Friday, July 17, 2009

Oysters Three Ways

I love oysters. And I love to come up with creative ways to prepare them. When my friend Martin called this week saying he was in the mood for oysters and martinis, my brain went to work.

I bought two-dozen oysters: 8 Malpeques, 8 Kumamotos, and 8 Blue Points. I wanted preparations that would bring out the natural character of each of these wonderful varieties. The recipes are below.

A couple points on oysters. First, find a brilliant, fantastic, exceptional source. In the Twin Cities, I only trust fresh oysters from Coastal Seafood. Find the supplier in your city that gets the very freshest, and is 100% reliable. I've never been sick from a bad oyster, but I know people who have, and it's really not fun.

Second, buy them the day you're going to eat them. See point #1.

Third, use a stiff brush and scrub them all over under cold running water. Don't submerge them. The shell is the serving vessel, so you don't want mud, seaweed, or other unpleasantness clinging to them. Be sure to put a mesh over your drain - a lot of shell chippings and other nasty bits will come loose.

Fourth, if you don't know already, take the time learn how to properly shuck an oyster. It's really worth doing - it's not hard once you learn, and it's a lot more fun than you'd think. Watch this video, read this posting, and find someone you know who's done it before to help you.

Malpeque Oysters Old School
(8 oysters)
8 dashes Tabasco Sauce
2 tsp. horseradish
1/2 lemon

Spoon about 1/4 tsp. fresh horseradish onto each oyster. Shake on a dash of Tabasco. Squeeze the juice from the lemon over all. That's it. The Malpeques are meaty and briny. They love this traditional combination of flavors, standing up well to the boldness of these ingredients.

Kumamoto Oysters Japanese Style
(8 oysters)
6-8 shiso leaves (shiso is a Japanese herb that tastes vaguely like cumin), cut into tiny shreds
1+ tsp. wasabi paste
3 scallions, trimmed and minced fine - all of the white plus 1/2" into the green part
2-3 drops soy sauce per oyster

Top each oyster with a bit of shiso and scallion, and 1/8 tsp. (i.e., a small amount) of wasabi paste. Dribble each with 2-3 drops of soy sauce.

I invented this recipe for a bachelor party several years ago. The milky, creaminess of the Kumamotos loves the earthiness of the shiso. The scallion and wasabi add a little brightness. Kumamotos aren't as briny as some oysters, so the little hit of soy adds further depth, plus some salt. This is a nearly perfect way to eat raw oysters.

Blue Point Oysters Southwestern Style
(8 oysters)
2 T minced red onion (minced very small)
2 T fresh raw sweet corn cut from the cob, carefully cleaned of silk and bits of husk
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 T fresh lime juice
~1 tsp. chili powder (see the note in this posting for my homemade chili powder)
8 cilantro leaves

I love broiled oysters. They don't really cook - just get warm. This combo had a slightly funky fragrance, but tasted fantastic.

Combine onion, corn, garlic and lime juice in a small bowl. Stir well and let marinate for 30 minutes 0r more while you shuck the oysters.

Heat the broiler to high. Cover a small sheet pan with foil, then pour in about 1/2 cup or more of kosher salt or rock salt. This will form a bed for the oysters preventing them from tipping and spilling their juices. Carefully place the oysters on the salt, keeping them from spilling their liquor.

Spoon a half-teaspoon or so of the marinade onto each oyster. Sprinkle a couple pinches of chili powder over each. Broil for 1-2 minutes until just warm. The won't brown or bubble - just get a bit hot on top. Remove from oven and top each with a cilantro leaf.

The Bombed Goose
Mix 2 shots Bombay Sapphire gin and 2 shots Grey Goose vodka in a martini shaker with ice. Shake (don't stir), pour into a martini glass, add 2-3 olives.

This, for me, is the perfect martini. Exceedingly smooth, icy cold, it pairs wonderfully with oysters.

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