Doris Hicks and Crab Cake Cook-Off winner Monty Jones.

Aw, shucks

Top oyster shuckers, seafood chefs cited at Coast Day's culinary competitions


9:48 a.m., Oct. 17, 2013--A lively shucking contest added oysters to clam chowder and crab cakes as the seafood highlights this year at Coast Day, the University of Delaware’s annual celebration of the sea at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes.

Local seafood companies and restaurants partnered with Delaware Sea Grant for the new oyster shucking contest, in which competitors received 12 oysters per round to neatly open while on the clock. Judges assessed the quality of the finished trays and added time as penalty for broken shells, sliced oysters and other slip-ups. 

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Ed Bell, a clam and oyster harvester from Virginia, clocked in under 2 minutes and took first place. While many shuckers like to start by popping open an oyster’s hinge, Bell said, he prefers to slide a short, thin knife in along the side.

“You have to develop your own technique and what works best for you,” Bell advised. “I don’t think there’s any one secret to it.”

Celso Morales of Fins Fish House and Raw Bar came in second and James Frazier was awarded third place. The top three placers received $1,000, $500 and $250 cash prizes, respectively, provided by contest sponsors Broadwater Oyster Company, Big Fish Wholesale Seafood Company, Henlopen City Oyster House, Fins Fish House and Raw Bar, Lobster Shanty and Shore Property Maintenance. Broadwater Oyster Company, which grows and ships live shellfish to distributors, retailers and seafood restaurants, also provided the oysters.

Nearby at the Seafood Chowder Challenge, almost 700 Coast Day attendees helped determine the winner between two savory recipes. Representing the First State Chefs Association, Tom Howell’s “Delmarva Clam Chowder” eked out a narrow win over Oertel Catering’s recipe — with a narrow margin of 20 votes determining the winner. 

Howell, a culinary arts instructor with Delaware Technical Community College, included candied pepper bacon as the standout ingredient for his chowder. Shitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes and smoked sweet corn added unconventional twists. 

The longest-running Coast Day seafood competition, the Crab Cake Cook-Off, featured eight contestants vying for the title of “Delaware’s Best Crab Cakes.” 

Monty Jones of Ocean Pines, Md., won first prize and the privilege of returning next year as a judge. His “Eastern Shore Imperial Crab Cakes” combined blue crab meat with Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Texas Pete hot sauce for a subtle tanginess. 

Last year’s second-place finisher came in second again this year: Denise Vansant of Rehoboth Beach with her “Bawlmer Lady Crab Cakes with Chesapeake Bay Yogurt Tartar Sauce.” 

Cindy McClure of Malvern, Pa., took third place with her “CC’s Coastal Blue Crab Cakes” that included shrimp, corn and mustard seeds.

 “The judges said that all of the contestants were outstanding,” said seafood contest organizer Doris Hicks, a seafood technology specialist with Delaware Sea Grant. “It was not an easy decision.” 

The winning crab cake and chowder recipes are listed below. 

Sponsored by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, Coast Day attracts thousands of visitors to learn about marine resources with fun, engaging activities. Next year’s event is set for Sunday, Oct. 5 and updated information will be available at the event website.

First Place: Eastern Shore Imperial Crab Cakes

Monty Jones, Ocean Pines, Md.

2 pounds blue crab meat
¾ cup heavy mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Texas Pete hot sauce
juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon fresh parsley flakes
1 pinch white pepper
¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs
¼ pound butter
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

Mix all ingredients in bowl except crab, panko and butter. In separate bowl, fold panko in with crabmeat and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Fold together all ingredients except butter. Weigh out 4oz crab cakes. Top each cake with 1 teaspoon solid butter. Broil crab cake 400 degrees 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned on sizzle plate. Place pan drippings from sizzle plate on top of cake before serving.

Second Place: Bawlmer Lady Crab Cakes with Chesapeake Bay Yogurt Tartar Sauce
Denise Vansant, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

For crab cakes:
2 pounds blue crab meat
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ tablespoons ale (Vansant uses Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA)
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 ½ teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying

For Chesapeake Bay yogurt tartar sauce:
¾ cup Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon lemon zest
12 pickles chopped (6 sweet gherkins and 6 mini dills)
½ teaspoon champagne vinegar
1/8 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Combine parsley, lemon juice, eggs, ale, butter, Old Bay and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Gently fold in the crabmeat. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Dip each side of the crab cakes in the breadcrumbs. Put on a plate and refrigerate for an hour. Heat about ¼ cup vegetable oil in a skillet. Add crab cakes and cook about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve with Chesapeake Bay Tartar Sauce.

Third Place: CC’s Coastal Blue Crab Cake
Cindy McClure, Malvern, Pa.

2 pounds jumbo lump blue crab, drained well
½ pound of raw shrimp
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
6 drops of hot sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons diced, small, red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped, parsley
1 cup fresh corn (if available)
1 cup crushed saltines
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
½ cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons plus more if needed of vegetable oil of your choice

Put shrimp, eggs, salt, pepper, hot sauce and Dijon in food processor. Blend well till thick. Add heavy cream and process slowly to incorporate. Remove processed ingredients into a bowl and add red pepper, parsley, corn, saltines, mustard seeds and scallions. Crab should be well drained. Then gently fold into bowl mixture making sure not to break lumps. Using damp hands (or well greased), handle mixture delicately to form crab cakes. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes (30 minutes best). Fry in 2 tablespoons of oil until golden brown on both sides (about 3 to 5 minutes depending on the size and shape). Place on warm platter until ready to serve.

Delmarva Clam Chowder
Thomas Howell, First State Chef’s Association

1 can chopped clams
1 Spanish onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
3 oz. shitake mushrooms, diced
3 oz. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cobs fresh sweet corn, smoked
¼ cup dry white wine
3 oz. clarified butter
3 oz. bread flour
2 quarts heavy cream
4 oz. candied pepper bacon, diced
Salt, white pepper and sugar to taste

Sauté onion, celery and garlic in clarified butter.
Add flour to make a roux.
Strain juice from clams and combine with white wine, add to roux and bring to a boil.
Simmer then add mushrooms and sweet potatoes (careful not to overcook potatoes).
Take smoked corn off the cob and reserve.
Place the cobs and the cream in a spate pot and simmer until the cream is reduced.
Strain cream into chowder, and clams, corn and seasonings.
Bring to a simmer and serve with diced, candied peppered bacon on the side.

Article by Teresa Messmore

Photos by Doug Baker

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