Nine chefs competed in the annual oyster recipe contest, and Chip Alich of the Marriott emerged the winner with an ncredible dish featuring parmesan and cornmeal-encrusted oysters with pancetta, Honshemiji mushrooms, and tangerine thyme emulsion. Second place went to Chef Damal Mattson of Bishop Gadsden for his tropical Caribbean oyster and third to Chef Cooper Thomas of Sea Island Grill at Wild Dunes Resort for an oyster and artichoke flan with apple-smoked bacon, sweet potato puree, and malt-encrusted select oysters.
Parmesan and Cornmeal-Encrusted Oysters with Pancetta, Honshemiji, and Tangerine-Thyme Emulsion
15-20 select oysters
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
3 Tbs. finely chopped parsley
1/2 c. pancetta (1/4-in. dice)
1 1/2 c. Honshemiji or Beech mushrooms (stems trimmed)
1/2 c. grape tomatoes halved
juice of 10 fresh tangerines
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 lb. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh thyme
For the sauce: Begin by reducing the tangerine juice in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium to low heat. Once the juice has reduced by half, add the heavy cream and continue reducing until the mixture begins to thicken. At this point, begin adding butter slowly, allowing it to become emulsified with the cream and juice. Once all the butter has been emulsified, add the fresh thyme and season lightly with salt and a little sugar. Allow the sauce to remain in a moderately warm area to avoid separating.
For the oysters: Combine the cornmeal, parmesan, and parsley in a small mixing bowl, being sure to incorporate the ingredients thoroughly. Toss the oysters in the breading and coat evenly. Immediately fry at 325 degrees for approximately one minute to avoid overcooking. Remove from grease and season with salt and pepper.
For the rest: In a small sauté pan over medium high heat, add a small amount of butter. Add pancetta to melted butter and allow it to warm and render the fat. Next add the mushrooms and sauté one to two minutes. Finally, add the tomatoes and only allow them to heat through and sweat slightly. Season with salt and pepper.
To assemble the dish: Using a small, tall-sided bowl, place enough sauce to coat the bottom, add a small amount of pancetta mixture, and finish by placing the oysters over the top. Garnish with some finely sliced scallions.
Yields four portions.