Above, winner Eric Yetter, of Clear Spring, Md.,
works on his creation. Below, Alison Bechtoldt
stirs her winning salsa. Photos by Lisa Tossey
The smells of gourmet cooking welcomed visitors to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center Jan. 24 as 10 young chefs sliced, diced, and sautéed a wide range of ingredients for the Junior Rockfish Cooking Contest. The second annual 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 12-years-old and 13- to 17-years-old.
Contestants came prepared with all the ingredients, pans, and utensils necessary to make their original recipes, which followed a wide range of culinary influences, from traditional Eastern Shore fare to Asian and Tex-Mex-inspired dishes. Each contestant was provided with two pounds of 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.
Eric Yetter, of Clear Spring, Md., won the younger age group for his Eastern Shore Rockfish Special recipe, which featured Old Bay seasoning, lemon pepper, and olive oil. Alison Bechtoldt, of Burtonsville, Md., took first prize in the older age group for her colorful Rockfish Tacos. Winners were awarded cash prizes and plaques, and all contestants received chef aprons, pins, cookbooks, and certificates.
The contest, which was sponsored by the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, Maryland Sea Grant College, and Maryland Seafood Marketing Program, will return next year.
“The Junior Rockfish Cooking Contest was a success,” said Doris Hicks, an organizer of the event and seafood specialist for Delaware Sea Grant. “The chefs were amazing young people — they had great poise; they were courteous and efficient; and all of their dishes tasted wonderful.”
Winning recipe 7- to 12-year-old age group
By Eric Yetter, from Clear Spring, Md.
Eastern Shore Rockfish Special
2 pounds rockfish fillets
1-1/2 tablespoons Helman’s Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Montreal Steak and Burger Rub by Ernst Market
A few pinches Old Bay seasoning
A few pinches lemon pepper
Approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
Mix about 1-1/2 tablespoons of Montreal Steak and Burger Rub with the mayonnaise. Coat the rockfish fillets with the mixture.
Heat the oil in the pan and cook rockfish on medium to low heat until cooked.
Use remaining 1/2 teaspoon of seasoning to pinch on areas where fish need seasoning added and pinch the Old Bay seasoning and lemon pepper while cooking. Serve on a bed of lettuce and garnish with cherry tomatoes if in season.
Winning recipe 13- to 17-year-old age group
By Alison Bechtoldt, from Burtonsville, Md.
2 pounds rockfish cut into 3x1 inch strips
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups flour
Vegetable oil (for frying)
15 5-inch fresh corn tortillas
Corn and Peach Salsa
1 16 oz. bag frozen peaches, thawed and chopped
1 cup red pepper, diced
1 cup frozen corn, roasted
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 chopped jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Creamy Tartar Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
This recipe calls for 2 to 3 limes and 1 bunch of cilantro. It serves 5, with 2 tacos per person.
Lightly oil and salt the corn, then roast at 375ºF for 10 minutes. Mix the buttermilk, salt, lime juice, lime zest, hot sauce, and cilantro in a large bowl. Add the rockfish and let stand for one hour.
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the salsa. In another bowl, mix all the ingredients for the tartar sauce. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, cayenne, cumin, and chili powder.
Heat a large skillet with the vegetable oil, filling about an inch up the sides of the pan to reach 350ºF. Take the fish out of the buttermilk mixture in batches and dredge them in the flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour and add them to the hot oil. Cook the fish for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towel and salt immediately. In a small sauté pan, heat a small amount of oil and fry the corn tortillas. When all the components are prepared, fill each tortilla with the fried fish, tartar sauce, and salsa. Enjoy!
To learn more about Delaware Sea Grant, visit www.deseagrant.org.