Waldorf Chef Wins National Oyster Cook-off
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Waldorf Chef Wins National Oyster Cook-off

The Winning Dish, Oyster and Chipotle Grits, by Debbie Reynolds of Waldorf

The winning dish, Oyster and Chipotle Grits, by Debbie Reynolds of Waldorf

Debbie Reynolds of Waldorf took top honors in the National Oyster Cook-off held on October 19 in Leonardtown. Her Oyster and Chipotle Grits recipe (below) took first place in the main dish category and won the overall grand prize.

Fifty chefs from as far away as Oregon entered recipes for consideration in the contest, open to cooks of all skill levels. Of those, nine were selected to attend the St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival, where they competed before a panel of judges, including Noreen Eberly from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, commercial waterman Rachel Dean, and past winner Loic Jaffres.

The judges picked one winner in each of the three categories ─ hors d’oeuvre, soup/stew and main dish ─ based on taste and creativity. Reynolds won the overall prize of $1,000, an engraved silver tray and the national title. The other category winners took home cash prizes, ranging from $150 to $300.

Marty Hyson of Millersville won the hors d’oeuvre honor with his Grilled Oyster Reggiano. Winning both soup/stew and People’s Choice was Robert Johnson of Bushwood with his Merchant Mariner Oyster Rockefeller Chowder. Ronna Farley of Rockville earned the Best Presentation Award with her Crispy Oyster and Red Pepper Salsa Bruschetta.

Now in its 34th year, the annual National Oyster Cook-off is held in conjunction with the St. Mary’s Oyster Festival and the U.S. National Oyster Shucking Championship. The Oyster Cook-off is sponsored by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Seafood Marketing Program, the Rotary Club of Lexington Park and the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic Development. More than 15,000 visitors attended the two-day festival which featured rows of vendors offering oyster fare and oyster-themed items. Proceeds from the event go to local charities, educational scholarships, assistance grants, and Rotary International projects. More information on the National Oyster Cook-off is available at http://usoysterfest.com.

Oysters and Chipotle Grits

Chipotle Grits
½ onion diced
¼ cup pancetta diced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 cup grits
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
1 cup pepper jack cheese
½ cup corn off the cob

Brown pancetta in a sauce pan; remove reserving 2 tbsp. of drippings.  Add onion and garlic sautéing until soft.  In a stock pot heat chicken broth and milk, add grits, salt, pepper, peppers and corn; cook until done (about 25 minutes), add cheese, pancetta and stir.

Fried Oysters
12 large shucked oysters
½ cup flour
2 eggs beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. paprika
3 tbsp. chopped parsley

Mix flour, pepper, garlic powder and paprika in a shallow dish.  Mix parsley and panko in a shallow dish.  Beat eggs and pour in a shallow dish.  Dredge oysters in flour shaking off excess then dip in egg and panko.  Place on a cookie sheet and let rest at least five minutes.  Heat oil in a frying pan and fry oysters until golden brown.