October 5, 2011

Seafood makes a splash

This year, Harvest on the Harbor celebrates some of the food world's lesser known and underappreciated fish.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Cassady Pappas, chef at Havana South in Portland, knows that people think of fish sticks when they hear the word "pollock."

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Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Chef Cassady Pappas says Atlantic pollock makes a great fish taco. At Havana South in the Old Port, he soaks pollock in buttermilk and breads it in flour, salt and chili powder before frying.

Additional Photos Below


ALL EVENTS will be held at Ocean Gateway,

14 Ocean Gateway Pier (off Commercial Street), Portland. For information and tickets, visit harvestontheharbor.com.


IF YOU HAVEN'T bought tickets to the Lobster Chef of the Year competition or the Top of the Crop farm-to-table contest at this year's Harvest on the Harbor well, it's too late. Those events sold out some time ago. But there are still other things to see and do at Portland's annual food and wine festival, which is expected to attract 5,000 people this year.

THE ULTIMATE SEAFOOD SPLASH on Oct. 20 is focusing on sustainably-harvested but under-used seafood, but there will also be plenty of familiar seafood to try at the event when you're not downing a pollock taco or Spanish-style pickled whiting. Also on the menu will be Maine oysters, blue mussels, soft-shell clams, scallops, rainbow smelt, trout and sea vegetables.

THE POPULAR Grand Tasting will be held the night of Oct. 20, featuring Maine chefs serving up small tastes of their restaurants' food. There is always plenty of wine to sample along with whatever creative bites the chefs have come up with for this year's event.

MAINE FOODIE TOURS will be offering walking and trolley tours as well as a chocolate tour all weekend long, stopping at various businesses around town to sample Maine-produced foods. For a schedule of tours, go to harvestontheharbor.com or mainefoodietours.com.

THE LAST DAY of Harvest on the Harbor is always devoted to the Marketplace, a kind of culinary flea market where people roam from display to display tasting artisanal food and sipping wine, beer and spirits.

THERE'S ALWAYS LIVE MUSIC and cooking demonstrations at the Marketplace, from presenters such as Michael Ruoss of Salu restaurant in New Orleans. Cookbook signing events will include authors Kathy Gunst, Dana Moos, Linda Greenlaw and Kate Schaffer.



WHEN: Noon to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 20



WHEN: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 20



WHEN: Oct. 22. Session 1 will be noon to 2:30 p.m.; Session II will be 4 to 6:30 p.m.


INFO: harvestontheharbor.com



NEW ORLEANS CHEF MICHAEL RUOSS will be serving this modified version of barbecue shrimp using northern shrimp from the Gulf of Maine at the Ultimate Seafood Splash:

Serves two as an appetizer

1 cup northern shrimp, about 8 ounces, peeled and patted dry with towel

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1/4 cup beer

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 ounces cold butter

3 tablespoons minced chive

Mix shrimp, garlic, salt, chili powder and black pepper in a bowl. In a hot medium saute pan, saute shrimp in vegetable oil for 1 minute. Remove from pan.

Place saute pan back on the fire. Add beer, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce, then reduce on high heat for 2 minutes. DON'T let the pan go dry! When liquid is reduced to about a third of its original volume, add shrimp to pan and continue cooking for 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat, and slowly stir in cold butter.

Serve hot. Garnish with chives.

Dish can be served with French bread, biscuits, cheese grits, polenta, pasta, etc. Makes a great appetizer for two.

But Atlantic pollock is not the same thing as Alaska pollock, the fish that goes into fish sticks, imitation crab meat and other seafood products in the grocery store that many people think of as "filler fish."

That's not Atlantic pollock's only image problem.

The flesh is a grayish color that turns some consumers off. But when it's cooked, it turns white like cod or haddock.

"It's very similar to cod and haddock, and I think it's a great way to showcase a species that isn't over fished right now," said Pappas, who has been using pollock to make fish tacos at Havana South. He soaks the pollock in buttermilk, then breads it in flour, salt and chili powder before frying.

Pappas will be making his fish tacos at the Ultimate Seafood Splash at Harvest on the Harbor in Portland on Oct. 20. Four other chefs will be joining him in preparing dishes made from seafood that's harvested responsibly but doesn't have the culinary cachet of halibut or flounder.

In addition to pollock, the event will showcase redfish, whiting, northern shrimp and farm-raised cod.

Scientists at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute have been working on a project they hope will raise public demand for these species, which in turn would make them more profitable for local fishermen. By connecting fishermen with chefs, the project is teaching the former how the fish need to be handled in order to be served in restaurants.

Events such as the Ultimate Seafood Splash serve as a public education component so home cooks and restaurant customers can learn there's plenty of flavor in these least fashionable of fish.

Here's a look at each of the species and how the chefs plan to use them at the Ultimate Seafood Splash:


These sweet, tender shrimp have become much more sought after in the past few years as chefs and home cooks have come to appreciate their delicate flavor. But fishermen still only get about 40 cents per pound for them, says Sam Grimley, coordinator of the Sustainable Seafood Project at GMRI.

Michael Ruoss, a New Orleans-based chef who grew up in Old Orchard Beach and has worked for celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, returns to Harvest on the Harbor festival to work his magic on northern shrimp.

Ruoss says that, despite living in Maine for many years, this is his first experience cooking with the tiny shrimp.

"I'm going to do a version of what we call barbecue shrimp down here, which has nothing to do with any kind of barbecue you've ever heard of," he said. "It's a local dish. It's also like a scampi, but it's got a lot more flavor going on than just garlic and lemon juice and butter. It's got Worcestershire sauce and beer and chili powder, and a lot of coarse ground black pepper.

"It's really rich and intense, and with the northern shrimp, the cook time is literally, like, two minutes."

Ruoss will be serving the shrimp with French bread at Harvest on the Harbor, but it can also be served over grits, angel hair pasta or polenta.


Sam Hayward has served both Atlantic mackerel and redfish at Fore Street in Portland, and his first choice for the Ultimate Seafood Splash was mackerel -- another one of the under-used species the GMRI is trying to promote to restaurants and the public.

But mackerel is out of season this time of year, and it doesn't freeze well, so redfish -- also known as ocean perch -- has replaced it on Hayward's Harvest on the Harbor menu. Redfish is usually available year round, but it comes closer to shore in summer and fall, according to Grimley.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Chef Cassady Pappas assembles pollock tacos at Havana South.

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Whiting is a small white fish with a season that runs from about July through November. Chef Mitchell Kaldrovitch, who serves the fish at the Sea Glass restaurant at Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, says whiting is less flaky than other members of the hake family and forms a beautiful crust when it’s pan seared. In Europe, whiting is served whole and is deboned right at the diner’s table.


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