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.

 

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Turkey–with truffle butter

Thanksgiving does have its good points–getting together with friends! There’s another positive thing, especially if you are like me, someone whose favorite part of the turkey is the dark meat: you can find turkey thighs in the grocery store. That means dark meat in quantities suitable for cooking for one.

Perusing my food-related emails a few days ago I found one from D’Artganan–my favorite source of foodstuff that can be hard to find (e.g. the cassoulet  ingredients–no, I didn’t say it was inexpensive). There was a link to a delightful video on preparing your Thanksgiving turkey using truffle butter. (Attempting not to drool on my keyboard.)

You’ve seen from some of my previous posts that I really like truffles (not the candy–well, those, too, but…), even in my comfort food. In my attempts to be frugal and still indulge my tastes for the expensive stuff I do skulk through the “manager’s specials” and those carts full of end-of-season bargains. Sometimes I’m lucky and find an indulgence elsewhere. Not long ago I found a small tub of truffle butter at my local supermarket–marked down as it was lingering with the cheese and spreads, but not past it’s sell-by date. Needless to say, it came home with me–some of just have no willpower when it comes to food!

20161119_165833After seeing the turkey with truffle butter video, realizing that I had truffle butter, and turkey thighs to hand, I decided to try  turkey this way. I decided (since I was roasting all dark meat) to use my Schlemmertopf  for this. I carefully loosened the skin over my turkey thighs, and as directed in the video, put bits of truffle butter under the skin. After soaking the clay cooker properly, I patted my turkey thighs in, sprinkled some kosher salt over them, and put the pot into a cold, 300ºF oven for about 2-1/2 hours–until they were nice and brown, and very tender. (Many recipes will suggest oven temperatures of about 450ºF, but I chose to use a lower temperature because dark meat can tolerate longer cooking, and it often tends to be tough. I wanted slower cooking to break down collagen and make my turkey really tender.

The skin did shrink away from the edges of one of the thighs–I would rather have had one big thigh instead of two small ones, but it seems those haven’t hit the stores yet. Size and skin shrinkage aside, I had some lovely dark-meat turkey nicely flavored with black truffle. Turkey my way!

A son gôut!

Christmas eve–oysters!

Christmas eve tableI think my Christmas spirit has finally arrived!

I have the Messiah playing on WCPE, the oyster liquor is working its way through the coffee filter.  The sliced black truffles have steeped in warmed heavy cream  for several hours.  The half-and-half is warming. The cava (recommended by Randy at the Wine Authorities for this particular dish) is chilled and waiting to have the cork popped. There is a nice ripe sedge of Chaumes coming to room temperature.  A neighbor is coming to share the meal with me. The serving bowls are in a very low oven so that they will be warm for serving.

Note that this is intended to be a serious meal of oysters–not appetizer, or a light bowl of soup.

Poached Oysters with Black Truffle Cream

Ingredients

For the black truffle cream:

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 0.7 ounce jar of sliced black truffles, drained and oil reserved
  • grey sea salt, a pinch

For the poached oysters

  • 1-1/2 or 2  pints of select oysters with liquor (strained)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • grey sea salt to taste

AssemblyOysters

  1. A couple of hours before you want to serve this, warm the heavy cream (to about body temperature or just a hair above that). Drain the truffles, add to the warm cream and let stand and steep until ready to poach the oysters–or make the oyster stew if you prefer. (Reserve the oil for another use
  2. After the cava is open, and you’re nibbling on the cheese, warm the half-and-half to a brisk simmer or a very gentle boil, add the oysters and the liquor, remove from the heat and stir very gently. (People must wait on the oysters, not the other way about, so you can really be the center of attention with this one.)
  3. Watch the oysters carefully and as soon as the edges begin to curl very slightly add the reheated truffle cream and stir gently.
  4. Serve immediately with more bubbly, and lots of good bread. (Be sure that your serving bowl are warm when you serve the oysters.

Sorry–no pictures–this dish needs to be eaten immediately!

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I love oysters, and truffles.  The inspiration to combine them for my Christmas Eve tradition came from Le Chef’s Kitchen. I wanted  the flavors to contrast: the earthiness of the truffles and the briny flavor of the oysters so I didn’t think that poaching the oysters in the truffle cream would give me that. As it turned out, adding the truffle cream just as we were ready to eat worked perfectly.  Plump tender briny oysters and the contrast of the truffle cream was fantastic–kind of a “surf and turf” effect.

We had   	Cava, Brut Nature Gran Reserva Cava, Brut Nature Gran Reserva “Coquet” (Mestres, Heretat, Spain) with this.  The cava was excellent–bold enough to stand up to the oysters and truffle flavors, but not quite the perfect combination that I’d hoped for. Both of us though the wine needed–well, we’re not sure just how to say it–I though maybe something a little “darker”, not quite so sharp and “bright”. Maybe I need a still wine with this rather than bubbly, though it’s a classic with oysters.

(We liked the cava;  I’ll certainly buy it again to drink with something else–but obviously I have to continue the search for the perfect wine to accompany this dish. (You do realize that I was very pleased with this combination–and it will definitely be repeated as it’s now on my list of favorites.)

A son goût!

Serious, easy comfort food….

Surely one of the easiest comfort foods must be a baked potato. I don’t mean just any old baked potato. It has to be one that has never had aluminum foil mentioned in the same room with it, rubbed with oil, popped into the oven at about 325°F until the well-scrubbed skin is almost crisp.

Pulled from the oven, x-ed on top and smushed open, given a minute or two for steam to escape, just a tad of butter added–it’s so good!  Probably, in my estimation, the ultimate comfort food–even more than mac ‘n’ cheese.

Want to make it some seriously “gourmet” comfort food?  Add some fleur de sel, or another fine specialty finishing salt. For a great account of salts of the world, you should check out Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral by Mark Bitterman. Just a pinch of a finishing salt adds a very special touch.

Some truffle oil and/or butter, or shaved truffle over the lovely baked potato is awesome.  If you go so far as the truffle butter (or not) a glass of champagne goes well with it and helps induce an aura of comfort in a serious way.

If it’s a meal you want, rather than just comfort food, add some steamed broccoli, and maybe even some cheese–some pepper jack or Havarti will melt easily over the top–just lay thin slices over the hot potato–never mind making cheese sauce here.

Sumptuous but simple.

A son goût!

Treasure from the “manager’s special” grocery cart!

Sometimes I stop at the front of the grocery store and rummage through that end-of-season, after-holiday stuff: the green and red candied cherries, and the like.  I seldom find anything that I want to bring home with me so I’m not always consistent about checking it out.  I have to thank an observant friend and neighbor for a “find” in that cart recently: truffle oil (from Tuber melanosporum, the Perigord black truffle)!  She thought I might like to know about it–and a phone call sent me scurrying off to the grocery store to check it out.

image from Wikipedia

black Perigord truffle

I was pleasantly surprised to find two  8.54-ounce cans of La Tourangelle black truffle oil languishing amongst the mounds of candied cherries, candied pineapple, and other post-Christmas goodies.

Even at the price marked before it ended up in the manager’s special cart,  I would have tried it–but at half that, it was a true no-brainer–$4 and a little change.  I came home with two cans–one to share with a fellow foodie so that we can be creative with it. So did I bring home treasure or not?

I’ve had the good fortune, in one of my previous careers, to have had experience with freshly harvested black truffles from Garland Truffles here in North Carolina, so I know that they should smell like. I was trying not to expect too much from my little bargain–a bit of the expect-the-worst pessimism, so that I might be pleasantly surprised.

It’s hard to describe the aroma of fresh black truffles–but I’ve experienced it, so I was almost expecting to be disappointed when I opened that can of truffle oil. I guess it was a bit of you-get-what-you-pay-for, and I sure didn’t pay much for this. I was hoping for that rather ethereal, woodsy, moist, warm aroma, that makes you say “Wow, what is that?”   It’s just unforgettable once you’ve experienced it.

When I popped the seal and smelled that truffle oil,  I was even more pleased with this find–the aroma was all it should have been–woodsy, earthy, moist (not damp, moldy, or musty though), and warm,  in a way that set me right out in the woods in the sunshine.

A little searching on the Internet I found the La TourangelI website--with an amazing array of artisan flavored oils.  After checking prices on the web, I realized that I really had an amazing bargain.  I’m not sure what the original price was in the grocery store, but I spent $4 and some change for the can, that had another price of a bit more than $8.  The cheapest price I found online was at least double that latter price, and I’d say that’s not overpriced given the per-pound price of Tuber melanosporum!

I love truffles, but they aren’t usually on my budget, so this is fantastic to have that much truffle oil–truly a rare treat.  I’m still thinking of things to do with it–incredible fun for a foodie!

What have I done so far?  Well, one of my favorite combinations is truffles and potatoes.  My favorite decadent treat?  Take one properly baked russet potato (no foil anywhere near it and not microwaved either), and add some truffle butter.  Okay, I didn’t have truffle butter, but this oil had a strong enough flavor that mixed with some softened butter, I came very close to the truffle butter than I had made  when I had access to fresh truffles.  Then, add some earthy, yeasty Champagne, and it is awesome.

Then, I’ve drizzled a bit over a lovely steak–yum!  And added a few drops to my omelette–and (as claimed by La Touranglle) the flavor stood up well to the heat necessary to cook  the omelette, though I’d certainly not expose the truffle oil to high heat.

What next?  Well, I’m contemplating possibilities for combining this with another of my favorite foods, oysters.  I’ve looked at recipes for truffled oyster stew, and found some possibilities…but who knows what will be next…maybe a bit added to a grilled cheese sandwich (preferable made with raclette).

It’s time for improvisation in the kitchen.  A son goût!