut into small pieces
1 cup of olive oil
Salt, to season
A bunch of green onions

Wash the Jasmine rice and place in appropriate amount of water, about 4 cups, (depending on the age of the rice). Once cooked (about 20 minutes) set aside to cool.

Clean in running tap water and de-shell the lobster. Half the lobster lengthwise and then cut each piece in two, so you have quarter pieces of lobster. Set aside.

Peel each head of garlic, making sure that each head is separated from the other head. Finely chop each head and set aside.

Beat the dozen eggs and fry in olive oil. When cooked, cut into small pieces with your spatula and set aside.

Place about half a cup of olive oil in the wok and heat the wok on medium heat. Add one head of finely chopped garlic and sauté until golden brown. Mix while doing so, so that the garlic does not get burned. When golden brown, add the quartered lobster. Salt and mix until pink. This is done fast so that the lobster does not get chewy and hard. Set aside.

Heat the wok again on medium heat. Place about half a cup of olive oil and sauté the other head of finely chopped garlic until golden brown. Mixing again while doing so, so that the garlic does not get burned. Add the cooled, steamed rice. Mix well as you go so that the garlic is evenly distributed and every kernel of rice is separated from each other. Add about a teaspoon of salt to taste. May add more if desired.

Let the rice slightly brown on the wok about 15-20 minutes, making sure that you are mixing from time to time. When browned, add the scrambled egg and then the lobster. The lobster should not be left too long in the heat as it may get hard and chewy. Top with minced green onion. Serve.

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August 5, 2014

Philadelphia Lobster Cheesesteak: LobFest 2014 Finalist

Andrew Hohns of Philadelphia, PA has always loved cooking. It is a family tradition. Andrew has been coming to the Midcoast Maine region for years, and his family has a long history in the area. In the 1930s, they settled here from France. His great-grandfather started the original FMC.

This year, Andrew was a finalist in the Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest with his recipe for Philly Lobster Cheesesteak. A delicious reinterpretation of a classic with all the regular fixings like cheeses, peppers, onions and sautéed lobster standing in for chopped sirloin.  Andrew calls his recipe “an instant coastal classic.”

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He offered up three versions of the sandwich for judges sampling pleasure:

The Philly Original: American cheese, ketchup, fried onion

The Rockport: Gruyère fondue, roasted red peppers, and spicy remoulade

The South End: Sautéed broccoli rabe, long hot peppers, and provolone cheese

Andrew explained that in Philly, in the world of the cheesesteak, there is a lexicon to be learned. If you ask for a cheesesteak “with” or “wit,” it means you want your sandwich with fried onions.

At Andrew’s table, he decorated with a Philly themed plate as a centerpiece, fish placemats, lobster plates, and black eyed susans in a vase. Geary’s Pale Ale was the complementary beverage.

“I hope this recipe will inspire those who make the traditional lobster roll to add something a little different to their repertoire,” he adds.

Philadelphia Lobster Cheesesteak
Andrew Hohns, Philadelphia, PA

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8 pounds Maine lobster
½ cup canola oil, for sautéeing
4 fresh baked long rolls
3 white onions, chopped
8 ounces long hot peppers
8 ounces roasted red peppers
2 pounds fresh broccoli rabe
2 lemons
2 bulbs garlic
½ pound sliced white American cheese
½ pound aged provolone cheese, sliced
½ pound Gruyère cheese
Ketchup, to taste

Spicy Remoulade:
⅓ cup mayo
2 teaspoons capers
1 Tablespoon sriracha
1 Tablespoon mustard
2 teaspoons relish
Salt
Pepper

Bring three inches of seawater or salted water to a boil in a kettle. Add lobsters. Parboil only, for two or three minutes. Let cool. Pick meat. Pulse meat briefly (2 or 3 pulses, max) in food processor to simulate the texture of chopped sirloin. Set aside.

Whisk together all ingredients for remoulade. Refrigerate.

Slice the roasted red peppers lengthwise. Slice the long hots, lengthwise. Chop the onions. Rough chop the broccoli rabe.

Sauté the onion until medium brown in oiled skillet. Keep warm.

Cube the gruyère and melt into fondue in a small, non-stick sauce pan. Keep warm. Sauté the shredded lobster meat in oil. Keep warm.

Sandwich assembly:

Slice a long roll lengthwise, creating an opening for the filling.

If making a variety with sliced cheese, lay slices flat on top of lobster meat while it sautés. Allow cheeses to begin to melt.

If using gruyère fondue preparation, instead slather some fondue onto the inside bottom of the sandwich roll.

Flip lobster mixture into roll.

Add onions, peppers, and broccoli rabe to top of sandwich according to the applicable Famous Variety.

Add applicable sauce topping.

Slice in half, serve hot with plenty of napkins.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

August 4, 2014

Lobster Pasta with Seafood Trio: LobsterFest 2014 Finalist

Tyrrell Hunter of Brunswick, ME is a seasoned veteran of the Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest. This is her fourth straight year entering the event, and last year she took 1st place with her recipe for Spectacular Seafood Cannelloni. This year’s recipe, Lobster Pasta with Seafood Trio, garnered 3rd place honors.

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“I made my own pasta, and there is even lobster in the pasta,” Tyrrell says of her dish. “This recipe calls for lots of lobster, and it is chock full of other Maine seafood like scallops and mussels.”

Tyrrell always has a more than willing group of family and friends who like to sample her recipes. “So far, I’ve made two attempts at this dish, and both have come out differently,” she laughs. “My neighbors are my guinea pigs, and I love it. They give me such helpful suggestions.”

The key ingredients to her recipes always include utilizing the entire lobster. “I shuck, save, and use all the body meat, walker legs, and this time I asked for female lobsters to use the roe as well.” She got her lobsters from Gurnet Trading to use in this year’s contest. Her recipe also called for scallops and mussels.

“I poached the seafood in white wine and garlic with some parsley, tarragon, and Fiore Olive Oil. I wanted my recipe to be filled with the flavors of Maine seafood, and I love seafood paired with pasta. It’s a special dish, complete with a double reduction sauce.”

Tyrrell’s table setting included a cobalt blue vase filled with garden flowers, matching blue flowered placemats, red plates, and green and blue wine glasses. Along with her Lobster Pasta with Seafood Trio, she served garlic bread, a micro green salad, and rosé wine.

We hope to see Tyrrell back next year with another one of her special recipes. Until then, try making this delicious dish at home!

Lobster Pasta with Seafood Trio
Tyrrell Hunter, Brunswick, ME

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LOBSTER PASTA
1 cup cake flour
2½ cup All-Purpose flour (need a total of about 3 cups of All-Purpose flour for complete recipe)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
4 egg yolks, large
3/4 cup combined lobster meat (from knuckles, body, and walker legs) and coral roe from 6  1¼ lb. female lobsters*, cold water cooked method** (see below), shucked. After removing the tail vein, cut tails into 1-inch chunks, leaving claws whole. Reserve claw and tail meat and refrigerate until needed.
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (need total of 4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for complete recipe)
½ cup water
½ cup All-Purpose flour for rolling out pasta (or more depending on pasta stickiness)
6 quarts water for cooking pasta
1 Tablespoon table salt for seasoning cooking water
1 Tablespoon olive oil for cooking water

SEAFOOD TRIO
Reserved lobster claws and tail meat from 6 lobsters
12 large dry sea scallops – with muscle removed
2 pounds mussels – cleaned and de-bearded (discard any that will not close when tapped)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (need total of 4 Tablespoons for complete recipe)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, washed, dried and chopped
2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, washed, dried, and chopped (need a total of 3 teaspoons for complete recipe)
1½ cup dry white wine (preferably a Chardonnay or dry Sauvignon Blanc)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

SAUCE
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter – cut into eight pieces
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, washed, dried, and chopped

Early preparation – even a day in advance: Cook and shuck lobsters**.

About 2 hours prior to serving:

To Make the Lobster Pasta:

In a small food processor, add the ¾ cup combined lobster meat and roe. Process on high until the meat and roe are a paste consistency. Add the egg yolks to the paste and pulse about 6 times to mix together.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add both flours and salt. On low speed, mix together for 5-10 seconds. Turn off, add the lobster paste/egg mixture and olive oil then start mixing together on medium-low speed. Drizzle in the water and continue mixing until the dough forms a ball, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off and scrape down, then repeat kneading the dough for another 2-3 minutes (or this can be mixed by hand in a large bowl, then kneaded until smooth). Turn off the mixer and take out the dough, wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least ½ an hour or up to a few hours.

Divide the dough into 10 pieces, then use your hand to flatten the pieces into rectangles or discs about ½-inch thick. Keep discs covered with a cloth or plastic wrap while you rolling one out. Using either a hand pasta machine or the stand mixer pasta attachment, process each disc by first sprinkling it with a little flour to keep it from sticking in the machine. On the lowest (thickest) setting, slide the disc once through the machine then fold it and process it again, sprinkling a little more flour if it seems sticky. Adjust the setting to next thinness and slide the pasta through two times without folding it; repeat this two times on the next thinness setting; and repeat until you have pasta that is about 1/8th-inch and is slightly translucent.

On a lightly floured, smooth counter or large cutting board, sprinkle the sheet of pasta lightly with flour and slice it into ¾ to 1-inch strips. Gently place the strips on lightly floured wax paper on a cookie sheet. Repeat this process until all the discs have been rolled out, cut, and are layered on wax paper on the cookie sheet. If you are not cooking the pasta right away, cover the cookie sheet lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. This may sound complicated but it actually goes pretty quickly and is fun to do. Great project to do with dinner guests!

About ½ hour prior to serving: Begin heating the pasta water. Add 6 quarts of water to a large pot and turn on high heat.

To Make the Seafood Trio:

In a large sauté pan on medium heat, melt 2 Tablespoons butter with 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add garlic to the pan and sauté for 1 minute. Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high. Add wine, scallops, mussels, parsley and tarragon to the pan, cover and cook about 3-5 minutes or until the mussels have opened. Drain accumulated liquid into another large saucepan. Dispose any mussels that did not open Add lobster meat to seafood and take off heat. Cover and reserve Seafood Trio in a 200° oven to keep warm.

To Make Sauce:

In the large saucepan or sauté pan over high heat, reduce the liquid by half, about 5-7 minutes. Add the cream and reduce until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low; add the salt, pepper and tarragon, then pieces of butter one at a time to incorporate into the sauce. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, while the pasta cooks. Stir in one cup of sauce to the Seafood Trio.

To Cook the Pasta:

To boiling water, add 1 Tablespoon salt and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Add fresh pasta, stirring very gently. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring a few times gently, for 2-3 minutes or until just al dente. Drain pasta in colander. Add the pasta to remaining sauce and gently toss together.

To Serve:

In warmed individual bowls, serve a generous portion of pasta, top with Seafood Trio, making sure each person receives two lobster claws, two scallops, several mussels and some remaining lobster meat.

Suggest serving with a light salad and herbed garlic bread.

Enjoy!

Serves 6.
* Female Lobsters – To tell if a lobster is female – the small fins under the tail at the intersection of the tail and body will be soft and pliable if it is a female; they will be hard if it is a male.

** Cold Water Cooking Method – Next time you cook lobsters, try starting them in cold, heavily salted water (about 2 Tablespoons for large pot). With the lobsters in the pot, turn on heat to high (we use a gas turkey fryer outside) and bring to a rolling boil. This should take about 20-30 minutes, depending on how many lobsters are in the pot. For this recipe, take out 6 lobsters as soon as they come to a full rolling boil and plunge them into cold water to stop their cooking. You want the lobsters slightly under-cooked because the meat will finish cooking later. Note: We usually cook lobsters the evening before making this recipe and take out six out for this recipe and leaving other lobsters to eat that evening by boiling those lobsters just two more minutes for a traditional boiled lobster dinner. The beauty of the cold water method is the meat is very tender because all the lobsters cook at the same temperature and the lobsters weren’t shocked entering hot water.

August 2, 2014

Lobster Bonart: LobsterFest 2014 Winner

The winner of this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest was Adam Marcus of Owl’s Head, ME. His recipe for Lobster Bonart took top honors.

“My middle name is Bonart,” Adam said when asked where the title of his recipe originated. “This is a New Orleans inspired recipe. I am originally from New Orleans, and this meal reflects that region. I wanted to create a dish that honored lobster in its shrine of Rockland,” he adds. Adam said his recipe is the perfect brunch item.

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“You don’t want to mask the quality of Maine lobster. I sautéed Owl’s Head lobsters in chives and capers and created a platform. On the plate, I placed a warmed artichoke heart, poached egg, lobster, and a slightly spicy yet light Hollandaise sauce. I use the lobster meat to help create the platform.” Adam featured local, farm fresh products in his recipe.

A repeat contestant in the cooking contest, Adam’s recipe for Owl’s Head Lobster Étouffée took last year’s 2nd place honors.

His table featured a red lobster buoy centerpiece and lobster plates and napkins. Adam provided a welcoming table setting for judges to sample his dish. Glasses that said, “The Bloody Merrier” served up complementary Bloody Marys with lobster claws as stirrers.

Adam is currently building a house in Owl’s Head, with plans to become an alpaca farmer. We hope he also spends some time in the kitchen and comes back with an entry for next year’s contest. Here is his 2014 prize-winning entry!

Lobster Bonart
Adam Marcus, Owl’s Head, ME
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The cooked meat of 4  1¼-1½ pound lobsters, chopped
4 artichoke hearts, cooked and cleaned
4 eggs+4 yolks
1 Tablespoon lemon
½ cup butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ Tablespoon capers, chopped
2 Tablespoons chives, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Pinch of cayenne

Start a pot of water to boil for poaching eggs. At the same time, sauté the crushed garlic in olive oil. Just before the garlic turns brown, remove from the pan and discard.

Put the chopped lobster, artichoke hearts and chopped capers in the pan of olive oil on low heat and sauté.

Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and a Tablespoon of water together. Place mixture over the pot of boiling water and whisk in the melted butter. Stir constantly until Hollandaise just starts to thicken. When it reaches a sauce consistency, place the bowl in a cold, liquid bath. A separate double boiler is better for this procedure if you own one.

Poach the eggs for two minutes in the boiling water.

To assemble Lobster Bonart:

Place the artichoke heart in the middle of a warm plate. Surround the heart with the sautéed lobster meat.

Place the poached egg on the artichoke heart. Pour the sauce over the egg and sprinkle with the chopped chives over the lobster meat and place two whole capers on the egg. Place two uncut chive stems on the side of the plate and serve.

Serves 4.

August 1, 2014

Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest 2014

One of the highlights of this year’s 67th Annual Maine Lobster Festival was the Seafood Cooking Contest. Held in the North Entertainment Tent on the fairgrounds, this event was a crowd pleaser of the highest order. Five creative chefs from all over the country vied for the title of Seafood Cooking Champion, with some of the most unique dishes ever seen.

Emceed by Celia Crie Knight, the Seafood Cooking Contest was judged by locals who are involved in Maine’s food scene: Chef Chaz Doherty of Trackside Station, Elizabeth Watkinson of Owl’s Head Lobster Company, and Susan Axelrod of the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday.com

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(From left to right: Judge Chaz Doherty of Trackside Station, Finalist Tyrrell Hunter, Finalist Maynard Stanley, Jr., Contest Winner Adam Marcus, Finalist Andrew Hohns, Finalist Edith Khurana, and Judges Elizabeth Watkinson and Susan Axelrod.)

The Winner of this year’s contest was Adam Marcus of Owl’s Head, ME (formerly of New Orleans) with his dish called Lobster Bonart.

Runner-up honors went to Maynard Stanley, Jr. of Owl’s Head, ME with his Seafood Jambalaya.

In third place was Tyrrell Hunter of Brunswick, ME with her Lobster Pasta with Seafood Trio.

Coming in fourth was Andrew Hohns of Philadelphia, PA with his Philadelphia Lobster Cheesesteak.

In fifth place was Edith Khurana of Chicago, IL with her Dr. K’s Lobster Fried Rice.

Look for our blog posts in the days to come, where we will be featuring each of the finalists with their complete stories, photos, and recipes! All contestants and their dishes were clearly winners!

August 8, 2013

Maine Chili Lobster: LobFest 2013 Finalist

Gerald Huang grew up in Hong Kong, and moved to Montreal and Toronto before finally settling in the New York and New Jersey area. His love of traveling and adventure brought him to this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest with his recipe for Maine Chili Lobster.

Gerald_0422Gerald Huang  prepares his Maine Chili Lobster for the Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest.

The origin of this recipe was Gerald’s visit to Singapore for the first time this year. He was impressed by their unofficial national dish: Singapore Chili Crab. Upon returning to New York, he created his own version using lobster. “I thought, this is a delicious dish with crab. I’ll bet it would be even better with lobster,” he said.

Gerald was encouraged to enter the Seafood Cooking Contest by his girlfriend, Mimi, when their friends were planning a trip to the Maine Lobster Festival together. All his supporters, including 3 adorable dogs, were just as excited about the contest as he was. They were spotted in the audience wearing orange “Team Gerald” T-shirts with big lobsters on front.

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Gerald’s Table was set with burnt orange placemats, and he served his dish on white square plates. He served an accompanying local white wine, and created a refreshing Thai drink which was spiced with a touch of Old Bay Seasoning. He rounded out his meal with French bread and white rice.

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A Senior Vice President of an IT solutions company on Wall Street, with many leading global banks as clients, Gerald frequently travels to Asia and Europe. He loves dining out wherever great food can be found around the world. On his many journeys, he picks up food ideas, and when he returns home, he likes to reinterpret or adapt those findings.

“The sauce is slightly sweet and a bit spicy, and this dish blends the influences of Malaysian, Indian, and Chinese cuisines. The lemongrass add a nice flavor. You can make this dish as spicy or as sweet as you want, with a little tweaking of the ingredients.”

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We hope Gerald’s worldly travels continue to make their way into his kitchen, where he makes delicious creations like this Maine Chili Lobster.

Maine Chili Lobster
Gerald Huang, Jersey City, New Jersey

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2 2-pound Maine lobsters
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Chili Paste:
3 Tablespoons ginger, minced
2 Tablespoons garlic, minced
1/2 cup shallots, minced
2 small red chili peppers, minced
1 Tablespoon shrimp paste
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon salt

Sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon chili sauce
1 Tablespoon bean sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 cups stock
1 stalk lemongrass (optional)

Finishing:
4 Tablespoons butter
1 stalk scallion, 1 1/2 inch cut
2 medium eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Put all the chili paste ingredients into a small food processor to create a paste. Sauté the chili paste in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the other sauce ingredients into the pan and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes. Purée the sauce in a blender.

Steam the lobsters by putting them in a pot with 1 1/2 inches of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove the claws and legs from lobsters. Crack them slightly and set aside.

Cut lobsters lengthwise and clean them.

In a sauté pan, cook the lobster bodies in butter, meat side down, for 5 minutes. Turn the lobster bodies over and sauté for 3 more minutes. Remove the lobster bodies to warm plates. Put the claws and legs into the pan and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add the scallions and sauce into the pan with lobster parts and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from heat. Quickly stir in the beaten eggs to thicken the sauce. Add the chopped cilantro into the sauce and serve on the plates with the lobster bodies. Serve with Italian bread or white rice.

Serves 4.

August 7, 2013

Buzzy’s Lobster Casserole: LobFest 2013 Finalist

Justin Libby was a finalist in this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest with his recipe for Buzzy’s Lobster Casserole. He shared the following information with us about his life.

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Justin Libby interviewed by Allison Fishman Task, one of the contest judges and host of Yahoo! Blue Ribbon Hunter.

Captain Justin “Buzz” Libby is a 33 year old, lifelong, 3rd generation groundfisherman/scalloper/shrimper from Port Clyde. His boat, the 50-foot dragger the F/V Capt’n Lee, is based out of Port Clyde and is a bit of a local celebrity. A couple years ago, Kenny Chesney shot a country music video on it. It was also the star of the local movie, “The Fish Belong to the People.”

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Justin is one of the founders and owners of Port Clyde Fresh Catch, a fish processing and retail store that sells sustainably caught seafood and supports local fishermen. Port Clyde Fresh Catch is an outlet for customers to buy “net-to-plate” seafood. Seafood is caught sustainably, and processed and sold locally so you get only the freshest, highest quality product from the Gulf of Maine.

A member of the Port Clyde Groundfish Sector/Midcoast Fishermen’s Association, Justin is also working with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to bring underutilized fish species that are considered healthy stocks in the Gulf of Maine to the table. His efforts include educating people on the importance of having a healthy fishery in Maine through the “Out of the Blue” campaign.

Buzz says his love of cooking is more of a love of eating. He enjoys shows, and his girlfriend urged him to enter this year’s cooking contest.

The origins for his Buzzy’s Lobster Casserole recipe came from a Christmas dinner he had as a child. His father was always away fishing, so it was usually him, his mom, and his sister at home together much of the time. Buzz would cook this and bring it to family events, and it became his casserole. The lobster meat was his personal touch that he added to the recipe in recent years, but the dish originally contained no seafood. He says his family and friends love this casserole. For the contest, he served it with an unusually delightful kelp salad, which he harvested himself, of course.

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So we had to ask. Where did he get the name “Buzzy?”

“Well, I was always buzzing around with my matchbox cars as a kid. Always active, always on the move.” Looks like he’s keeping the momentum going. There’s no sign of slowing this hardworking Mainer down, unless it’s long enough to stop by the kitchen to make his signature dish.

Buzzy’s Lobster Casserole
Justin Libby, Port Clyde, ME

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4 cups cubed potatoes
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 pint sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 pound diced lobster meat
1 large onion, diced
1 stick butter
1 Tablespoon salt
Box of corn flakes

Preheat oven to 400º. Prepare potatoes, lobster meat, and onion. Mix all ingredients (leave 1/2 stick of butter and cornflakes out) in a large mixing bowl with 1/2 stick of melted butter. After mixing, put in a large casserole dish.

Crunch up cornflakes and put a decent layer over the top. Melt other 1/2 stick of butter and drizzle over cornflakes. Cover with tin foil.

Bake for 45 minutes. Take tin foil off and bake for another 15 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes and serve.

Yields about 6 servings.

August 6, 2013

Maine Lobster Mac-N-Cheese: LobFest 2013 Finalist

John Ruppert of Brunswick says he was born into a cooking family and he does a lot of home cooking. His recipe for Maine Lobster Mac-N-Cheese made him a finalist in this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest.

“My first press exposure was when I was just a few months old. My picture was in the local Endicott, NY, newspaper with my mother as she prepared her winning recipe for the New York Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. After those few minutes in the limelight, I always seemed to be hanging around the kitchen.”

John-Louise_0248John Ruppert is interviewed by event emcee Louise MacLellan-Ruf

John says he entered the contest this year with some coaxing from his daughter, Jessica, who was a princess in last year’s Sea Goddess contest. In addition to running his own insurance/real estate investment firm, John enjoys spending time in the kitchen. He comes to the Maine Lobster Festival every year.

“I enjoy all types of food. I am also an avid boater, having cruised the Maine Coast for many years. While going through high school and college, I used to lobster in a small boat during the summertime. So it was natural for me to select an easy to prepare lobster dish to enter in the contest.”

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John wanted to create a recipe that would be simple to prepare on the typical galley stove of a small boat- with no oven and easy to obtain ingredients. “My Maine Lobster Mac-n- Cheese can be made in the smallest of boat galleys after a quick trip to your local lobster pound,” he said. In fact, when the power went out a couple times during the contest, some of the contestants got a mild case of nerves. Not John, who was able to remain as cool as a cucumber. He came prepared with his own gas burner stove and kept right on cooking.

“I’ve tried this recipe out on friends and neighbors. They loved it, and their feedback has helped me to make just the right adjustments,” John said. “This is a quick, hearty and tasty meal which is perfect after a long day of sailing.”

John picked up his lobsters at a lobster pound in Bath for use in the contest. His table was set with lobster print napkins, and he served his mac-n-cheese in whimsical white fish bowls. A complementary salad with Maine blueberries and a blueberry vinaigrette dressing rounded out the meal.

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John says that a little known fact about himself is that he is also an avid space enthusiast, and he got to personally meet and talk with Jim Lovell, the commander of the doomed Apollo 13 flight to the moon.

We recommend you try John’s recipe for Maine Lobster Mac-N-Cheese for yourself. You’ll probably say it’s out of this world!

Maine Lobster Mac-N-Cheese
John Ruppert, Brunswick, ME

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2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 pound Maine lobster meat, cooked
1 pound cellentani pasta (or similar spiral-shaped pasta)
6 Tablespoons butter, divided
3 Tablespoons flour
1 cup vegetable broth
½ cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
¼ Tablespoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces Swiss cheese
4 Tablespoon Panko bread crumbs
1 cup light cream
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
4 Tablespoons freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat medium sauce pan with olive oil on medium heat. Add bell peppers, shallots, and crushed garlic and sauté until peppers are soft, about 4 minutes.

Add in lobster to sauce pan and sauté for 2 minutes, then set pan aside. Start large pot of water to cook cellentani; wait for it to boil.

In large sauce pan over medium heat, melt 4 Tablespoons of butter. Slowly add flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly until a smooth roux is formed.

Slowly whisk in the vegetable broth into the roux, and then stir in wine. Cook on medium-low for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Begin cooking the pasta per directions on the box.

Now add the two cheeses to the vegetable broth and wine mixture, stir to mix and help melt cheeses. Add white pepper, paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper into cheese sauce. Stir occasionally as the pasta is cooking.

In a separate small sauce pan on medium-high, melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter, then add the Panko crumbs. Stir constantly until the Panko is a golden brown color (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat when complete.

Combine lobster meat mixture with the cheese sauce, and stir to combine well, keep heated on low heat until noodles are done. Drain noodles when complete.

Slowly add noodles into the cheese/lobster mixture, stirring to mix well. Depending on the exact type of noodle, you will add between ¾ to the full amount of cooked noodles. Ensure that there is plenty of sauce to coat the noodles well.

Serve in shallow bowls, topping with 1 Tablespoon of chives, 1 Tablespoon of Parmesan cheese, and 1 Tablespoon of fresh chives.

Yields 4 hearty servings.

August 5, 2013

Owls Head Lobster Étouffée: LobFest 2013 Finalist

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.

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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.
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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.
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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
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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
Olive oil

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.  

August 3, 2013

Spectacular Seafood Cannelloni: LobsterFest 2013 Winner

Tyrrell Hunter was content to rest on the laurels of her big win last year at the 2012 Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest… on one condition. Her husband was to enter the contest this year instead. Her 1st prize entry last year was a Seafood Hash with Lobster Hollandaise.

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Tyrrell was encouraging her husband to enter this year’s contest with his idea for a Deconstructed Caesar Salad recipe featuring Maine seafood. When that recipe “went south,” Tyrrell decided she had to jump back into the kitchen and get cooking once again. We’ll bet she’s glad she did! This year, Tyrrell’s recipe for Spectacular Seafood Cannelloni took top honors.

Tyrrell paired her special dish with a delightful side salad with nasturtiums, perfectly toasted garlic bread, and complementary prosecco. Her table setting created the image of summertime in Maine complete with round straw and sunny yellow place mats, blue plates and napkins, and blue vases of flowers.

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“I’d made this recipe for years at home, using different ingredients. I thought it would be the perfect recipe to change up using some seafood like lobster and scallops,” said Tyrrell. The special flavors of Maine were complemented with sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, and a heavenly bechamel sauce she made with the lobster bodies and shells.

Tyrrell had this to say of her culinary background: “Both my parents were wonderful cooks who introduced me to a broad variety of foods. I remember cooking at an early age, maybe 7 or 8 years old, baking pies with my grandmother for various holidays. By the time I was 12, I was selling my baked goods during the summer on an island in Maine. While my friends made money babysitting, I made money baking. As an adult, I have hosted most holidays and celebrations and held too many dinner parties to count.” Tyrrell has also worked to organize and cook gourmet dinners at her church for fundraising efforts.

As a diversion from closing her medical equipment business in 2011, she entered the Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest for the first time. She was a finalist that year with her recipe for Salmon with Lobster Mousse. 2012 was a great year for Tyrrell. In addition to her Lobster Festival win, she was also crowned the winner of the Damariscotta Pumpkin Festival Cooking Contest with her entry for Bûche de Pumpkin with Pumpkin Mousse, Caramel Buttercream Frosting (real buttercream!), garnished with Salted Pumpkin Seed Brittle, which she made look like leaves surrounding the “log.”

What’s next for Tyrrell? We hope to see her at next year’s competition as she tries for a three-peat! She said, “Numerous friends have encouraged me to open a restaurant. However, it just never happened. Given a different life path, I may have become a professional chef. Currently, my life consists of enjoying time with my children and grandkids, working full-time, as fortunately I found a decent job after our business closed, and cooking for family and friends for holidays, events, and occasional cooking competitions. Someday, maybe when I retire, I hope to write a cookbook.”

When Tyrrell writes her cookbook, we hope she includes this amazing, grand prize winning recipe for her Spectacular Seafood Cannelloni!

Spectacular Seafood Cannelloni
Tyrrell Hunter, Brunswick, ME

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Filling:

4 each 1 1/4 pound Maine lobsters, cold water cooked method (see below), shucked. After removing the tail vein, cut the tail and claws into 1/2- inch chunks, mix with knuckle and body meat. Save the shells and bodies of two lobsters but discard the tamale. Refrigerate all until needed.
1 pound Large Sea Scallops – with muscle removed
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (need total of 10 Tablespoons for complete recipe)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 Tablespoon onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, washed, dried and chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, washed, dried and chopped
1 Tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes – packed in oil, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper

Sauce:

Lobster Shells & Bodies
3½ cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
8 Tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (divided in 2 each ½ cups)
½ cup Pecorino cheese, grated (if you can’t find Pecorino, you can increase the Parmesan by ½ cup)

Pasta Shells

12 each No-Boil Lasagna Noodles

Early preparation – even a day or two in advance:

Lobsters – Next time you cook lobsters, try starting them in cold, heavily salted water (about 2 Tablespoons for large pot). Turn on heat to high (we use a gas turkey fryer outside) and bring to a rolling boil. This should take about 20-30 minutes, depending on how many lobsters are in the pot. For this recipe, you want to take 4 lobsters out as soon as they come to a boil and plunge them into cold water to stop their cooking. You want the lobsters under-cooked because the meat will finish cooking in the Cannelloni. (We cook other lobsters to eat that evening by boiling those lobsters just two more minutes for a traditional boiled lobster dinner. We use the partially cooked lobster in a variety of recipes, such as this Cannelloni recipe, over the next few days. The beauty of the cold water method is the meat is very tender because all the lobsters cook at the same temperature and the lobsters weren’t shocked entering hot water.)

About 1 ½ to 2 hours prior to serving:

To Make the Lobster Sauce:

Thoroughly strain any liquid that may have accumulated from the lobster shells. In a large saucepan on medium-low heat, steep the milk and cream with the lobster shells (without tamale!) for ½ hour, stirring a few times. Strain, reserve the milk mixture, and set aside. Discard the shells and bodies.

In the same large saucepan over medium heat, melt 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter; then stir in ½ cup flour. Stir for 1 minute to slightly cook the flour. Stir in the nutmeg, salt, and white pepper. Whisk in the hot milk/cream mixture and whisk for 5-7 minutes until the sauce is thick and smooth. Stir in ½ cup Parmesan and set aside off heat.

To Prepare the Pasta Shells:

Soak the no-bake lasagna noodles in a large bowl of warm water for about 8-10 minutes or just until they are pliable so you can bend them easily. Take out of water, pat dry, cut each noodle to 5½-6 inches long, then stack between paper towels.

To Make the Filling: (Preheat oven to 375º while making the stuffing)

In a large sauté pan on medium-high heat, melt one Tablespoon of butter with one Tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper. Add scallops and onions to the pan and quickly cook the scallops about 20-30 seconds per side; add the minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more. Cut the scallops into quarters or eights (about the same size of the lobster tail cut-up pieces; the scallops will not be completely cooked at this point). Stir in the lobster meat, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, and sauté for one minute to combine flavors. Drain off any accumulated water/juices. To 2/3 cup of Lobster Sauce, stir in the anchovy paste. Then add this sauce mixture to the seafood and mix gently to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Take pan off heat.

To Assemble and Bake Cannelloni:

In a 13 x 9-inch pan, pour 1½ cups of the sauce and spread to cover the bottom of the pan. Put ½ cup of the filling mixture across the short side (about 3 ½ inches) of a pasta shell and roll up, putting it seam-side down in the pan. Repeat with the other shells, leaving a little space between the shells. Pour the remaining sauce over all the shells, covering completely, and sprinkle the top with the remaining ½ cup Parmesan and ½ cup Pecorino. Dot with an additional Tablespoon of butter cut into small pieces. Cover pan and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes. If needed, lightly golden brown under the broiler just before serving. Suggest serving with a crisp salad and toasted garlic bread.

(Can be prepared in advance of final baking and refrigerated for up to 24 hours; let sit at room temperature for ½ hour, then bake for 30 minutes covered and 20 minutes uncovered, lightly brown under broiler if needed.)

Enjoy!

Serves 5-6.

August 2, 2013

Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest 2013

Another delicious time was had by all again this year at the annual Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest. Held Friday morning at the North Entertainment Tent on the Lobster Festival grounds, the event drew a record crowd. Despite the rain, the heat was on as this year’s five finalists entertained festival-goers and impressed judges with their unique seafood recipes.

This event is always a lively, fun time in great part to outstanding emcee Louise MacLellan-Ruf and volunteer Celia Crie Knight. Audience participation is encouraged as lobster lore is discussed and there is an opportunity to ask questions of the panelists as they prepare their dishes.

The five amateur chefs who shared their culinary talents this year were John Ruppert, Brunswick, ME; Adam B. Marcus, Owls Head, ME; Tyrrell Hunter, Brunswick, ME; Justin Libby, Tenants Harbor, ME; and Gerald Huang, Jersey City, New Jersey.

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Contestants and Judges (L to R): Adam B. Marcus, Allison Fishman Task, Lynn Archer, Melanie Beckett Hyatt, Louise MacLellan-Ruf, Gerald Huang, Tyrrell Hunter, John Ruppert, and Justin Libby.

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L to R: Allison Fishman Task, Tyrrell Hunter, Lynn Archer, Melanie Beckett Hyatt, Louise MacLellan-Ruf

This year’s winner (and her second year in a row taking the top prize), was Tyrrell Hunter for her Spectacular Seafood Cannelloni.

Judges were Lynn Archer, owner and chef at Brass Compass Cafe and Archer’s on the Pier in Rockland; Allison Fishman Task, host of the Yahoo! Original Program, Blue Ribbon Hunter; and Melanie Beckett Hyatt, editor of Maine Food & Lifestyle.

Check our blog in the coming days for complete stories, recipes, and images! As always, we had a great time covering and helping promote this special event!

July 30, 2013

Lobster Festival Cooking Contest 2013

One of the main events of the 66th Annual Maine Lobster Festival is happening this Friday, August 2. The Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest begins at 9am in the North Entertainment Tent on the festival grounds in Harbor Park, Rockland. Judging will begin at 11:30 a.m., with prizes announced and awarded around 12:30 p.m.

Due to some oversight, this event was not published in the supplement sent out this year in the Free Press or The Courier Publication. So we want to be sure this wonderful contest gets all the publicity it deserves! Information about the Cooking Contest is available on the Maine Lobster Festival website.

Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine is always a big supporter of this great event, posting all the contestants’  bios, recipes, and photos here on our Plating Up blog as well as on our Facebook page. See our link for past years’ coverage HERE.

Terrell_369112012 First Place Winner, Tyrrell Hunter, plating up her Seafood Hash with Lobster Hollandaise. Guess what? She’s returning this year to compete again!

First prize is $200, second prize is $175, and third prize is $150. The contest audience will have the opportunity to sample the prepared recipes in the cooking area and pick up the contestants’ recipes after the awards are presented. It is truly a fun gathering, showcasing wonderful amateur food talent from all over the country cooking up amazing dishes using Maine seafood.

Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine is always a big supporter of this great event, posting all the contestants’  bios, recipes, and photos here on our blog as well as on our Facebook page. See our link for past years’ coverage HERE.

We hope to see you at this year’s Seafood Cooking Contest!

June 13, 2013

Maine Lobster Festival Cooking Contest: Calling All Amateur Chefs

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FOR  IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  June 6, 2013

CONTACT:  Celia Knight 207-542-1192

Call for Maine Lobster Festival Cooking Contest

ROCKLAND — Amateur chefs are invited to sign up for the annual Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest. The contest is part of the 66th annual festival, which will be held July 31 through Aug. 4 at Harbor Park along the city’s waterfront.

Amateur chefs age 18 and older are welcome to compete for more than $500 in prize money during this popular event. A panel will pick five contestants and their recipes to participate in the contest. Selection is based on creativity, suitability of the seafood to the recipe and simplicity. The recipes can be any dish and must contain seafood found in Maine waters.

The contest will begin at 9 a.m., Friday, Aug. 2, in the North Entertainment Tent on the festival grounds. Judging will begin at 11:30 a.m., with prizes announced and awarded around 12:30 p.m. First prize is $200, second prize is $175, and third prize is $150.  Lead Sponsor for this event is Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegar.
The contest audience will have the opportunity to sample the prepared recipes in the cooking area and pick up the contestants’ recipes after the awards are presented.

For additional contest details and to download an application form, visit www.MaineLobsterFestival.com or contact Celia Knight by e-mail at celia@knightmarineservice.com or call 207-542-1192.

Applications will be considered until July 13. Selected contestants will be notified by July 20.

August 9, 2012

Seafood Cooking Contest Celebrity Judges: Maine LobsterFest 2012

This year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest was certainly a tasteful event. Held in the North Entertainment Tent under the direction of Maine Lobster Festival Director Celia Knight, it was once again emceed by Louise MacLellan. Maine seafood was the highlight of the show, with five home chefs cooking off their finalist-winning entries. And this year’s contest had another special attraction: celebrity judges.

Navy CMDR Neil Koprowski, Commanding Officer of the USS San Antonio, was one of this year’s judges. He was impressed with the overall talent from participants and said of the winning entry by Tyrrell Hunter, Seafood Hash with Lobster Hollandaise, “I’d definitely make this on board. It’s easy to make and really delicious!” The USS Antonio was docked in the harbor for the festival and the men aboard served as escorts for this year’s sea of princesses vying for the Sea Goddess crown.

Judges_3632Judges receive instructions from emcee Louise MacLellan. Left-to-right: CMDR Neil Koprowski, Louise MacLellan, Michele Ragussis, Signe Swanholm Garner.

And speaking of Sea Goddesses, judge Signe Swanholm Garner once held that Sea Goddess crown for the year 1949. She served as this year’s Lobster Festival Parade Grand Marshal. Signe brought her sash to the cooking contest, talking with the audience about her early involvement with the festival. Along with her first husband, she started the festival’s popular pancake breakfast in the 1950s. She says she’s never missed a Lobster Festival, and reminds people that “lobsters are the backbone of our community.”

Michele Ragussis, popular new chef at The Pearl On The Pier in Rockland, knows all about being a cooking contestant. The Season 8 finalist of “Food Network Star” rounded out this year’s panel of celebrity judges. The child of Greek/Italian parents, Michele grew up with some great ethnic cooking. She attended Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island, and has solid New England roots. Michele enjoyed all the original and creative recipes at this year’s cooking contest.

“It was a very hard job being a judge. But a great one, too,” Michele added with a laugh.

August 8, 2012

Lobster Jalapeño Hush Puppies with Avocado Dipping Sauce: LobFest 2012 Finalist

Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest 2012 Finalist: Jodi Willey

Jodi Willey of Owls Head, ME, a finalist in this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest, shared her recipe for Lobster Jalapeño Hush Puppies with Avocado Dipping Sauce.

Award_3765Jodi Willey (left) accepts her finalist award from event director Celia Knight and emcee Louise MacLellan.

Always looking for new ways to make lobster, she says, “steaming gets old.” Jodi is a Maine native, and her husband is a 5th generation lobsterman. “So everything we do revolves around the business of lobster,” she admits. “Lobster is our life.”

Deep fried corn balls with minced lobster, jalapeños, and chives is how Jodi describes her “hush puppies.” Her homemade accompanying Avocado Dipping Sauce, she says, is great for this recipe but is also easy to make and great as a general dip for other dishes.

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“We traveled to the south on our honeymoon. I fell in love with the food there…all those wonderful flavors. We toured Savannah, Charleston, other cities. I thought it would be great to give my contest entry a Southern theme.”

Jodi says this recipe takes a classic to the next level. Her husband and friends love these great appetizers, and she says she’ll be making more of them in the future since they have great flavor and are easy to make.

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This was Jodi’s first cooking contest, and she admitted it was “a bit nerve-wracking.” Inspired by her grandmother and Dad, whom she says are both great cooks, Jodi likes cooking because it’s “a family thing.”  “I really enjoy having company over for good food. Nothing gets people together like food.”

Jodi’s table was covered in a red, white, and blue ship’s wheel patterned tablecloth with blue napkins tied with knotted rope. A vase of blue hydrangeas and a lantern accented her display. Her hush puppy poppers were served in appetizer cone shaped servers with attached dipping cups. She offered cocktails of mint julep sweet tea in fun Ball mason jar glasses to complement her Lobster Jalapeño Hush Puppies, a decidedly Southern touch.

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Guests will love it if you serve up these puppies at your next get-together!

Lobster Jalapeño Hush Puppies with Avocado Dipping Sauce
Jodi Willey, Owls Head, ME

For the Hush Puppies:
Vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup All-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt, plus additional for sprinkling
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons chives
1-2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup clear lobster meat (about 4 lobsters), diced

For the Avocado Dipping Sauce:
1 avocado, chopped
8 ounce container plain Greek yogurt
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Make the Avocado Dipping Sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Put in the refrigerator to chill.

Pour the vegetable oil to a depth of 3 inches into a Dutch oven; heat to 375°.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the chives and jalapeño. Add the eggs and buttermilk; stir just until moistened. Fold in the lobster meat.

Drop the batter by heaping Tablespoonfuls into the hot oil and fry, 6 per batch, for 1 1/2-2 minutes per side, or until golden. Remove from oil to drain on paper towels using a slotted spoon; immediately sprinkle with sea salt.

Keep warm in a 200° oven until ready to serve. Serve warm Hush Puppies with Avocado Dipping Sauce.

Yields 2 dozen Hush Puppies.

August 7, 2012

Lobster Yorkshire Puddings with Corn Butter Sauce: LobFest 2012 Finalist

Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest 2012 Finalist: Sheila Veronessa

Sheila Veronessa of Brooklyn, NY, made her first trip to Maine a memorable one with a visit to the Maine Lobster Festival. Her recipe entry for Lobster Yorkshire Puddings with Corn Butter Sauce made her a finalist in this year’s Seafood Cooking Contest.

Award_3770Sheila Veronessa (left) accepts a finalist award from event director, Celia Knight, while emcee Louise MacLellan and cooking contest judge and Food Network Star Michelle Ragussis announce her award.

“This is my take on the traditional Maine Lobster Roll, but with an English twist. My boyfriend David Krell lived in England for a time, and this was an idea we thought would work well,” Sheila says of her recipe.

“We were scouting the web, looking for random fun things to do this summer when we came upon the Maine Lobster Festival website and learned about the seafood cooking contest. I’m just an amateur who loves to cook,” she says. “We thought this would be a fun thing to do, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”

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Sheila totally immersed herself in local lobster culture on her first visit to the state. She actually went hauling for her own lobsters to use in this year’s contest with Rockland’s own Captain Jack’s Lobster Boat Adventure. “What a memorable experience that was! We had an amazing time and it was all so beautiful out on the Maine waters,” Sheila gushes.

This Lobster Yorkshire Pudding recipe with its Corn Butter Sauce requires a bit of prep work with a few different steps, but the very tasty outcome makes it so worth it, Sheila says. And timing, she adds, is everything.

“Sweet corn makes this a sunny sauce, and really complements the sweet taste of the succulent Maine lobster tails. Fried capers add a tangy taste and delightful crunch to the sauce.” For her sweet corn butter sauce, Sheila even used the corn cobs for flavoring. Her pudding is made from an old family recipe from Yorkshire, England: simple, sweet, and spongy.

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At Sheila’s table, judges were treated to her refreshing homemade watermelon-lime cooler. Her tables were adorned with roses, shells, and cherries. Place settings of straw placemats over red included contrasting white plates. As judges were seated to enjoy her dish, she told them to feel at home.

ServeJudge_3669Sheila serves her watermelon-lime cooler to judge Michelle Ragussis.

For a modern English twist on a Maine classic, give Sheila’s recipe a try!

Lobster Yorkshire Puddings With Corn Butter Sauce
Sheila Veronessa, Brooklyn, NY

1 1/2 pounds – Maine lobster tail meat
3 ears sweet corn
1 1/2 sticks salted butter
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup flour
2 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 ounces capers
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Corn Butter Sauce
3 ears sweet corn
6 Tablespoons salted butter
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt

Clean corn and remove the kernels. Cut cobs in small pieces to be used for flavoring.

Heat half the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add corn kernels and cobs to sizzling butter. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the 1 1/2 cups of milk and the heavy cream. Simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes until corn is tender.

Discard the corn cob and remove corn from heat. Purée the corn mixture in a blender until smooth. Drain the corn sauce for a smoother texture.

Return the sauce to the pan and stir remaining milk, butter, and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes until bubbly.

*The sauce may be made and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead.

Yorkshire Puddings
1/3 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup All-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 pinch sea salt
2 Tablespoons butter for melting in pan

Beat eggs in a small bowl (*take out 2 Tablespoons of egg whites to make less eggy). Add the milk to eggs and beat together.

Sift together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Form a well in the center. Add the milk and egg mixture and beat until the batter is completely smooth (no lumps), light, and foamy. Let it sit in the refrigerator for 35-40 minutes.

Heat oven to 400°. Use a 6 cup muffin pan, putting at least a teaspoon of butter in the bottom of each well, and place in oven for just a couple minutes until sizzling hot.

Take the refrigerated batter out and allow to sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Carefully pour the batter into the pan (or the wells of muffin pan, filling just 1/3 full), once the pan is hot. Cook for 20 minutes at 400° until puffy and golden brown. And don’t open the oven door!

Take the pan out of the oven and arrange the puddings for plating immediately.

Maine Lobster Filling
1 1/2 pounds fresh Maine lobster tail- thawed if frozen
1 Tablespoon good quality salted butter
Pinch of sea salt for taste

Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut through the bottom shell of the lobster tails lengthwise. Gently remove whole piece of meat out of the shell by using your finger or the handle of a spoon. (Meat can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 hours ahead.)

Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium to high heat. Add lobster meat and cook for 2 minutes at high heat. Let it steep over medium to low heat for another 3 minutes. Serve on Yorkshire puddings.

Fried Capers Topping
2 Tablespoons butter
4 1/2 ounces good quality capers

Drain 1/2 cup capers and pat dry with paper towels. Heat 2 Tablespoons of butter in a small, heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat.

Add capers to sizzling butter in skillet. Fry until capers are crisp and open like flowers, stirring often, 45 to 60 seconds. Using slotted spoon, transfer capers to paper towels to drain.

*Capers can be fried two hours ahead before being used in a recipe. Just let them stand at room temperature until you’re ready to add them.

Plating
Place Yorkshire Puddings on plate. Fill with lobster meat filling. Drizzle corn butter sauce on lobster and Yorkshire Puddings. Top with fried capers and toasted sesame seeds.

August 6, 2012

Red White and Blue Lobster Lasagne: LobFest 2012 Finalist

Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest 2012 Finalist: Carol Bachofner

Carol Bachofner, Poet Laureate of Rockland, ME, was one of the five finalists competing in this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest. Her Red, White, & Blue Lobster Lasagne was a nod to this year’s Olympics and a way to showcase great Maine seafood and produce. A return finalist from last year’s contest (see Carol’s 2011 recipe here), Carol says she loves the Lobster Festival and this event in particular because it’s such fun and there is always great audience participation.

Award_3776Carol Bachofner (left) receives award from event director Celia Knight.

Her recipe includes the patriotic colors red from the Maine lobster, white from her creamy cheese sauce blend, and blue from her use of blue cheese. This lasagne, which she calls lighter for summer, features a sauce of local State of Maine Cheese Company fresh cheeses: mozzarella, ricotta, smoky gouda, and blue cheese. The garlic and basil used in her recipe were also locally sourced.

“It’s important to me to support our local economy. I’m involved in a farm share with Crescent Run and Hatchet Cove Farms. It’s a great feeling to support local farmers, and it means I can get farm fresh produce on a regular basis without the work of tending my own garden all summer. A win-win!”

Carol’s inspiration for this recipe came from being the mother of six children. “It’s a big, hearty meal. Really family friendly food. A fun recipe to eat,” she says. “My family loves my cooking. It’s a special gift I can give to them.” And speaking of gifts, Carol says lobster is happy to be our food and gives itself to us for that purpose, a natural Maine gift.

As she prepared her lobster lasagne recipe in front of the large audience, Carol said her grandmother would be appalled to see her using measuring cups. “She taught me to measure the old-fashioned way, with a teacup or my hands for a cup or two cups.”

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Red basket-woven placemats, sea blue plates, driftwood, and lighthouses accented Carol’s judges’ table. Each judge received on his or her plate an original lobster poem crafted by Carol. She offered Lobster Lover’s Beer and a salad of tomato, basil, mozzarella, cucumber, and onion with a citrus dressing made with local Fiore olive oils. Beautiful edible flowers were frozen in the ice cubes she displayed in water glasses.

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Try making this your family’s new favorite lasagne recipe!

Red, White, & Blue Lobster Lasagne
Carol W. Bachofner, Rockland, ME

1 box Dreamfield’s Lasagne Noodles (this is very low in carbs!) or regular lasagne noodles
2 1/2 pounds freshly picked Maine lobster meat (you really want the “red” to show!) and reserve the claw meat as edible garnish for the plate!
1 cup fine-chopped celery
1 large clove crushed garlic
2 small bunches fresh basil— plus one sprig basil per each plate for garnish
1 cup reduced fat ½ and ½
1 extra can of reduced fat evaporated milk in case you want your lasagne to be extra saucy
½ cup white wine
1 package cream cheese, softened
½ cup blue cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 pounds white cheese, sliced (I prefer Derby from State of Maine Cheese; but any local/ organic will do)
1 cup shredded gouda (or similar flavored smoky cheese)
1 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 large-sized tub of cottage cheese (NOT reduced fat)
1 jumbo beaten egg
3/4 cup melted Cabot butter

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Cook noodles until tender but not mushy (3 minutes), set aside.

In skillet place celery, garlic, basil; cook celery and garlic til tender. Add cream cheese, blue cheese, and half and half. Stir. Gradually add white cheddar and gouda; stir until melty. Add wine and basil. Heat until basil wilts; remove from heat.

Mix cottage cheese and egg.

Layer in baking pan in this order: sauce, noodles, lobster, cottage cheese/egg mix, Derby cheese slices; repeat and end with remaining sauce and top with Derby.

If you want your lasagne extra saucy, you may add evaporated milk to get to the consistency you desire. Top with 3/4 cup of melted butter, drizzled.

Bake at 350˚for 35 minutes; let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Carol’s Note: This lasagne is a wonder, with its chunks of “red” lobster meat, its creamy “white” sauce, and its “blue” cheese undertones! Makes a great family meal, or an elegant fine-dining moment by candlelight. Serve with a fresh summer salad or crusty bread. Pair with a dry white wine.

August 5, 2012

Maine Lobster and Shrimp Summer Rolls: LobFest 2012 Finalist

Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest 2012 Finalist: Allison Stratis

Allison Stratis of Scarbourough, ME, impressed judges at this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest with her recipe for Maine Lobster and Shrimp Summer Rolls. She received this year’s second place prize.

Allison_Louise_crop_3463Allison Stratis (left) is interviewed by Master of Ceremonies Louise MacLellan.

Allison has great history with the Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest. She entered once before, back when she was 17 years old and the event was held at the old Rockland High School Home Economics room. Years later, she was back again, this time to share her easy appetizer recipe.

“I love Asian food and its wonderful flavors. Whenever I attend a party, this is the dish I take. It has become a favorite of all my friends,” Allison says. “These summer rolls are healthy and simple. The flavors are so fresh and just bursting. And the chili sauce is perfect for dipping.”

Made with bean thread noodles, avocado, fresh basil, and Maine lobster and shrimp, the nice thing about making Allison’s summer rolls is you can change them up in any way you’d like and make them your own. They are versatile and you can use up whatever you have on hand to make them, she says.

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Once you master the technique of rolling the spring roll wrappers, Allison says the rest of her recipe is simple. She sourced her fresh lobster and shrimp from Delano’s in Waldoboro.

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Allison says she loved cooking as a small child. Now she enjoys cooking and experimenting with fresh ingredients. “Basil is big in my kitchen,” she says. “My son loves pesto, so I make a lot of it.” Allison’s table showcased basil plants with a setting of wooden cutting board platters, whimsical lobster napkins, and sea glass. And her lobster claw headband added an appropriate element of fun.

Take Allison’s spring rolls to your next party!

Maine Lobster and Shrimp Summer Rolls
Allison Stratis, Scarborough

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1/2 pound fresh Maine lobster meat (I like to use whole claw meat)
20 fresh (frozen) Maine shrimp
1 ripe avocado
4 spring roll wrappers (rice pancakes)
1 pack bean thread noodles (comes in three pack, use one section)
12 large basil leaves
1 cup shredded iceburg lettuce
1/4 cup sweet chile sauce

Cook noodles according to package; cool. Chop lobster into small bite size pieces or leave whole if using claws. Cut avocado into slices.

Assemble all the ingredients in front of two plates. Take one spring roll wrapper and run under warm water until soft. Lay flat on one plate. At top of wrapper, place line of lobster meat, on top lay 5 shrimp, 3 basil leaves, 1/4 cup lettuce, 2-3 slices avocado and 1/4 cup noodles.

Starting at top of wrapper roll forward once, then fold up both ends and continue rolling until tight (like rolling a burrito). Place on other plate and repeat process until all 4 rolls are done.

Cut rolls in half and place on serving dish with sweet chile sauce and spoon. Eat and enjoy! Yum!

Appetizer serves 4-8.