Friday, February 12, 2021

Keep On Shuckin’.

The Hawthornes love their oysters and I believe we’re on our sixth bushel this season. 
So, before the season ends, go get you some oysters and try these two presentations.
Oysters on the half shell.
The green ones are spinach based.  The red ones are paprika accented.
I make these a lot and there’s no real “recipe.”  They might vary a bit from batch to batch.  But I’m giving you the basics here and you can follow along, or you can adjust and modify a bit.  Either way, the oysters are going to be excellent.

Oooh.  Would you look a-there.  Got a bonus!  At the bottom right.
These are crab slough oysters.  And that’s pronounced “sloo.”  
The crab slough oyster is unique in that it is home to a critter called a pea crab.  Quite edible, and in fact considered a delicacy, the pea crab is sort of a freeloader in the oyster.  The oyster is a filter feeder, and the little crabbies which inhabit the oysters get first dibs on whatever comes their way.  

During my research, i.e. Googling, I discovered that “crab slough oyster” refers to not the crustacean, but to a location.  From  “The Outer Banks Cookbook: Recipes and Traditions from North Carolina’s Barrier Islands:”

Crab Slough is in Pamlico Sound at the southern end of Roanoke Island near Wanchese. It is a well-known area for harvesting prime oysters because the water, being near Oregon Inlet, is slightly rough. Because of the rough waters only single oysters, rather than large clumps, are formed. The water is rather brackish giving the oysters a deliciously salty taste. Frequently very tiny pea crabs, a gourmet treat when eaten whole, are found residing in the oysters.

   And now you know. 

    I’m preparing around 2 dozen oysters - whatever will fit in one of those large baking sheet pans.  Just keep on shuckin’ till you fill it up.  Half spinach.  Half paprika.  All wonderful.

       Spinach topped oysters:  
(Enough for a dozen oysters give or take.)
2 TB butter (I always use unsalted.)
2 TB finely chopped onion
big handful of spinach, chopped 
1-2 TB finely chopped fennel (optional, but I like the slight anise flavoring it provides)
splash of cream
grated mozzarella cheese
Ritz crackers, crushed
more butter
Note:  Amounts can be adjusted.  You can figger this out!

In a small skillet, melt the butter.  Add in the onion, spinach, and fennel and cook over medium heat for about a minute.  Pour in the cream - just enough to pull it all together.  Heat through and turn off heat.

Place a little of the spinach mixture on each oyster.
Add a little mozzarella, then top with the crushed Ritz.  (You could use breadcrumbs or some other cracker, but I like the buttery Ritz.)  Place a small pat of butter on top.

Run under the broiler until the crumbs are slightly browned.  Doesn't take long.  Say 450° for 5 minutes, but it depends on whether the oven is already heated and the distance from the element.  So, WATCH it!  Remember, you can't undercook an oyster, but you can overcook one.  I like my oysters juicy and sweet and salty and plump and overcooking overrides any of that.

Paprika Oysters
(For 1 dozen oysters, give or take.)
4 TB butter
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cayenne (Optional.  If you want a bit of bite, go ahead.)
Parmesan, grated
 panko breadcrumbs

Melt the butter and and stir in the paprika, sugar, and cayenne.
Spoon over oysters.  Grate Parmesan cheese over top then sprinkle breadcrumbs.
Run under a 450° broiler until cheese is melted and crumbs are golden brown.


No comments: