More oysters!

oyster-stew-with-trufflesSince my last oyster fest occurred on the same days as the Women’s March, one of my guests couldn’t be here so, since there was a “leftover” truffle, it’s happened again. Fortunately I was able to get more oysters though they seem to be in very short supply around Durham these days.

It was oysters poached in their liquor and black truffle and black pepper cream poured over them just as the edges curl. Immediately popped into warmed bowls. No waiting around for anything–they need to be eaten right away! Fresh briny bites of ocean with earthy black truffle, and just a hint of black pepper piquancy.

The wines  that we had today–since there were three of us–the 2013 vintage of the one we had last time, with a verdicchio (never had it before, but it was recommended by a good wine shop as likely to be good with this dish).

Domaine des Gandines, Macon-Peronne Blanc, Burgundy, 2009 vintage with the last batch of oysters just a couple weeks ago was excellent. Today it was the 2013 vintage was “fresh” and not nearly so complex as the 2009–it certainly wasn’t bad (is it possible to have a “bad” white burgundy?) but I’ll look for an older one to go with the next batch of oyster stew (if it has truffles in it).

385762The Tenuta del Cavaliere, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Marchetti, 2013  was very slightly fizzy and excellent with the oyster stew. It was the unanimous favorite of all of us of the two this evening; however, I think that my favorite so far is an older burgundy that is more complex.

We ended with a sampling of liqueurs from Brothers Vilgalys  and a tiny taste of blueberry/lavender chocolate from Chuao Chocolates. Definitely satisfied and replete!

It seems that I’m lucky enough to have found two oyster eaters who also enjoy conversing about food and wine! The makings of a perfect meal though the search for the perfect wine goes on, and oysters offer so many possibilities. There will be oysters next winter, but who knows how they will be fixed. That’s part of the pleasure–planning and then eating!

Ò¿Ó

The oysters that I had today put out much more liquid than the last batch, so I have a “leftover” to deal with: cream infused with black truffle and black pepper. I’m thinking potato soup, perhaps? Or…we’ll just see what evolves. It will be good whatever happens. And now the planning starts for next year’s oyster tradition.

 A son gôut!

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Winter oyster tradition continues

As I’ve posted before, oysters with special wine are a Christmas and New Year’s tradition in my home. When I finally got it back together from the C. difficile, it was way past prime oyster season. But it is again prime oyster season so my thoughts are turning to oysters and wine. Eating oysters on the half-shell recently at Burger Bach (yes, they “do” excellent burgers, and oysters) really got me thinking about oysters in a very serious way. Even though I’ve not made it for either Christmas eve or New Year’s eve, I still intend to have my winter oysters. I’d arranged to share with two good friends who are also oyster lovers–but we had to reschedule first because of snow and horrendous cold, and then, again, because all the snow and cold left Durham essentially without oysters!

I’ve done some fun things with oysters: oyster and corn chowder, and a in 2013-2014, with black truffle (good friend gave me truffles) and experimented with some wines.  I liked the “surf & turf” combination so well that I’m continuing it this year as well.

I’ve started the hunt for wine for this winter’s oyster feast. So far the wines recommended are:

2011 Pouilly-Fuisse (Gilles Noblet, France)

“Gilles Noblet, Pouilly-Fuisse, Burgundy, France, 2011{sustainable} 100% Chardonnay EXOTIC FRUITS, DRIED CITRUS & WHISP OF VANILLA Thirty year old Chardonnay vines provide the heart and soul of Noblet’s Pouilly Fuissé, right from the village of Fuissé. This area was originally comprised of negociant producers and Gilles Noblet was the first in his region to independently bottle his wine under his own name. This style is racy, rich and elegant with hints of kiwi and pineapple fruits. The finish goes on and on and on… Serving Suggestion: White Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay and this one is extremely versatile. A perfect match for dishes with heavy cream sauces.”  From Wine Authorities.

2013 Macon-Peronne (Gandines, Domaine des, France)

domaine-des-gandines-macon-peronne-burgundy-france-10338034“100% Chardonnay FULL & FLAVORFUL, LEMON, HAZELNUT, CARAMEL. SERIOUS! Gandines really surprised us with this compelling, and serious White Burgundy. Fully ripe and lush, but with juicy acidity and complex minerality. This kind of power usually comes from the big boys north of the Macon in the Cotes de Beaune. Aged in enormous 3000 liter old oak barrels that soften the wine without giving it any oak flavor, it is possibly the most impressive Chardonnay available at this price! Serving Suggestion: Steamed or raw oysters. Black sea bass poached in olive oil with fresh thyme. Roast turkey with truffles or chanterelles.”  From Wine Authorities.

Tenuta del Cavaliere, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Marchetti, 2013 

385762“Verdicchio is central Italy’s most distinctive white varietal. The mineral-rich soils of the Classico Superiore sector of the Marches’ Castelli di Jesi zone – just a few miles from the Adriatic Sea – imbues the finest Verdicchios with extra complexity and a deeply etched soil signature. A radiant green-gold in the bowl, Marchetti’s Verdicchio shows all the minerally snap pea and smoky white pepper notes that we so love in the very finest Verdicchios. The wine’s smoky mineral expression yields to a fleshy core of pear and melon fruit backed by riveting acidity, a tactile mineral expression, and suggestions of green tea, grapefruit zest and sappy dried herbs. Full bodied yet balanced and elegant, Marchetti’s Verdicchio begs for rich vegetarian recipes and fish steaks. Pair it now and over the coming five years with hearty fare that calls for a bold white wine, like swordfish, fresh albacore tuna, rabbit, zucchini casseroles, white pizzas, and pastas dressed with olive oil, garlic and seasonal vegetables. Impressive Verdicchio! ” Found this one at Hope Valley Bottle Shop.

Finally, the weather is cooperating, and I’ll be eating oysters on Saturday evening. I haven’t yet decided which wine will accompany this round of oyster stew with black truffles!  I keep reading the descriptions of each and just can’t decide, but I do know that three is too many–I have to make a decision.

 

Holiday tradition

I don’t really get into the commercialized Christmas–in fact, it’s definitely a bah humbug time of year as far as I’m concerned, but I do have some holiday traditions that I observe. As you might guess, food is involved in at least one of them.

Photo of the top of an oyster

from Wikipedia

It’s not holiday time without oysters. On Christmas eve and for New Year’s eve or New Year’s day. This tradition goes back more years that I’ll admit–to childhood. I’ll eat oysters almost any way you put them in front of me; the only way I don’t like them is overcooked–which happens all to often with oysters. So, I usually eat my oysters at home where I can cook them myself.

My usual Christmas eve oysters are something that I learned from my grandmother–she called it oyster stew, but I soon learned that what she did was a far cry from what most people call oyster stew. I’d be reluctant to consider eating oyster stew  at most restaurants.  I’d be expecting (and probably get) a bowl of milk and perhaps, with luck, an over-cooked oyster or maybe three, and those weird little crackers.

I guess I really shouldn’t call what make for myself oyster stew–there are way too many oysters and not enough milk–it’s really just some oysters poached very gently in cream with some seasonings.

One of my holiday rituals is deciding what I’m going to use for seasoning with the oysters this time around.  Although oysters, cream, a black peppers, and a bit of salt is always good, it is fun to try different combinations.  I’ve use chilli peppers to spice things up a bit, or Pernod and/or fennel with oysters.  I still have a few days to decide what it will be this year.

While I’ve been skulking about the web looking for unique ideas, I found a delightful blog that I need to share with other oyster lovers out there:  The Oyster’s my World.  There is a great list of informational books, websites, and even oyster-related apps here–a good starting place if you wish to explore the world of oysters.

Now, back to the web to “design” the oyster dish for this Christmas eve, and to select an appropriate wine.

Oyster-corn chowder

I’m an oyster lover!  One of the few Christmas traditions that I do keep is Christmas eve with Handel’s Messiah, and oysters in some form.  I got this tradition from my grandmother–Christmas was oyster time.  My uncle would drive to the coast and bring home a bushel of oysters on Christmas eve day.  We had oyster stew (more like poached oysters the way my grandmother made it) on Christmas eve, and fried oysters on Christmas day.  I don’t do the fried oysters, but I’ve staunchly held onto the tradition of having oyster “stew” of some sort on Christmas eve with friends who also love oysters.

I’m always looking for recipes for oyster chowder, or the like, so that I can try something new while oysters are in season.

This year’s oyster chowder is one of my absolute favorites from Jacques Pepin Celebrates (pp.19-21).  I’m so taken with this recipe that I wanted to share it with any of you out there who love oysters.  I think that you’ll also like the little cornbreads with it.

Oyster-and-corn chowder with small cornbreads 

Small cornbreads (8 individual servings)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sliced leek (or shallots)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk

(To make preparation easier, you can combine all the dry ingredients ahead of time so that all you have to do is add the wet, mix, and spoon into muffin tins. )

Preparation

  • Preheat the oven to 425 ° F
  • Using 1/2 tablespoon of the butter, butter your muffin tins or pans.
  • Melt the remaining butter in a small skillet and sauté the leeks or shallots over medium heat about 90 seconds, and cool.
  • Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl
  • Add the wet ingredients:  egg, milk, and finally the sautéed leeks or shallots and stir well.
  • Divide among your pans.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until set and nicely browned.

Chowder

Ingredients

  • 3 dozen oysters, shucked with liquid retained
  • 3 cups corn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium leek, trimmed, quartered, and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 or 4 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and finely chopped
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt (more or less depending on the saltiness of the oysters)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives

Preparation

  • Check the oysters, removing any shells, and return to the liquid
  • Heat the butter in a heavy pan, and add onion and leeks.
  • Sauté over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes, or until translucent, but NOT browned
  • Add garlic, stir for 20 or 30 seconds until it smells fragrant.
  • Add milk and cream.
  • Bring to a boil. (You can quit here, cool, and hold in refrigerator until you’re ready to make the chowder.)
  • Bring back to a strong boil (if you’ve prepared this in advance).
  • Add corn (in winter, substitute frozen for fresh–I think that it’s better than supermarket corn-on-the-cob.  I particularly like the white shoe-peg kernels. For frozen, I rinse in a strainer under cold water and drain well to at least partially thaw it.)
  • Turn the heat down to medium to medium low–you do not want to boil this again now.
  • Add oysters and the oyster liquid.
  • Heat until the temperature reaches about 170 or 180 ° F  at the most.
  • If you’re not using a thermometer your want the edges of the oysters to just begin to curl.  Don’t boil it–the oysters will turn tough and harshly flavored.
  • Should any scum come to the surface, skim it away.
  • Add the chives, mix well, and serve with the cornbreads.

(This recipe is easily cut down or doubled, but I usually make the whole amount and just have it as the main course, with a salad (bitter greens, mesclun, and fruit and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano to follow).  I like champagne with this–as awesome treat for a special evening.

Variations:

  • Add some chipotle chili power or ancho chili powder to taste.
  • Add minced red bell pepper, and/or poblano for a red and green touch.  I would  not add green bell pepper to this as their flavor is too bitter/green  to complement the oysters.
  • Add minced ripe jalapeños or Serrano to give just a hint of heat.  This is not a chowder that you want to have much heat.  It should be gentle on the tongue!
  • Substitute shallots for the leeks.

A son goût!