“Parties in the Springtime” with Chef John Shields and Andrea Farnum



John Shields and Mary Hastler
Chefs Mary Hastler and John Shields | Photo by Katie Sprague Photography

Spring celebrations abound this season. From Easter and Passover to graduations and the Preakness, the months of April and May are ripe for delicious entertaining.

If anyone knows about entertaining, it’s Chef John Shields, cookbook author and owner of Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen, and Andrea Farnum, the “Kitchen Goddess.” You may remember this dynamic duo from Maryland Public Television’s “Coastal Cooking with John Shields” program. The two are reuniting for a special “Parties in the Springtime” episode of “Chesapeake Farm & Bay to Table,” a popular virtual cooking series produced by Harford County Public Library and Shields’ nonprofit, Our Common Table, and hosted by Shields and Mary Hastler, the library’s CEO. The May 11 “Parties in the Springtime” program will explore easy-to-serve menu and decorating ideas for spring celebrations.

Andrea Farnum
Andrea Farnum | Vernonica Walls Photography

The cooking series began with Hastler’s desire to provide programming for library customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hastler approached Shields with the idea to create this virtual series, now in its second season. Each episode takes viewers to Maryland’s farms, fisheries and businesses and spotlights the region’s rich culinary heritage. To view the program, log onto the library’s website, hcplonline.org, to sign up to receive a virtual link to the program.

“Chesapeake Farm & Bay to Table” complements Our Common Table’s mission to create initiatives and support partnerships that inspire communities to live, learn and protect the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay region. Learn more by visiting hcplonline.org/ farmbaytotable.php and ourcommontable.org. Go online to baltimorestyle.com for more from our interview with the “Chesapeake Farm & Bay to Table” team.

Crispy Rockfish Tacos with Lime-Jicama Slaw and Avocado Cream
Makes 4 servings

For the Rockfish Tacos:
Lime-Jicama Slaw (recipe follows)

Rockfish tacos
Photo courtesy of David Harp Photography

1 pound rockfish filet
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon chipotle powder
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Oil for frying
16 fresh corn tortillas
Avocado Cream (recipe follows)
Salsa Fresca (recipe follows)
Julienned radish, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

For the Lime-Jicama Slaw:
1 cup shredded cabbage
½ cup shredded or julienned jicama
¼ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup julienned carrots
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
3 tablespoons mayonnaise

For the Avocado Cream:
2 ripe avocados, peeled and
pit removed
½ cup sour cream
Juice of ½ lime
Pinch of ground cumin
Salt to taste

For the Salsa Fresca:
3 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
½ red onion, finely diced
1 serrano chili, seeded and minced
1 jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro

For the Rockfish Tacos:
1. Prepare the Lime-Jicama Slaw (recipe follows) and refrigerate 1 hour before serving.

2. Cut the rockfish filets into 1 ½-inch chunks. In a bowl, mix the flour and the seasonings and blend well. In a large skillet, pour oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches and heat until quite hot. Dust the rockfish pieces in the flour and shake off excess. In batches, fry the fish until golden brown and cooked through, turning once. Remove the pieces of fish with a slotted utensil and allow to drain on paper towels. Keep warm.

Rockfish tacos
Photo by David Harp Photography

3. While cooking the fish, heat a dry (not oiled) cast-iron skillet and warm the tortillas for about 30 seconds on each side. Wrap tortillas in a damp towel and keep warm while heating the rest of the tortillas.

4. To assemble the tacos, place a spoonful of slaw in the center of each tortilla, followed by several pieces of fish and a dollop of Avocado Cream (recipe follows). Garnish with a teaspoon of Salsa Fresca (recipe follows) and julienned radish. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

For the Lime-Jicama Slaw:
Mix ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour before serving.

For the Avocado Cream:
Place avocados in a bowl; mash well. Stir in remaining ingredients; mix well. Cover; refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Salsa Fresca:
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.


Strawberry Paloma
Makes 2 servings

Slices of grapefruit, for coating
Coarse salt for the glass rim (optional)
1 ½ to 2 ounces tequila blanco
¼ cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice or lime juice
¼ cup strawberries, chopped, plus extra for garnish, whole and sliced
Plain sparkling water with a little simple syrup as desired (instead of simple syrup, you can use honey or agave nectar as an alternative sweetener)
Grapefruit soda, club soda or grapefruit-infused sparkling water

Strawberry Paloma
Photo by Veronica Walls Photography

1. Run a grapefruit slice along the rim of a cocktail glass. Salt the rim of the glass by
dipping rim onto a small plate filled with coarse salt. Set aside.

2. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the tequila, grapefruit or lime juice, chopped strawberries and desired sweetener.

3. Fill glasses halfway with ice and a few strawberry slices. Pour the Strawberry Paloma mix in the cocktail shaker over the ice. Use a strainer over the glasses to catch any strawberry debris that was muddled. Top with grapefruit soda, club soda or sparkling water. Stir to combine.

4. Garnish glasses with a strawberry slice.

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