Best mullet cook: Eileen Mahoney takes two prizes in The Islander Cortez Mullet Cookoff. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
She came to defend her title from 2009, when she won best overall recipe in the Cortez Crab Cookoff sponsored by The Islander in conjunction with the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.
This year’s festival theme of “White Boots Ready,” inspired a call for mullet recipes, and Eileen Mahoney came prepared with a netload of two dishes.
And she did it again.
Her “Hot Pepper Mullet” was a hit with the judges, including 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan, Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash, Bradenton Beach builder Don Meilner and Island newcomer Socko Pearson.
Dunnigan liked that it was “independent” of typical recipes. “Original,” echoed McClash. And it looks good, said Meilner, although the judges were first worried it might be “too hot” for their tastes.
No to worry though, the fresh mullet, broiled and combined with onion, celery, garlic, cream cheese, sour cream and bread crumbs, stuffed into halved jalapeno shells — sans the hot seeds — was topped with shredded cheese, and the flavor was cool, the look colorful and the taste delicious.
It was deemed “Best of Show.”
Mahoney’s “Mullet Cakes,” styled after Maryland crab cakes, also achieved success with the judges, earning first place.
While the mullet seemed plentiful in the fall, the contest entries this year were slim. And Mahoney said she had trouble this year finding fresh mullet, while last year’s crab cookoff brought complaints that crabs were hard to find.
Next year, we hope for a good harvest, better weather, and plenty of entries.
Mahoney received her certificates at center stage at the festival, along with a check for $100 from The Islander.
“I’ll be back,” she said.
Mahoney’s recipes can be found online at www.islander.org.