Local chef Devin Finigan of Stonington’s Aragosta restaurant participated in the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance’s Seafood Throwdown at the Common Ground Fair in Unity on Sunday, September 22.
The event, cosponsored by NAMA and Penobscot East Resource Center, was designed to promote community supported fisheries and especially underutilized species like red fish, said Penobscot East Fisheries Policy Associate Patrick Shepard.
“For example, hake is a common fish here in Maine, and it’s one of those species people often turn up their noses at,” said Shepard. “But it’s sweet, it’s a gorgeous fish, and you can do a lot of different things with it.”
The “throwdown” was originally supposed to be an Iron Chef-style competition between two chefs, Finigan and Portland’s Courtney Hill of Eventide Oyster Co. Unfortunately, Hill was sidelined on her way to the competition by a non-serious car accident, so Finigan ended up putting on more of a demonstration than a competition.
At the start of the “competition” the “secret” seafood ingredients were revealed to be red fish, haddock and rock crab. Finigan was also allowed to bring three ingredients from her restaurant, and she brought Four Season Farm’s eggs, white wine and all-purpose flour.
Finigan was then given $25 and 15 minutes to buy vegetables from the local farmers’ market. In a follow-up phone interview, she said she picked up red pepper, fennel, leeks, Greek goat yogurt, goat milk, rainbow carrots, watermelon radishes and spinach.
With that, she filleted and charred the haddock and the red fish, and made vegetable agnoletti. She also cooked the rock crab in white wine and served the crab atop carrots.
Shepard said he and fellow judges, including NAMA board of directors member Amanda Beal, fisherman Ed Snell and a lucky audience member, were very pleased with Finigan’s dishes. Other audience members were also able to taste test the meal, and Shepard said “there was a rush from the crowd” when it was time for sampling.
For her part, Finigan said while she was disappointed that she missed out on the competition portion, the event was a good one for her.
“My favorite part is to educate people that you don’t need all the time in the world to cook from scratch,” she said, noting that the time limit for the competition was one hour and she made a fish stock and fresh pasta in that time. “People may not think of it, but they’ve got the time.”