Friday, March 23, 2012

Lobster Competition: Part II

Chef Pascal Sauton of Milwaukie Kitchen And Wine in Portland, Oregon.

Butter. As I made my way to the convention center to help judge the Shucks Lobster U. S. A. Chef's Competition, it was all I could think about. It's the perfect match for lobster and I couldn't figure any way around it. However, as you may recall from Monday's post, the first two dishes were not at all based around any kind of a butter based sauce. Surely our next chef, a Parisian native, would be using butter.

And , of course, he was and he was using lots of it. Chef Sauton has received national recognition in too many periodicals to mention and I was really ready for a classic French twist on Maine lobster at the Shucks Maine Lobster U. S. A. Championship held at the International Boston Seafood Show.

That laser-like tool that chef is using is actually a thermometer. Here he is checking the lobster meat which is being poached in butter and spices. On his right are a pot of mushrooms cooking that will be part of the accompaniment.

Because of a recent back injury, Chef Sauton was assisted in the kitchen by a local sous chef.

Chef puts the final touches on his plating of his dish: Wild Mushroom & Foie Gras Macchiato with Butter Poached Lobster on Fresh Crones. Don't know what crones are? Neither did the judges! This tiny, little root vegetable is a long, stubby tuber and tastes something like an artichoke, but sweeter. Interesting and unique!

The final dish. The lobster was buttery rich and the clever reinvention of the macchiato worked well. It was a classically simple and really let the lobster taste shine. Great job!

Next up was Chef Chris Gould of Uni in Boston. We were pretty much assured that we were going to get an Asian twist here and were not disappointed. Again, he began with tons of butter for his miso butter basted lobster.

As chef was preparing his dish, his culinary teacher, who made an 80 mile trek to surprise him and cheer him on at this event, stood next to me. "He always had the best chopping technique," she said. Yeah, I would have to agree.

Chef Gould preparing the roasted maitake mushroom ragout that would be served with the dish.

The lobster basting in that rich butter with miso.

The final platings of Chef Gould's dish: Miso Butter Basted Lobster with Sun Choke Pureé, Roasted Maitake Mushroom Ragout and Lily Bulb. Again, none of the judges had ever had lily bulb before. Obviously the small bulb of the lily plant, it has a crunchy texture and a flavor that resembles shallot with a hint of ginger. Great touch and interesting how similar the French and Asian takes actually were.

The plated dish. The miso added yet another depth of flavor to the buttery sauce. The ragout and lily bulb were a worthy choice to accompany the lobster. Really different and excellent.

And the winner of the coveted Buoy Award ... Chef Chris Gould of Uni! Chef Chris really did use a traditional lobster ingredient such as butter to make something that was totally unique, mixing the conventional with a brand new twist. The judges were unanimous in our choice. Great job!

Thanks to Shucks Maine Lobster for inviting me to this guest judge panel and to all the chefs who participated. It was a difficult and very close one to call.

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