Oysters, cheesecake prove to be grand Cook-off: Dish prepared by Baltimore resident takes $1,000 prize in national oyster contest in St. Mary's County.

October 28, 1998|By Tracy Sahler | Tracy Sahler,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LEONARDTOWN -- Oysters and cheesecake? What sounds like an unusual pairing turned out to be the perfect combination for Dawn L. Brown of Baltimore, whose Oyster Cheesecakes With Oyster Sauce and Caviar Garnish won the $1,000 grand prize at the 19th annual National Oyster Cook-Off here earlier this month.

Brown, 31, is a first-year student at the Baltimore International College. She stirred whole oysters into a savory cheesecake mixture, baked them and then topped them with caviar and oyster sauce. The subtle flavor and elegant presentation also earned her first place among hors d'oeuvres.

Brown couldn't believe her good fortune. "Actually, it was a crab meat recipe that I kind of mutated," she said.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture Seafood Marketing Program annually solicits original oyster recipes from around the country and selects 12 finalists for the cook-off, held at the St. Mary's County Fairgrounds. The Rotary Club of St. Mary's and the St. Mary's County Department of Economic and Community Development also sponsor the event.

Most of the recipes were anything but traditional. Second place for hors d'oeuvres went to Pearl Ward of Hulmeville, Pa., for Oyster Sushi in Seaweed Rolls, and Dean A. Thomas of Essex, Vt., finished third with Coral Fried Oyster with Apple and Chervil.

Among main dishes, prizes went to Don Wilson of Sellersville, Pa., for Oyster Skipjacks, first; Sally Brassfield of California, Md., Maryland Oyster and Wild Rice Strata, second; and Sarah Houde of Hollywood, Md., Sarah's Oysters Florentine with Parmesan, third. Brassfield, last year's grand champion, received this year's People's Choice Award for the dish liked best by the public. Four judges picked the other winners.

Alex DeSantis of Bethlehem, Pa., finished first in soups with Oyster 'N' Fennel Chowder, Charlie Petrocci of Chincoteague, Va., was second with Oysters Salmagundi, and Bettye Arnold of Georgetown, Del., was third with Delmarva Oyster Soup.

Salad awards went to Wolfgang H. M. Hanau of West Palm Beach, Fla., Grilled Sicilian Festival Oyster Salad, first; Shirley DeSantis of Bethlehem, Warm Oyster 'N' Black Bean Gazpacho hTC Salad, second; and Charles F. Lee of Turnersville, N.J., Oyster Showcase Salad, third.

All the recipes, plus other entries not chosen for the cook-off, are available in a cookbook. Send $4 to Oyster Cook-Off, P.O. Box 653, DECD, Leonardtown, Md. 20650.

Dawn L. Brown's Oyster Cheesecakes With Oyster Sauce and Caviar Garnish

Serves 4

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 large eggs

1/2 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon chopped, seeded tomato

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

dash of cayenne pepper

dash of seafood seasoning

1 dozen small to medium Maryland select oysters (shucked, reserving liquid)

salt and pepper, to taste

Oyster Sauce (recipe follows)

Butter four 2/3-cup souffle dishes. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese in bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs. Mix in shallot, tomato, garlic, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and seafood seasoning. Mix in shucked oysters. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide mixture between souffle dishes. Bake in a 350-degree oven until centers are set, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Run a sharp knife around sides of cups to loosen cheesecakes. Invert each onto a plate. Spoon Oyster Sauce over each cheesecake. Top with small spoon of caviar for garnish.

Oyster Sauce

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 pint whipping cream

1 pint Maryland select oysters with liquid, chopped

salt and white pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon seafood seasoning

1 tablespoon sherry

Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour and stir until smooth, cooking for several minutes. Add whipping cream to flour mixture, stirring until mixed well and smooth. Add chopped oysters and liquid from shucked oysters, salt and pepper to taste, and seafood seasoning. Cook over low to medium heat until thickened. Add sherry just before serving. Spoon over cheesecakes.

Pub Date: 10/28/98

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