Sunday, 8 July 2007

What Did The Oyster Say To The Clam When He Asked Her Out? Aww, Shucks.

Oysters are bivalves (a mollusk that have a pair of hinged shells) that has enjoyed a popular history. Those crazy early Italians (the ones from Rome I think) loved these things for their aphrodisiac qualities. Me too. On the other side of the world, early East Coast Canadians depended on them to get by with their awful winters. Good for bed and survival.

If you think a Chocolate Chip Cookie and Milk makes for a great
marriage, well, oysters can have multiple spouses: lemons, limes, freshly grated horseradish, lemongrass, chilies, champagne or white wine (Muscadet particularly) and Worcestershire Sauce. Use it any way you like: in an appetizer, or on it's own, or in a stew, soup or pasta.

Shucking can be tricky. A thick cloth will do. Don't be nervous about it. Just try it. The knife (you have to buy one!) is inserted at the hinge and cranked into one direction. Pop it open and retain as much liquid (some chefs call it Liquor) as possible, severe the vein, top with your favorite garnish and voila! Just looking at these photos and writing about it makes my want to run to the market and grab a whack of them (I like Malpeques with Tobasco).

There are a whack of oyster recipes out there, but if you go through the trouble of buying them and shucking them, go ahead and take the plunge and try it raw.

However, for those who can't swallow it, Oysters Casino is a popular classic.If you are unfamiliar, the fresh oyster is shucked and broiled (cooked with radiant heat from above) garnished with butter, bacon, shallots, parsley and pimiento. Yum.

Or, something much easier is Angels On Horseback: wrap each oyster with a small piece of bacon secured with a toothpick. In a very hot oven, bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until bacon is crispy. That's it. Crowd Pleasing 101.

I often make a salsa to top the oyster with.

Ginger Tomato Relish

1 small piece of Ginger, finely grated
1 Roma Tomato, innards removed, finely diced
Drop of Sesame Oil (A drop! The stuff is strong)
Drop of Soy Sauce(A drop! The stuff is salty)
1/2 a Red Onion, finely diced
Small Bunch of Cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 Lime, juiced

6 Oysters, washed

Combine ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour. Mix again and adjust seasonings.

Shuck oysters and top with salsa.

Serve on ice immediately.

Variation: If shucking isn't your thing, you can steam the oysters in wine and add the leftover liquid to the salsa. Simply place in a soup pot, bring a splash of wine to a boil, cover and let cook until oysters open up. If they do not open, discard.

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