There are few things as awesome as gathering your own food for your own meal. Gardeners know this, so do people who hunt mushrooms or game. It’s even awesome-er when you can get somebody else (The Peasant’s father & The Gourmand) to do the hard work for you.
This weekend we spent in the Hamptons. Our hopes of flounder fishing were dashed by unseasonably cold, grey, rainy weather – until the sun came out after we decided it was too inhospitable to fish. I, The Peasant, decided to go shopping with my mom and my father and The Gourmand (my husband, for you new to the blog!) decided to try catching some oysters. My dad is a seasoned bayman so, he stakes out the good spots and waits for us to arrive from the city.
I gathered new sunglasses and beach towels for our upcoming trip to the Caribbean (stay tuned for restaurant reviews) and the men folk gathered a bushel of oysters. For those of you numerically inclined, thats about 300 mollusks.
These oysters came from brackish water, meaning a place where the salty and fresh water converge. Oysters, like wine, reflect terroir – characteristics of the place where they grow. So, oysters from brackish water are not (relatively) salty. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. Sometimes you want a really salty oyster. But these were milky, creamy, silky deliciousness.
Course #1: Served Raw
Purists like myself require very little accoutrements for good, raw shellfish. A lemon was almost too overpowering for the delicate oyster. Think about cooking – if you’ve accidentally overdosed a dish you a making with salt, one solution is a squeeze of lemon juice. But, these oysters weren’t salty to begin with, so lemon was a bit heavy handed. Cocktail sauce provides a sweet-hot compliment but I literally dolloped the size of a miniature chocolate chip on each oyster. Also, there is a lot of glamour around eating oysters; slurping them right from the shell. I find that this practice invites awful pieces of rogue shell into what should be a sensual experience. So, I pick the flesh out between my fingers, place a tiny splash of cocktail sauce and place it on my tongue. No shell allowed.
Cocktail sauce in my house is a big deal. Each of us has our own recipe, own take on proportions, but the ingredients are essentially all the same: a base of ketchup, add in horseradish, worchestire sauce, lots of hot sauce and a pinch of sugar. Some have been known to add vinegar or lemon juice. Sorry I can’t provide proportions. Its a family secret.
Course #2: Fried
Shuck the oysters and allow the meat to drain in a colander. Reserve the liquor for some other devilishly good use, like Caesar dressing. Dredge each oyster in a mixture of flour and black pepper. Dunk into an egg-milk mixture. Dredge in panko breadcrumbs. Fry in very hot vegetable oil that is deep enough so that each oyster floats until golden – about 2 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve with chipotle mayo. You can usually find chipotle (chi-POTE-lay) powder in the spice section of the grocery store. Scoop an amount of mayonnaise into a dish. Add the chipotle powder and stir in between each addition until the mayo turns light pink. Let it sit for a half hour or so – the chiptole flavor will bloow in the oil of the mayo. Yum!
Here’s what it should ultimately look like:
Finally, Course #3: Oysters Rockefeller
Oysters Rockefeller looks, sounds and tastes like something served in a hotel in the 1940s. Here’s the recipe:
1 package frozen creamed spinach
swiss cheese slices cut into pieces small enough to fit on each oyster
Open the oysters and place them on the halfshell on a backing sheet lined with foil. Scoop a teaspoon of frozen creamed spinach onto each oyster. Place a piece of cheese on top of the spinach.
Broil until the juices are bubbly and the cheese is well melted.