Junior Rockfish Cooking Contest winners Ryan Yetter (left)
and Matthew Forman. Photo by Lisa Tossey.
The smells of gourmet cooking welcomed visitors to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center January 26 as six young chefs sliced, diced, and sautéed a wide range of ingredients for the Junior Rockfish Cooking Contest. The inaugural contest, held as part of the East Coast Commercial Fishermen's and Aquaculture Trade Expo, featured girls and boys from Maryland and Delaware competing in two age categories: 7- to 11-years-old and 12- to 17-years-old.
Contestants came prepared with all the ingredients, pans, and utensils necessary to make their original recipes, which featured everything from exotic mushrooms to whole coconuts. Each contestant was provided with two pounds of fresh rockfish, and start times were staggered to allow judges ample time to savor the dishes.
Judges included a chef, two food writers, and a Maryland Sea Grant representative. Each dish was evaluated in the privacy of a curtained booth, where it was scored on originality, taste, attractiveness and predominance of rockfish.
Ryan Yetter, of Clear Spring, Md., won the younger age group for his Ryan’s Rockfish recipe, which featured olive oil, lemon juice, and seasoned pepper. Matthew Forman, of Broomes Island, Md., took first prize in the older age group for his Pan-Seared Rockfish Over a Bed of Greens with a Lemon-Citrus Butter Sauce. Winners were awarded cash prizes and plaques, and all contestants received chef aprons, pins, and certificates.
The contest, which was sponsored by the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, Maryland Sea Grant, and Maryland Seafood Marketing Program, will return next year.
“It was a big hit and has a lot of potential,” said Doris Hicks, an organizer of the event and seafood specialist for Delaware Sea Grant. “It’s neat to have such young, enthusiastic people doing so well.”
Winning recipe – 7- to 11-year-old age group
By Ryan Yetter, 11, of Clear Spring, Md.
2 pounds rockfish
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons melted butter
Lemon pepper seasoning
About 1/2 cup of olive oil, enough to cover bottom of nonstick pan
Mix olive oil, butter, and lemon juice and heat until butter is melted. Rub this marinade on both sides of fish. Sprinkle approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon pepper to taste, then sprinkle a few pinches of parsley flakes on rockfish filets. Heat oil and pan and cook until done.
Winning recipe – 12- to 17-year-old age group
By Matthew Forman, 13, from Broomes Island, Md.
Pan-Seared Rockfish Over a Bed of Greens With a Lemon-Citrus Butter Sauce
2 pounds rockfish, skin on
Juice of 1 lemon plus 1 tablespoon
1 rounded tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shallots
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Spinach for 4 servings
2 tablespoons garlic
Parsley, for garnish
1/2 cup orange juice
Rinse rockfish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 4 pieces then season with salt and pepper. Heat pan to medium-high, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add rockfish, sear on both sides 3-5 minutes. Remove to plate and cover to keep warm.
To make lemon-citrus butter sauce, add sliced shallots and 2 tablespoons butter to pan. Cook shallots until caramelized. Add orange juice, 1/4 cup water and juice of 1 lemon to shallots. Bring to simmer then whisk. Add cornstarch mixed with another 1/4 cup water into sauce. Whisk until blended and smooth. Pour into bowl and cover to keep warm.
To cook spinach, add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan on medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons sliced garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté until garlic is soft and golden in color. Add spinach, toss, turn up heat, and add 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Sauté until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove to serving plate and cover.
To finish dish, wipe out pan with paper towel. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan on medium heat. Add rockfish, skin side up, cook until tender, 4 to 8 minutes. Place rockfish on bed of spinach. Top with sauce, garnish with sliced lemons and parsley. Serves 4.
To learn more about the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, visit www.deseagrant.org. For more about UD’s College of Marine and Earth Studies, visit www.ocean.udel.edu.