Representing Florida seafood on national stage

Release Date: 
Wednesday, August 3, 2016

From Pensacola News Journal 

When you think about Florida and the vast culinary scene, you can't help but think about the beautiful bounties we are fortunate to have from our coastal waters. Seafood is big business in Florida, and with so many species to think about, it's hard to pick a favorite. So how does one go about selecting a seafood species to enter into the greatest seafood cooking competition in America?

The Great American Seafood Cookoff is right around the corner in New Orleans, and I have been tasked by the state of Florida to choose a favorite.

The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board started the Great American Seafood Cookoff in 2004. The event was designed to promote domestic and sustainable seafood. Each state sends a chef to represent it and their local home seafood. I am honored this year to be Florida’s pick to show the world how awesome our seafood really is!

We will be cooking for a panel of judges before a live audience. We will give a small presentation to the judges as to why we chose the dish that we did. This is very exciting to me! We considered many different fish and shellfish species, but our minds finally drifted to the graceful but often-overlooked blackfin tuna.

Look back a few words and you will see that "sustainable" is one of the keys to this competition. If you know me, you know I love cooking fish and seafood that is not in everyone’s daily mindset. I created a nonprofit last year called NUISANCE Group that focuses on many things, including sustainability in our food sources.

When I present my dish to the judges, I can proudly describe blackfin tuna as a very sustainable and underutilized fish. This tuna species prowls every coastal waterway in Florida. While somewhat darker fleshed than our more well known yellowfin tuna, the blackfin has a richer, more exotic flavor that many people overlook.

Blackfin tuna lends itself to many different cooking presentations. In crafting a competition recipe, my chef partner, Chris Kelly, and I talked about the awesome flavor trends happening in our culinary world right now. Exotic pure chocolate came up in much of our research. Southwestern-inspired flavors also are on fire!

They say that for every action there is a reaction, and as we played with all of these amazing, fiery flavors with the blackfin tuna, we had to have an alternate and opposite  “cooling” experience!

At -346 degrees, liquid nitrogen instantly freezes everything it comes in contact with. We have had great success with making extremely flavorful ice creams with liquid nitrogen. In the case of making an ice cream that would pair well with blackfin tuna, we went back to the drawing board and looked at unique ingredients that are hot on the culinary scene. We came across a great article about “black garlic.” Black garlic is a regular head of garlic that has been slowly roasted over the course of several weeks. The result is a clove of garlic that is jet-black and syrupy, with hints of chocolate and caramel. Black garlic has its uses in Asian cuisine, and this excited us with the sashimi presentation we would be using for the blackfin tuna. We decided that we would make a black garlic ice cream, and into the mix, we would add quail eggs, dragonfruit, miso paste and turbinado sugar. Experimentation began immediately and the results were amazing. We had slightly sweet, slightly salty, “chocolate”-flavored frozen custard that paired very nicely with our chocolate-cumin crusted blackfin tuna!

Our sauce combinations were our next task. We wanted to make reference to the abundance of produce that Florida has to offer. We paired fresh from Florida mangoes with Key lime juice, ginger and lemongrass to make a strikingly beautiful coulis. We then made a roasted red jalapeño sambal that we turned into an aioli. We needed a wasabi element, so we ground opal basil, wasabi, fresh mint and toasted pecans to make a very nice pesto. Our last sauce is a nod to our Louisiana hosts. We created a soy reduction using Steen’s Cane Syrup!

The event will be Saturday at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. We begin cooking at noon and have one hour to create the dish and present it to the judges. Wish us luck as we make our way to New Orleans. Better yet, the event is open to the public, so come cheer us on! I promise, we will make y'all proud!

Flora-Bama Yacht Club, 17350 Perdido Key Drive. 483-6272, or visit www.florabamayachtclub.com.

Get in touch

Louisiana Seafood Promotion &
Marketing Board
1051 N. Third St., 3rd Floor
Baton Rouge, La. 70802
Call: 225.342.0552
Email: jburas@crt.la.gov

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