Celebrate the season with these culinary pearls

By on December 18, 2013

oyster1

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
Ernest Hemingway – A Moveable Feast

Ahhh. The oyster — a veritable treasure of the sea. Crassostrea virginicas. Is there a more perfect food? You can eat the oyster raw. You can steam it. You can grill it. You can sauté it. You can bake it. You can broil it. You can poach it. You can fry it. And you can eat oysters all day long – from breakfast to lunch to appetizer to dinner.

During this season of Christmas celebration, I’m celebrating with oysters. Here’s a Rosie Tip: You can never undercook an oyster, but you can easily ruin an oyster by overcooking, which toughens the oyster and diminishes its flavor.

I’m deliciously starting off my day with Oyster Pancakes.

Oyster Pancakes
Makes 6 pancakes.
6 oysters, shucked
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 dried hot red pepper
2 scallions, chopped
Chives, chopped
1 tsp rice wine
1 grind of Kosher salt
4-5 grinds of pepper
3 TB flour
2 TB unsalted butter
1 TB oil
Sriracha sauce
Fresh cilantro

oystercakesShuck oysters and slide them into cold water for 15 minutes.
Mix egg, yolk, pepper, scallions, chives, rice wine, salt, and pepper.
Pat oysters dry. Place in a bag with the flour. Shake to coat, then add oysters to egg mixture.
Heat butter and oil in skillet over medium heat. Ladle one oyster per pancake mixture in skillet. Lightly brown the first side, then flip over.
Serve with Sriracha sauce and chopped cilantro.

On a cold, windy, December day, nothing satisfies and comforts more than a bowl of steaming oyster chowder. This one benefits from the addition of clams. There’s seafood in every spoonful.

Oyster and Clam Chowder
3 dozen oysters, shucked and liquor reserved.
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 potatoes, diced and I don’t bother to peel
1 large onion, chopped
1 TB oil
3 TB unsalted butter
4-5 fresh bay leaves or 2 dried
1/3 cup flour
51 ounce can of clams with juice
1 cup heavy cream
Fresh parsley
Fresh tarragon (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg

ChowderIn a stock pot, heat the oil and 2 TB butter. When butter sizzles, add in the diced potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes until they’re just starting to get tender. Stir occasionally to scrape up any sticky bits. The starch from the potatoes will help thicken the chowder.
Add in another tablespoon of butter and add the celery, onions, and bay leaves. Cook for about 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
Add in the flour, stirring for about one minute to cook through. Slowly add in the clams and their liquid, stirring gently, letting the mixture thicken.
Add in the heavy cream and heat through. Test a potato for doneness.
Add in oysters and their liquor and heat through.
Season to taste with freshly ground sea salt and pepper.
Remove bay leaves.
Ladle into bowls and serve with a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley and tarragon, oyster crackers, grated nutmeg, freshly ground pepper, and a few squirts of paprika infused oil.

Hot Paprika Infused Oil
3 TB hot Hungarian paprika
6 TB vegetable oil

Toast hot paprika in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking and tossing for a couple of minutes. Add in oil and heat through. Let cool slightly and pour into a plastic squeeze bottle. Keep refrigerated. Heat up in hot water when ready to use.

One of my favorite toppings for oysters on the half shell is creamy spinach and Parmesan cheese. Here’s a version of my Oysters Hawthorne. Remember, whenever you put toppings on your oysters on the half shell, tread lightly. You don’t want your toppings to overpower the delicate flavor of the oyster.

Shuck your oysters, retaining the oyster liquor in the shell. When I run my oysters under the broiler, I set my oven at 300° on broil. The oysters go on the top rack, approximately 7-8 inches under the broiler. I broil them 3-4 minutes, depending on whatever topping I have and the size of the oyster. You want bubbly.

oyster2Oysters Hawthorne
24 oysters, shucked
4 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
2 TB unsalted butter, melted
1 TB sherry
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 TB unsalted butter
A few grinds of pepper
1 TB minced red and green pepper
2 TB minced red onion
¼ cup heavy cream
Grated Parmesan, light grating
Panko bread crumbs, light dusting
Outer Banks SeaSalt

Melt 2 TB unsalted butter in a small bowl and add in sherry. Reserve.

Fry up the bacon and drain on paper towels. Discard the bacon grease.
Add 1 TB butter to pan, melt over medium heat, and add in the chopped spinach, minced red onion, and minced peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until spinach is slightly wilted. Pour in enough heavy cream to coat the spinach. Heat through.
Brush each oyster with the butter and sherry mixture. Add a spoonful of the spinach mixture on each oyster. Top with crumbled bacon and a light sprinkling of grated Parmesan and Panko crumbs.
Run under the broiler until browned and bubbly.
I don’t usually salt my oysters. They already taste like the ocean. But I’ve found that adding a few flakes of Amy Huggins Gaw’s Outer Banks SeaSalt enhances the natural brininess of the oyster.

oyster3Oysters in Butter Sauce
2 dozen oysters, shucked
4 pieces bacon, fried and crumbled
4 TB unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 TB chopped parsley
2 TB Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce or Texas Pete

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add shallot and parsley and sauté for a minute or two. Stir in Worcestershire sauce. Pour butter sauce over each oyster and put a few drops of Tabasco or Texas Pete on each. Run under the broiler until bubbly.

For a tasty variation of the above recipe, I like this version of oysters on the half shell, which includes cheese and panko.

Oysters On The Half Shell Version 2.0
oyster4For 12 oysters.
Shuck oysters, retaining oyster liquor.
Mix together:
4 TB melted unsalted butter
1 TB Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
6-8 drops Texas Pete or Tabasco
Put a spoonful of butter mixture on each oyster. Add a sprinkling of grated mozzarella and a dusting of chipotle panko. Run under broiler until light browned and bubbly.

My next offering is Oysters Rancheras. Mr. Hawthorne cans his own Salsa Ranchera and I use that, but you could use your favorite salsa.

oyster5Oysters Rancheras
Your favorite salsa
Grated Mozzarella cheese
Chipotle panko breadcrumbs

Place a dab of the salsa on each oyster. Top with a light grating of Mozzarella and a light dusting of chipotle breadcrumbs. Remember – do not overpower your oysters.
Run under the broiler until bubbly and lightly browned.

My day of oysters is ending on a lovely note — champagne and oysters! Now, if I put some melted butter and crabmeat in there, that would be just plain decadent.

Oysters with Crabmeat and Champagne Sauce
oyster612 oysters, shucked
½ cup champagne
1 TB shallots, minced
1 cup heavy cream
3 TB unsalted butter
¼ cup crabmeat
Juice of ½ lemon
Panko breadcrumbs

Mix champagne and shallots in a small sauce pan and heat over medium low until reduced by half. Add in heavy cream and again reduce by half.
In another pan, melt butter. Add in crabmeat and lemon juice and heat through.
Spoon champagne sauce over each oyster. Add a spoonful of the crabmeat. Top with Panko breadcrumbs. Run under the broiler until lightly browned and bubbly.

Celebrate the oyster and celebrate the season! Be sure to stop by Kitchens Are Monkey Business for my annual Rosiethon of Christmas baking. I’ll be baking about two or three dozen of my tried and true cookie, fudge, and bark recipes, plus I’m always on the lookout for new goodies to add to my Christmas Platters.

The Hawthornes’ Christmas kitchen is the place to be for the Holidays!

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