Food network chef Michael Smith slurps back an oyster while during a cooking demonstration "Shellfish 101" at the P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival Friday. Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
It doesn’t take much to cook a tasty three-course meal of only shellfish when you’re on Prince Edward Island.
Food Network chef Michael Smith showed a group of tourists that first-hand Friday during the P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival at the Charlottetown Event Grounds.
Lobster, oysters and mussels, all fresh from the province, were cooked up with volunteers during the “Shellfish 101” session.
The celebrity host of the festival kept the audience and six volunteers laughing throughout the demonstration, all the while promoting the Island shellfish he was cooking.
Part of the beauty of Island shellfish, said Smith, doesn’t lie in taste or sustainability, but rather the simplicity.
“It’s so easy to cook,” he said. “I want to show you just how simple it is to cook our famous lobsters, famous mussels and famous oysters,”
Smith’s six volunteers, who were dressed in potato bags and Anne of Green Gables pigtails, all hailed from out of province including; Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and even California.
While they were all “from away,” none were unfamiliar with P.E.I.’s products.
“I grew up on this stuff,” said John Lucas of Newfoundland.
One of the other volunteers remarked that P.E.I. shellfish is “one of the best in the world.”
“It’s the only shellfish in the world,” said Smith without skipping a beat.
Smith explained the reasoning behind why P.E.I. oysters are so popular, noting that oysters grown elsewhere are often subjected to water that picks up minerals from stones.
“Prince Edward Island is basically a giant sandbar,” he said. “Our water flows over that sand and doesn’t pick up all those mineral flavours and that’s why our oysters taste so good.”
The shellfish demo saw a number of other tips, including the basics of how to shuck oysters, and remove rubber bands from lobster claws without feeling the crustacean’s wrath.
While easy to cook, Smith also shared a number of small pointers to make the flavours pop.
One of those tips was to cook lobster in salty seawater.
However, with many participants living near freshwater lakes or no water at all, he had another tip.
“One cup of salt to a gallon of water will get you pretty close to the ocean,” he said. “That might sound like a lot of salt but trust me that’s how we do it.”
Apart from the shellfish, the demo also included Island grown potatoes, raspberry cordial, and the province’s infamous moonshine.
The festival tent was packed with hundreds for the session.
When asked by Smith to raise their hands if they were from out of province, more than half shot their arms up.
The 18th annual festival, which runs until Sunday, is the largest signature event of the Fall Flavours festival.
The rest of the weekend will see international shuckers and chefs compete for 24,000 in prizes.
More info and a schedule of events can be found online at www.peishellfish.com.