A culinary salute to the oyster: St. Mary’s festival harvests innovative winning recipes

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Nov 03, 2010 - 05:05 PM

Photo: Grand-prize and first-place winner in the Appetizer division, Coconut and Chile Crusted Oysters with caramelized Red Onion-Pineapple Relish. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day.

Grand-prize and first-place winner in the Appetizer division, Coconut and Chile Crusted Oysters with caramelized Red Onion-Pineapple Relish. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day.

"Oysters, we salute you! You work around the clock to improve our county. You are more than just a great treat to eat. You provide an environment that encourages the growth of numerous and varied species of life. Through your filtering, sunlight reaches lower into the water extending the depth that grasses can grow and the incubator that provides a rich environment for a hearty and varied group of living organisms… Oysters, you are the key to the early steps of a healthy Chesapeake Bay. We need to do more to encourage your abundance."

This was the theme of the 2010 St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival held last month, the 44th, sponsored by the Lexington Park Rotary Club, held in Leonardtown, Md. Cooks from coast to coast came to show they knew how to take advantage of this celebrated bivalve in producing culinary dishes. The cook-off has been a very successful and valued part of the Oyster Festival for 31 years.

They did not let the tasters down; culinary dishes they did produce. With three entries in each of three categories, Appetizers, Soups and Stews, and Main Dishes, when it came to judging, it was a palate’s paradise. But it was also a complex decision as to awarding the first, second and third positions, then to choose from the three first-place winners the best of all. That’s when discussions became more intricate.