It’s Time to Celebrate the Oyster!

Award-winning recipes from past National Oyster Cook-Offs

Autumn with its cool, crisp days are always accompanied by some of the best seafood the Chesapeake Bay region has to offer.
Every year, great chefs from around the country gather in Leonardtown in late October to show off their recipes at the National Oyster Cook-Off and participate in a timed competition. Though plans for the 2020 U.S. Oyster Fest itself are in limbo, organizers of the cook-off say this year’s 41st annual culinary show will go on!
There is still time to enter this year’s contest. Deadline is Aug. 31. Find rules and regulations for entries at And check back often for new announcements.
At this point in time, organizers say they have no guarantees for how the overall festival will look, but the cook-off is planned for Oct. 17 “one way or another.” The festival will still produce the annual cookbook — complete with wine pairings and spiral binding introduced last year.

Tammy Davis, Chesapeake Beach, 1st in Soups & Stews and Best, Presentation in 2017
24 Maryland oysters, shucked
1 stick butter
1 cup clam juice
3 T. harissa paste
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 cups heavy cream
Dash celery salt
Parsley and paprika to garnish
2 pieces pita bread, split
2 T. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds, crushed
1 tsp. salt
In a 4-quart saucepan, or in the top of a double boiler over boiling water, combine the first group of ingredients. Stir briskly and heat until the mixture simmers around the periphery and the oysters begin to curl around the edge. Remove from heat and divide oysters evenly into four bowls. Pour soup over the oysters, garnish and serve with spicy pita chips.
To make pita chips, mix salt and spices with sesame seeds. Brush the 4 pita pieces on the rough side with olive oil and sprinkle with the spice mix. Cut each into 6 chips. Bake on a parchment lined tray at 350° for 10-15 minutes or until crispy. Serves 4.
Ellynne Brice Davis of Leonardtown, Garnered 3rd place Soups & Stews in 2017
1 quart Maryland oysters, drained, liquor reserved
3 T. olive oil
2 stalks celery with tops, chopped
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. Old Bay
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes,
1 ½ cups white wine
Dash red hot sauce
INGREDIENTS for garnish:
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
Lime slices
Heat oil in skillet; add celery, onion, garlic, Old Bay, red pepper flakes and hot sauce. Cook and stir until celery and onions are transparent and tender. Add oyster liquor, tomatoes and wine. Bring to boil; lower heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add oysters, cook just until heated through (3-4 minutes). Ladle chowder into bowls and top with the garnishes. Serve with hot buttered bread. Serves 4.
Debbie Reynolds of Waldorf, Crowd favorite for People’s Choice Award in 2017. Garnered 2nd place in Main Dish category
1 pint oysters drained reserving
2 T. liquor
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp.  dried oregano leaves
3 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 T. chopped fresh basil leaves
Toss the oysters in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes. Heat the olive oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, oyster liquor and oregano. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the oysters, toss to coat, and cook until the edges of the oysters start to curl. Stir in the parsley and basil. Spoon over creamy parmesan polenta and serve. Makes 4-6 servings.
creamy parmesean polenta
2 cups of heavy cream
2 cups of chicken broth
1 cup polenta
1 tsp. salt
2 T. butter
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Combine the cream, broth and salt into a large saucepan over medium high heat. Once the liquid has just started to boil, gradually add the polenta while whisking continually. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue to whisk every few minutes for 25 minutes. Add the butter and Parmesan cheese along with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Stir until well combined.
Marty Hyson of Millersville, 2019 winner in Main Dish category
4 tsp. kosher salt divided
1 ½ cups quick thickening grits
2 cups half and half
3 T. unsalted butter
3 oz. blue cheese
½ cup blue cheese crumbled
small for garnish
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 pint Maryland oysters, drained
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup flour
½ cup corn meal
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. cracked black pepper
½ cup melted butter
½ cup your favorite hot sauce
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
Grits — Bring 6 cups of water to boil in saucepan. Add 1 tsp. salt and grits pouring slowly while whisking slowly. Stir in half and half, butter, bring to a boil over medium heat until thick. Cover for 40 minutes or until smooth and creamy. (You may add more cream if needed.) Remove from heat and stir in blue cheese, 1 tsp. salt and pepper

Maryland Oysters — Drain oysters and let them soak in buttermilk until ready to fry. Combine flour, corn meal, salt, cracked pepper, paprika and garlic powder in large bowl. Dredge Maryland oysters and fry until crispy brown (2-4 minutes). Set aside on paper towel to drain excess oil. Mix melted butter and hot sauce and set aside.

Arrange 2-3 fried oysters with skewer and place on top of the grits. Drizzle buffalo sauce on oysters, then garnish with celery and blue cheese. Also sprinkle with cracked black pepper.
Brendan Cahill of Lusby, 2018 Grand Prize winner
5 slices bacon
1 pint Maryland shucked oysters
12 pieces applewood
smoked bacon
1 cup Cajun flour (1 cup flour/
3 T. Cajun spice)
6 wooden skewers
Butter for sauté
Lemon wedges for garnish
Lightly drain oysters, then dredge in Cajun flour, set aside. Cut bacon into equal lengths approximately 3-inch long and wrap one piece around each oyster. Skewer 4-5 oysters on each skewer and sauté in skillet 3 minutes per side. Drizzle rémoulade sauce on plates, top with oysters and garnish with fresh lemon.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 pinch Cajun spice (homemade or store bought)
1 T. capers
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pinch fresh tarragon
Combine all ingredients and gently mix with a large spoon.
Loic Jaffres of Leonardtown, Won People’s Choice and the Best Presentation Award in 2010. Placed 2nd in Hors d’oeuvres.
16 Maryland oysters, shucked
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh butter
2/3 cup seeded and chopped fresh tomato
1/3 cup chopped fresh fennel
1/2 teaspoon orange peel
1 tablespoon orange juice 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 fresh chopped chives salt to taste
Compote: Stir together: tomatoes, fennel, orange peel, orange juice, olive oil and salt. Cover and chill. In large pan, sauté oysters and garlic in hot butter for 2 to 3 minutes or until edges of oysters begin to curl and oyster begins to brown. Place a spoonful of tomato fennel compote in individual serving dish and top with one cooked oyster.
Brendan Cahill of Lusby, 2009 winner in the Hors d’oeuvres category
¼ cup chopped shallots
¼ cup sliced mushrooms
1 tsp. dry mustard
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 stick butter
¾ cup flour
2 cups milk
½ cup dry sherry
2 egg yolks
2 dozen Maryland oysters in shell
Sauté shallots, mushrooms, dry mustard and cayenne in butter. Add flour and cook 3-4 minutes. Add milk and cook 8-10 minutes. Add sherry. Remove from heat and add egg yolks. Shuck oysters, reserve shells. Place oyster on top of shell, top with sauce and bake 10 minutes at 350°.
Jackie Hardin of Galena, 2019 Grand Prize winner
1 pint Maryland oysters, select
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup fine yellow corn meal
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Oil for frying
8 flour tortillas
8 oz. bag cole slaw
1 cup mayonnaise
2-4 minced canned chipotle chilies in adobe sauce
Lime wedges and cilantro for garnish
Combine mayonnaise and chipotle peppers and set aside.
Wrap tortillas in foil and place in a warm oven 250 degrees. Prepare fried oysters; combine flour, corn meal, salt and pepper in bowl. Drain oysters. Dip each oyster in beaten egg then into flour mixture. Heat 3 inches of oil in frying pay to 375˚. Fry oysters a few at a time until golden brown, about a minute or two. Don’t overcook. When all oysters are done, remove tortillas from oven. On each tortilla, spoon on chipotle cream, slaw and top with fried oysters. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.  Serves 4.
Loic Jaffres of Leonardtown, People’s Choice and Best Presentation in 2009
2 dozen medium fresh Maryland oysters
4 oz. butter
4 oz. pancetta
4 oz. sliced shallots
1 cup white wine
1 tsp. dry thyme
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water (with dashi)
2 sheets puff pastry
3 oz. roux (1/4 lb. melted butter, 6 oz. flour – mixed together to form paste)
Chopped parsley
In medium skillet, combine butter, shallots and pancetta. Sauté until translucent. Add white wine, thyme and garlic. Cook two minutes. Add chicken stock and water with dashi. Stir. Shuck oysters and add oysters to liquid; cook until oysters curl. About 2 minutes. Strain. Return liquid to pot and reduce by half. Add roux, stirring constantly. When thickened, add oysters. Add salt and pepper as needed. Cut puff pastry in 2-inch squares. Pre-bake dough at 350° for 7-8 minutes. Cut top of each puff, indent a hole with finger; add one oyster and Bourguignon sauce. Topped with chopped parsley and serve hot.