Creative twist on BLT wins junior rockfish cooking contest

The Ocean City Convention Center filled with the smells of gourmet cooking on Jan. 30 as young chefs sliced, diced, and sautéed a wide range of ingredients for the Junior Rockfish Cooking Contest. The third 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 Italian 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 and representatives from Sea Grant and the Calvert Marine Museum. Each dish was evaluated in the privacy of a curtained booth, where it was scored on originality, taste, attractiveness, and predominance of rockfish.

Benjamin Voshell of Galena, Md., won the younger age group for his Bacon, Rock, and Tomato (BRAT) Sandwich, which featured broiled rock fillets, bacon, and tomato, presented together with a special mayonnaise and tarragon sauce between thick slices of toast. Jonathan Romero, of Silver Spring, Md., took first prize in the older age group for his stuffed, marinated fillet recipe aptly titled Rockfish Romero.

Winners were awarded cash prizes and plaques, and all contestants received chef aprons, pins, cookbooks, and certificates.

The contest, which will return next year, was sponsored by the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, Maryland Sea Grant, Maryland Commercial Fishermen, Maryland Seafood Processors, and Maryland Seafood Marketing Program.

“We had a really wonderful group of young chefs this year — they had great poise; they were courteous and efficient; and all of their dishes looked and tasted wonderful,” said Doris Hicks, an organizer of the event and seafood specialist for Delaware Sea Grant.

Winning recipe 7- to 12-year-old age group
By Benjamin Voshell, from Galena, Md.

BRAT: Bacon Rock and Tomato Sandwich

2 pounds boneless rockfish fillets
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Salt and pepper to taste
4 thick slices of bread, toasted
4 slices cooked bacon
4 large slices tomato
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Garnish: fresh parsley and paprika

Sprinkle rock fillets with salt and pepper. Drizzle with melted butter and place under hot broiler. Broil until fish is just cooked; don’t overcook.

Break bacon in half and place two bacon halves on top of toast. Next, top with sliced tomato. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, and tarragon. Spoon over fish. Return to broiler until hot and bubbly. Garnish with paprika and parsley.

Serves 4.

Winning recipe 13- to 17-year-old age group
By Jonathan Romero, Silver Spring, Md.

Rockfish Romero

1-15-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
8 oz. chorizo, 1/4 diced
2 limes, 1 for juice, 1 for garnish
1 bay leaf, chopped fine
1 tablespoon Tex Mex spice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon basil, dried

Make a pocket in fillet by slicing horizontally on the side. Mix lime juice, bay leaf, and Tex Mex spice for marinade.

Prepare stuffing: sauté onions and peppers; add chorizo and tomatoes. Set aside.

Put the stuffing in the pocket of each fillet.

Get a sauté pan over medium heat and add olive oil and then fillets. Turn over gently after 5-7 minutes. Cook until fish is white.

Serve with black beans, sautéed green and yellow squash, and garnish with lime slices.

To learn more about Delaware Sea Grant, visit www.deseagrant.org.

Rockfish Romero, the winning entry in the 13-to-17-year old age group.

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Page Updated on February 11, 2010