by Sally Cohen
His office desk was more cluttered than usual over the past few weeks, but Chef Al Paris took it all in stride as he pored over the 50 or so entries he received, some as old as 100 years, for the recipe contest he recently conceived.
“I’ve gotten old Xeroxes, torn sheets of paper,” explained Paris, “I can’t believe what people sent me! Some of the recipes are really old; some are handwritten family ones, really incredible to look at. It’s been overwhelming and humbling.
“Some customers hand-delivered their recipes with a care and reverence I just can’t describe,” added Paris. “Heirloom recipes to me are living memories. People were handing me something prized and precious from their family, and almost all of the recipes have a story behind them, a tradition. It’s been fascinating. From day one that’s what Heirloom has been about, our shared food traditions, and I had over 50 of those traditions entrusted to me for this contest —amazing! I never thought we’d get that many recipes!”
One of those hand-delivered recipes came from Nancy Pugh of nearby Erdenheim, who brought Chef Paris a recipe that she had been making for over 25 years of family summers in Ocean City, NJ. “Mrs. Pugh’s Summer Lobster Pot” was Paris’ choice as winner of the 2012 Heirloom Fine American Cookery Recipe Contest.
And so, beginning June 20, Paris adapted Pugh’s recipe for Heirloom and serve up a large bowl of lobster, smoked chicken, clams, mussels, roasted fingerling potatoes and summer corn in a buttery, Old Bay broth.
“We found this recipe, handwritten, tucked in an old family cookbook,” said Pugh. “It came from a friend about 25 years ago, and it’s become something of an occasion when we make it every summer. We actually schedule the making of ‘The Lobster Pot,’ as we call it, in advance, so no one will miss it. Everybody loves it!”
“Mrs. Pugh’s Lobster Pot really showcases fresh summer ingredients,” said Paris, “and I’m honored to be able to put it on Heirloom’s Summer Menu. The basic recipe is so terrific, I barely have to tweak it.”
Pugh’s winning recipe won her dinner at Heirloom for up to eight people, as well as a place on the restaurant’s Summer Menu.
There were a host of enticing entries, according to Paris. “We got some really good recipes for meatloaf, pound cake and all sorts of cobblers, bean dishes, dips, carrot casseroles and several versions of chopped liver! We also got a recipe for a pavlova (a fruited meringue cake), and something called ‘Pineapple Coffee Chicken,’ which I also found interesting. But ‘Mrs. Pugh’s Lobster Pot’ was the perfect recipe to debut on the first day of summer.”
Heirloom is located at 8705 Germantown Ave., in the Top Of The Hill Plaza, and serves dinner every night but Monday as well as Sunday brunch. More information at www.heirloomdining.com or 215-242-2700.