When the esteemed bloggers of the Let’s Lunch group agreed that our next recipe be based on an aphrodisiac ingredient for Valentine’s Day, there was no question that I would do something with oysters. Nevermind that I prepared and ate this lunch all alone, and that at T-minus 36 hours and counting I am without an actual Valentine. The irony is not lost on me, I assure you.
Now then: In Paris it seems almost sacrilegious to even talk about exposing bivalves to any kind of heat. Oysters are eaten raw, and even mignonette – that simple mix of shallots and vinegar- is frowned upon in favor of a simple squeeze of lemon, if anything at all. At the end of the day, raw is my preferred way to eat oysters. Or at the beginning of the day for that matter.
But I like them hot, too. With cooking, the oyster meat firms up and becomes meltingly tender at the same time.
I wanted to do some kind of buttery, bread crumb topping. Looking at my bookshelf I had a strong inkling that James Beard would have something to say about cooked oysters, and I was not mistaken. The original James Beard Cookbook has a dozen or so recipes for oysters, including something called Devils on Horseback – oysters wrapped in bacon and broiled. Next time.
I got to thinking that rye bread could be interesting, since that is typically what’s served along side raw oysters in France, and I remembered a dish of roasted scallops topped with croutons and lemon zest that I had at Le Comptoir once. So I started fooling around.
The most difficult part of this recipe might be opening the oysters. Some huitreries in Paris (like Régis) will do the shucking for you, and put the oysters in a special tray that keeps them from spilling over on the trip home. This is not a service offered by my local fish guy so I invested in a lancette à huitres and gave it my best shot. Here’s a decent how-to if you’re interested.
(Incidentally this video also came up in my YouTube search, so I can’t say with any certainty that the oysters were the cause of any friskiness I may or may not have felt yesterday.)
But should someone come to his senses in the next day or so, this is what we’ll be eating on Sunday.
1 oz (30 g) butter, plus a little extra for later
1/4 c finely chopped shallots (one shallot, more or less)
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 t finely sliced or grated lemon zest
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 c fresh bread (about 150 g) cut into 1/4″ cubes (pain de mie, brioche, or rye are all good)
2-3 T fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 dozen fresh oysters, shucked and left on the half-shell
Course salt for the baking dish
1. Preheat the oven to 500°, or heat a broiler. Make a bed of course salt in the bottom of a shallow baking dish big enough to hold the oysters.
2. Make the stuffing: Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper, and cook a minute more. Add the bread cubes and cook until the bread is starting to get crispy. Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley. Check for seasoning.
3. Pour off most of the liquid from the oysters (you wouldn’t do this if you were eating them raw, but too much of the liquor will make the stuffing soggy) and nestle them in the salt bed so that they don’t rock around. Top each oyster with some of the stuffing and dot each with a bit of soft butter.
4. Bake or broil the oysters for 5 minutes or say, until the oysters are sizzling and the stuffing is crisp and golden. Serve immediately.
Serves 2, unless the oysters are very small or your appetite for them is very large.