Judges sample the entries in the 25th annual Crab Cake Cook-Off, won by Sarah Titus of Salisbury, Maryland.

Seafood contest winners

Oyster shuckers, seafood chefs earn awards at Coast Day's culinary competitions


12:49 p.m., Oct. 23, 2014--Oyster shucking and crab cake cook-offs were two of the many events exciting guests at the University of Delaware’s annual Coast Day celebration at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, sponsored by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and the Delaware Sea Grant College Program

Local seafood companies and restaurants once again partnered with Delaware Sea Grant for the second annual oyster shucking contest. Contestants received 12 oysters each and were split into two groups. Each competed in one of two rounds where they opened the oysters on the clock. The winner was chosen by both the quality and quickness of their work.

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In a repeat of last year’s festivities, Ed Bell, a clam and oyster harvester from Virginia, took first place overall with a time of 1:35.97. 

Celso Morales of Fins Fish House and Raw Bar came in second, James Frazier won third place, also in a repeat of last year, while Joe Baker of Henlopen City Oyster House claimed fourth. The winners were awarded $600, $400, $300 and $200, respectively, while Bell and Frazier took home an extra $100 each for being the Round 1 and Round 2 winners.

The prizes were provided by sponsors Shore Property Maintenance, Broadwater Oyster Company, Fins Fish House and Raw Bar, Henlopen City Oyster House and Capitol Seafood and Produce. The oysters were donated by the Broadwater Oyster Company, which grows and ships live shellfish to distributors, retailers and seafood restaurants. 

Coast Day attendees helped choose the winner of the Seafood Chowder Challenge by tasting the chowders and casting a vote for their favorite. David Coverdale with The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware and member of the ACF First State Chefs Association won first prize with 438 of the 645 voters choosing his chowder. 

Not far from the oyster shucking contest and chowder tasting, eight finalists competed for top prize in Coast Day’s longest-running seafood competition, the Crab Cake Cook-Off, which celebrated its 25th anniversary at the 2014 event. 

Sarah Titus of Salisbury, Maryland, took first place with her “Top-Notch Crab Cake,” combining blue crab meat with Dijon mustard, salad dressing and hot sauce to put her crab cakes on top. 

In second place was Jason Johnson of Newark, Delaware, with his “Delmarva Jumbo Lump Imperial Crab Cakes.” William Vasvary of Philadelphia won third with his “Classical Crab Cake.”

“Once again eight very excited finalists competed in the 25th annual Crab Cake Cook-Off and wowed all the judges. The finalists did their best and had a great time,” said seafood contest organizer Doris Hicks, a seafood technology specialist with Delaware Sea Grant.

In honor of the cook-off’s anniversary, Delaware Sea Grant published a cookbook with the top three finalists’ recipes from the past 25 years. The Coast Day Crab Cake Cookbook can be ordered from the Delaware Sea Grant publications catalog

The winning crab cake and clam chowder recipes are listed below. 

Next year’s Coast Day is set for Sunday, Oct. 4 and updated information will be available at the event website.

Top-Notch Crab Cake

Sarah Titus, Salisbury, Maryland.

2 pounds jumbo lump blue crab meat

2 cup finely ground saltine crackers

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons salad dressing

1 stick unsalted butter (melted)

3 teaspoons hot sauce

4 scallions (minced)

5 tablespoons chopped cilantro

2-3 tablespoons dry sherry (more if desired)

2-3 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

Lemon wedges for garnish

Using a rubber spatula, in a large bowl, gently combine crab meat, 1⁄2 cup crushed saltine crackers, egg yolks, mustard, salad dressing, 3 tablespoons melted butter, hot sauce, scallions, cilantro, dry sherry, and Old Bay seasoning. Gently divide mixture into 10 equal portions and shape into tight, mounded cakes. Press each crab cake in cracker crumbs and transfer, crumb side down, cover and refrigerate for an hour. Grease a baking sheet with butter and transfer crab cakes to prepared baking sheet, crumb side down. Press thumb on top of each crab cake to make a slight indentation and drizzle with melted butter. Sprinkle a small amount of Old Bay seasoning on top of each crab cake and broil on medium until crab cakes are golden brown. About 12-15 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Nolan’s Bacon and Corn Clam Chowder

David Coverdale, The Culinary School, Delaware Food Bank and member of ACF First States Chefs Association

1 tablespoon ground white pepper

1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

3-1/2 cups organic half and half cream

1 cup heavy cream

1 (8 oz.) pure all-natural bottled clam juice

3/4 cup water

2 cups celery, finely chopped 

1 (14.75 oz.) can creamed corn

1-1/2 cups diced sweet Vidalia onion

3-4 large russet potatoes 

4 large pieces hickory butcher cut thick bacon 

1 (51 oz.) gourmet chopped sea clams 

4 tablespoons salted butter

Drain clams and set aside, reserve liquid. Dice bacon and sauté in tall stock pot over medium heat. Add chopped celery, diced onions, some reserved clam juice and sweat down (reduce some). Peel and cube potatoes. Bring potatoes to a boil utilizing some reserved clam juice in separate pot until fork tender. Strain potatoes and set aside to cool. Slowly whisk in half and half, heavy cream, dry seasonings, clam juice and water into sauté mixture. Bring to a simmer for 8 minutes. Add strained clams and continue to simmer. Do not boil. Stir in butter until melted. Add creamed corn. Pour potatoes into mixture and continue to stir while simmering. Do not boil. Serve and enjoy. Salt and pepper to taste.

* Cornstarch slurry may be utilized for desired thickness.

Article by Cori Ilardi

Photos by Lane McLaughlin

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