A friend (a very good friend) brought me a grocery bag full of pecans today. Usually they gather 40 or so 5-gallon buckets of pecans. This year, only eleven. And I got one. I was told about this year's short harvest of pecans at Island Farm in Manteo when Mr. Hawthorne and I visited this month. Between the squirrels and Irene, there were very few pecans there. Pecans at the Teeter are $9 for 8 ounces so I'm sitting on a gold mine here.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
It's in the 70s today. The sun is shining. We have a bushel of oysters in the fridge. Time to fire up the grill. Rosie is doing oysters two ways today: Oysters Hawthorne and Oysters a la Rosie.
Oysters Hawthorne on the left. Plump, juicy, sweet, briny oysters draped in a spinach mixture and topped with Panko and Parmesan. Oysters a la Rosie on the right. Buttery sweet grilled oysters with a sprinkling of Parmesan.
Before one gets to sit down to this, one must shuck the oysters.
This means you get an anatomy lesson on the oyster.
The oyster is a mollusc. It is an organism in the phylum Mollusca - an invertebrate animal with soft, unsegmented body, usually enclosed in a calcereous shell.
The oyster is composed of shells called valves, hence this is a bivalve mollusc. The shorter of the valves is called the right valve (top shell above); the longer and more concave valve is called the left valve (bottom shell above). The oyster is more pointed at one end, seen above on the right. This is called the anterior end, or umbo, and it is the oldest part of the oyster. This is the end you attack to open the oyster. The posterior end on the left is larger and curved.
To shuck an oyster, I set it on a nice pillow of towel and hold the oyster with one of those rubber jar-openers. The oyster here is in the same position as the oyster in the picture above this one; that is, the posterior end is facing left, the umbo is facing right, the shorter right valve is on top, and the curved, longer left valve is on the bottom. Carefully insert the tip of the oyster knife in the hinge between valves and twist. The pressure will pop the oyster.
Move the knife around the upper edge of the right valve until you get to the adductor muscle.
Slice through the adductor muscle and you have shucked an oyster. That's the adductor muscle in the shorter top shell, called the right valve. The adductor muscle is a prominent organ situated in the posterior region of the oyster body. Its function is to open and close the shells. Relaxation of this muscle allows the shells to open. The mantle is a thin layer of tissue that lines the inner part of each valve. It contains glands that extract elements from the water and convert them to compounds that make up each valve. Calcium carbonate makes up about 98% of each valve.
The oyster is rotated so its anterior end is on the right. Dorsal and ventral sides are determined by internal anatomy. The dorsal side is on the top, which is the location of the rectum and anus. The ventral side of the oyster is on the bottom, which is the location of the gills and mouth. The gills are directly underneath the mantle on the ventral side. The gills are the oyster's largest organ. Along with the mantle, it is the chief organ of respiration. The gills create water currents, collect food particles, and also serve during spawning by separating masses of eggs into individual ova for more efficient fertilization. Now, let's eat some oysters! First, I'm preparing Oysters a la Rosie, grilled, buttery oysters.
The topping: heaping cup of grated Parmesan cheese I use Il Villagio from the Teeter. Until I find one I like better, I'm sticking with this. 1 TB sugar 1 TB paprika Mix all together.
Humor me. You know I like my action shots.
I liked the pretty color of the paprika.
I have 2 dozen shucked oysters in the background, the Parmesan mixture, and 1/2 stick melted butter.
Mr. Hawthorne placed the oysters on the grill and spooned the melted butter on top of each oyster and I followed behind, topping with the Parmesan mixture.
Close the grill for about 2 minutes, or until the oysters juices start bubbling.
This is one of my favorite ways to eat oysters. I love the buttery goodness and the hint of sweet from the sugar along with the warmth and smokiness of the paprika. I just tip the posterior end in my mouth and slurp all this down. What? You weren't paying attention to my anatomy lesson?
Feast on the oyster.
It's a thing of beauty.
On to Oysters Hawthorne, a spinach preparation loosely based on Oysters Rockefeller. Oysters Rockefeller was created at Antoine's, the renowned New Orleans restaurant, in 1899 by the proprietor, Jules Alciatore, son of the founder (in 1840) of Antoine's, Antoine Alciatore. Oysters Rockefeller were so named because of the extreme richness of the sauce and because, at the time, John D. Rockefeller was then the richest man in the world. Jules developed this dish as a substitution for snails, since the snails were in the face of a shortage, and the oysters were locally available. The original recipe is a secret and though many restaurants claim to make Oysters Rockefeller, Antoine's claims no one has been able to successfully duplicate the recipe. Apparently, Jules Alciatore took the original recipe with him to his grave and all we have now are assumptions based on descriptions of the original dish. The trademark green color of the original dish is thought to be from spinach, although Antoine's chefs have repeatedly denied the original used spinach. Most recipes today recommend the addition of Pernod, an anise-flavored liqueur; however, Pernod hadn't been created yet. It is very likely that the original 1899 recipe used absinthe, for which Pernod was later substituted when absinthe was banned in 1915. As for Pernod, Henri-Louis Pernod opened his first absinthe distillery in Switzerland in 1797. In 1805, Maison Pernod Fils was founded in eastern France by Henri-Louis. In 1915, production and consumption of absinthe was prohibited in France and Pernod Ricard, now a world-wide conglomerate, was created from Maison Pernod fils. Pernod Ricard produces Pernod Anise and Ricard Pastis, both anise-flavored liqueurs. Since nobody really knows the original Oysters Rockefeller recipe, I'm making up my own. Oysters Hawthorne. I'm not particularly fond of anise-flavorings, although I love basil and appreciate tarragon in small doses, so my recipe has no anise-flavoring. It does have spinach and lots of other lovely flavors which I'm about to share with you.
Oysters Hawthorne 2 dozen shucked oysters 1/2 bag fresh spinach, chopped 1/2 onion, chopped 1 stalk celery, chopped 1 garlic clove, minced 5 TB butter, unsalted 2-3 TB fresh parsley, chopped 2-3 TB chopped leftover bacon and ham for breakfast 2 TB white wine 2 TB heavy cream 1/2 cup grated Parmesan 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Chop the onion and celery.
Melt 3 TB butter over medium heat and add in celery and onion. Cook about a minute.
Add in chopped spinach.
Add in 2 more TB butter. Cook another minute or two until spinach is wilted.
Add in white wine and cook 2 minutes.
Add in cream.
Stir to combine. Keep warm.
Half a cup, probably more, grated Parmesan. 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs A couple tablespoons chopped parsley and chopped bacon and ham.
First, I spooned the spinach mixture over the oysters.
I happen to like this picture.
The spinach mixture filled 2 dozen oysters.
Top with bacon and ham.
I think this is so pretty. As much as I love a nekkid oyster, I love a properly dressed oyster.
Combine the Parmesan and the Panko.
Sprinkle Parm & Panko over top and pop under the broiler. I can't stress the importance right now of not moving away from your broiler. To avoid "accidents." I set my broiler temperature around 300-325 degrees because I have a very hot broiler. Your broiler temps may vary. So pop the oysters in, turn the light on, pull up a stool, and watch. Three minutes usually. But don't make the mistake of leaving the oysters thinking you can go do the sinkful of dishes, because you can't.
Perfection. I don't care about Oysters Rockefeller, since nobody knows exactly what it is. I like Oysters Hawthorne.
I'm so glad I found that bottle of absinthe I'd stashed away. Post Script: The Ever Alert Marion sent me this: Nice oyster post. But having sustained a number of oyster injuries (wasn’t it an oyster knife in your hand that sent you to the hospital?) Yes, Marion. Sadly it was. See here. I was wondering if you should point out that 1) oyster shells are razor razor razor sharp, 2) an oyster knife is not the same as any old knife, and 3) if you don’t have an oyster knife the old Julia Child church-key method works pretty well. I believe you just pointed that out. Thank you. Well said, Marion. Well said.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I never cared much for marshmallows. No s'mores for me. No toasting the fluffy clouds on a stick over an open fire with Jack Frost nipping at my nose. But put some marshmallows on top of a sweet potato casserole with butter and brown sugar and pecans and something magical happens. I nuked a slice of my gateau de crepes and a serving of sweet potatoes for lunch. Don't you love the marshmallow bubbles? This is comfort food for me at the highest level. I relished this. And I found out something I never knew before: Broccoli and melted marshmallow is quite the winning combination. You did not hear me say that.
Posted by Rosie Hawthorne at 8:58 AM
Monday, November 28, 2011
I started taking pictures of the Hawthorne critters when they first came home for Thanksgiving. I'm just now getting around to posting them.
There's certain joy tinged with a definite sadness in the house. At least for me.
There is the joy of having all my Hawthornlets and their critters home for the holidays, and there is the sadness of not having Dixie with us this year. Dixie always liked Thanksgiving. She loved all the smells emanating from my kitchen. She would always lie on her bed in front of the slider and watch me at the counter as I prepared our meals. I missed watching her watching me. I miss Dixie.
Giada is a nurturer. Giada always comes and licks his feet and face.
Giada and Junior do this all day long.
June Bug takes 5.
Giada likes to lie in Dixie's old bed.
Daughter Hawthorne brought me a live Norfolk Island Pine and I decorated it, in the loosest sense of the word so I'd have a little something Christmasy for Thanksgiving. Why buy an already dead tree to decorate when I can kill this one on my own?
Dogwood likes swatting at the lights. This was after Nana had given him a snort of the 'nip.
Beau is a handsome beast. Middle Hawthorne wants to breed him so if anyone knows of a female American Bull Dog out there suitable for an arranged tryst with Beau, please email me.
Junior's line stops here.
Junior is one of a kind.
Beau is nothing if not subtle. He wants to get in Mr. Hawthorne's lap. It starts with a casual touch.
Beau's testing the waters. He gets bolder.
Yup. It's working.
Posted by Rosie Hawthorne at 4:17 AM