More than 100,000 people came to the N.C. Seafood Festival to eat, play and enjoy the beautiful weather.

The Cooking with the Chefs tent, where North Carolina Sea Grant had a booth, was packed with people eager to learn how to prepare local seafood from local coastal chefs — and to taste the delicious samples that were being distributed. Outside the tent, rides, music, crafts and more food awaited everyone.

Here are some of the recipes the chefs used for their cooking sessions. For more information about the N.C. Seafood Festival and Cooking with the Chefs, go to:



Roasted Red Pepper Romesco

Cut whole peppers in halves or quarters; remove seeds and membranes. Place peppers on a baking sheet, skin side up. Place the baking sheet on a rack in the oven, about 4 inches from the broiling unit. Broil until skins are blackened. Immediately transfer the peppers to a plastic or paper bag; seal and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes. The steam within the bag will help to loosen the skins. Remove from the bag. When cool enough to handle, remove peel with hands or a knife.

A volunteer garnishes samples.

A volunteer garnishes samples. Photo courtesy the N.C. Seafood Festival.

Heat the oven to 375 F. Put the tomatoes and garlic in a baking pan. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into the cored tomato wells and on top of the garlic. Roast until the tomatoes and garlic are well caramelized but not burnt, about 90 minutes.

While the tomatoes roast, heat about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small saute’ pan over medium heat. Toast the almonds in the pan, shaking the pan or stirring so they don’t burn, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Cool the nuts on a paper towel and then put them in the food processor.

When the tomatoes and garlic are caramelized, let them cool. Pinch off the tomato skins (discard them). Put the tomatoes, peppers, chopped mint and garlilc in the processor. Add the salt, pepper and Texas Pete hot sauce and start the processor, pouring in the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil in a slow, steady stream, as if making mayonnaise. Add the vinegar, pulse to incorporate, and taste; the sauce should have some zing, so add more if needed. Add salt to taste. Process the romesco until it comes together as a sauce but not so much as to lose its coarse, nutty texture. The sauce should be thick and creamy. If it seems too thick, add 1 or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. If it’s too thin, add bread, crumbs pulsing a few more times.

Grouper Romesco

Brush with mayonnaise, add salt and pepper. Place on hot grill and cook until done, turning once during cooking. Plate with saffron rice and romesco sauce.

Saffron Rice

Melt butter in pot. Add garlic and rice let cook for 1 minute. Add stock to rice.

Add saffron, turmeric and salt. Cook until rice is almost done, take off heat cover and let stand for 10 minutes.


Fish Cakes

Fill a large pot with enough water to cover fish and potatoes. Bring fish and potatoes to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft. Drain and let cool. Add remaining ingredients to fish and potatoes in a large bowl and mix well. Hand pat into cakes and grill or fry to a golden brown.


Clams with Serrano Ham, Tomatoes & Parsley Oil

Bud Gruninger, Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe, prepares samples of cooking for the audience.

Bud Gruninger, Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe, prepares samples of cooking for the audience. Photo courtesy the N.C. Seafood Festival.

Make the parsley oil: In a food processor, process the parsley and olive oil to a puree. Let the puree stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes or for up to 1 hour, then strain it through a coarse sieve. Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare the clams: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and lemon juice and boil over high heat until almost evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add the clam juice and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover and cook until they begin to open, 3 to 4 minutes; using tongs, transfer the clams to a warm bowl as they open. Discard any clams that do not open.

Add the ham to the clam broth and season with salt and pepper. Pour the broth over the clams and sprinkle with the chopped parsley and parsley oil. Serve with crusty bread.

This article was published in the Holiday 2010 issue of Coastwatch.

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