By Barbara Beltrami
There are some of you out there who know how I feel about oysters. I’m crazy about them, so much so that one of the items on my bucket list is to learn how to open them. And so serious am I about this challenge that I’ve ordered the appropriate utensils from Amazon and am now the proud owner of an oyster knife and gloves.
And there are some of you out there who also know how accident prone I am so what remains now is meeting not so much the challenge of opening the oysters but doing so without impaling myself on the oyster knife!
My favorite oyster preparation is no preparation … just opening them and slurping them raw from the shell with maybe a squeeze of lemon and/or a raspberry mignonette. In second place are fried oysters, preferably in a traditional po’boy sandwich. And then, let’s not forget Oysters Rockefeller, that elegant appetizer on a bed of spinach, doused with Pernod and baked on a bed of rock salt.
Raspberry Vinegar Mignonette
YIELD: Makes about 1/3 to 1/2 cup
1/4 cup white or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/2 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
Pinch of salt
In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Cover and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Serve with freshly opened chilled oysters on the half shell and French bread with unsalted butter.
Fried Oyster Po’ Boy
YIELD: Makes 4 servings
1 quart shucked oysters, drained
2 1/2 – 3 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 /2 teaspoon cayenne
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
1 long baguette, cut cross-wise into 4 pieces, then sliced horizontally
1/2 cup mayonnaise or remoulade sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
12 dill pickle slices
In a medium bowl, beat eggs, add oysters, stir to coat and let sit 10 minutes. In a gallon size resealable plastic bag, combine cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper and cayenne. With a fork, remove oysters, one at a time, from bag. Let excess egg drip off, then shake and toss, again, one at a time, in cornmeal mixture.
Pour one inch of oil or more into a deep skillet; heat over medium-high setting till a pinch of flour mixture sizzles; place oysters, with spaces in between, in oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes. (You may have to fry them in two batches); drain on paper towels. Spread top halves of bread with mayonnaise or sauce; on bottom halves arrange lettuce, tomatoes and pickles, then oysters; add sandwich top. Serve with fries or potato chips.
YIELD: Makes 8 appetizer servings
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup unflavored bread crumbs
1 shallot, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh spinach, washed and drained
1/4 cup Pernod
Salt and pepper to taste
Generous dash hot red pepper sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
24 oysters on the half shell
Preheat oven to 450 F. In a small-medium saucepan melt butter, add garlic and cook over medium heat just long enough to infuse butter, 2 minutes or less. In a small bowl, place bread crumbs and half the garlic butter; toss and set aside. To the remaining garlic butter in the skillet, add shallot, scallions and spinach and cook just until spinach wilts, about 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze pan with Pernod, add salt and pepper and hot red pepper sauce, then continue cooking over medium heat until liquid evaporates, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add oil and parsley to bread crumbs, season again with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Put one teaspoonful of spinach mixture on top of each oyster, then top with a teaspoonful of the bread crumb mixture. Generously sprinkle a large baking pan with rock salt; arrange oysters in the salt crystals to keep them from tilting; bake until golden, about 10 to15 minutes. Remove from oven, top with fennel leaves and serve with lemon wedges and chilled champagne.