California, MD – Maryland Department of Agriculture is reminding Marylanders that autumn is time to “Savor a Maryland oyster!” Or, “Slurp a Maryland oyster,” if that’s your style.

“Chesapeake Bay seafood at its very best in the autumn, especially oysters, and oyster festivals celebrating the sweet bivalve,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. He noted that Department’s seafood marketing program has unveiled oyster billboards in the Baltimore metro area and other sites, and sponsored the 51st Annual U.S. Oyster Festival on October 21 in St. Mary’s County.

Chefs from across the country participated in a timed competition. As part of the festival, this year’s National Oyster Cook-off featured nine contestants selected in a blind evaluation of their recipes. Recipes were submitted for the categories of hors d’oeuvres, soups and stews and main dishes, all featuring oysters. Finalist chefs hailed from not only Maryland and Virginia, but also California, Oregon, and New Jersey.

The grand prize winner, and taking first place in hors d’oeuvres, was Hidemi Walsh of Centreville, Va., with her Miso-Mayo Oyster Gratin. Placing first in the soups and stews category was Tammy Davis of Chesapeake Beach, Md., who served up Oyster Pan Roast with Harissa and Spicy Pita Chips. She also won for best presentation. Finally, rounding out the top three from Long Beach, Calif., was Mary Edwards who presented her Thai Red Curry with Crispy Oysters as a main dish. The crowd favorite for People’s Choice Award, and garnering second place in the Main Dish category, was Debbie Reynolds of Waldorf, Md., with Oysters Fra Diavlo with Creamy Parmesan Polenta. (The winning recipes follow.)

The grand prize winner is eligible to compete in the World Food Championship in Orange Beach, Ala., billed as “the largest competition in Food Sport,” where grand champions of previous events convene for a chance at winning the ultimate food crown.

The festival also featured the 2017 U.S. National Oyster Shucking Contest. Cathy Milliken, former 2002 National U.S. Oyster Shucking Women’s Champion, won the 2017 Woman’s U.S. National Oyster Shucking Champion. The 2016 U.S. National Oyster Shucking Champion, Honor Allen, won the grand championship once again in 2017 with a record final time of 2 minutes 12 seconds. Allen, 23, is from Panama City, Florida and holds a number of shucking titles leading to his national victory. Allen successfully competed in the Galway, Ireland International Oyster Opening Contest in 2017 and will compete again in 2018.

To learn more about Maryland seafood, go to

Miso-Mayo Oyster Gratin
1 dozen shucked fresh oysters
4 teaspoons white miso paste
4 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mirin
8 small shiitake mushrooms
4 teaspoons minced scallions, green parts only
Some melted butter for the oyster shells
Crushed red pepper for garnish

Preheat oven to 450° F. Rinse oysters under running cold water. Boil enough water in a pot, put oysters into the pot and blanch oysters for 7-8 seconds. Drain oysters in a colander then place on paper towels lined plate to drain. In a bowl, mix together miso, mayonnaise and mirin. Remove stem of each shiitake mushroom and discard the stems. Slice shiitake mushrooms thinly. Spread butter lightly inside of each shell and lay the oyster shells on a rimmed baking sheet, open side up. Divide shiitake mushrooms among 12 shells and place in each shell. Put 1 oyster in each shell. Spread the miso mixture over each oyster and sprinkle with scallion on top of each oyster. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. To serve, sprinkle with crushed red pepper over the top.

Oyster Pan Roast with Harissa and Spicy Pita Chips
24 Maryland oysters, shucked
1 stick butter
1 cup clam juice
3 tablespoons harissa paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups heavy cream
Dash celery salt
Parsley and paprika to garnish
2 pieces pita bread, split
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon 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° F for 10-15 minutes or until crispy.
Serves:  4

Oysters Fra Diavlo with Creamy Parmesan Polenta
1 pint oysters drained reserving 2 tablespoons liquor
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon 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 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
3 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 tablespoon 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 Parmesan Polenta
2 cups of heavy cream
2 cups of chicken broth
1 cup polenta
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon 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.

Thai Red Curry with Crispy Oysters
1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
1 small chopped onion
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2-3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste, according to taste
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (14 ounce can)
1/2 cup juices from shucked oysters
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup fresh corn
1 1/2 cup fresh spinach
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
1 fresh lime
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 quart freshly shucked oysters
Oil for frying
Steamed rice
Fresh cilantro

n a sauté pan heat the oil and cook the onions, ginger and garlic, stirring as needed, for a few minutes and the onions are translucent. Stir in the Thai curry paste until mixed thoroughly. Stir in the coconut milk and the oyster liquor until mixed well. Add the bell pepper and the corn and simmer for a few minutes before stirring in the spinach, tomatoes, basil, mint and a good squeeze of fresh lime juice. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Place the flour, eggs and panko in separate bowls. Whisk the eggs with the zest of the lime. Place the well drained oysters first in the flour, then the egg and then the panko and working in batches fry them in 375° F oil until golden brown and crispy. Place them on absorbent paper.

To serve, spoon the curried sauce over the rice, top with the fried oysters and sprinkle with chopped cilantro and a lime slice if desired.