We had a few friends over this evening to enjoy each other's company while the snow piled up outside. We couldn't decide what to serve; stew was too predicatble. Soup? Sure. In fact, we whipped up another batch of the tortellini soup from last night (we got a higher-quality spinach and splurged for the black Angus ground sirloin. What the hell, it's snowing out!) But we needed something else to start off with.
For whatever reason, my mind recalled a time when I had a single green Gironde oyster in San Francisco. Just one. At $7 a pop, a dozen seemed a far, far shot. Besides, where quality of flavor is concerned, one of something is more than enough to savor the experience; over-consuming overwhelms the taste, and leaves you with a lesser impression anyway.
For those who haven't had a green Gironde oyster, they really are something special. By French standards (as they are from the French Atlantic), green oysters must spend at least two mature weeks in their oyster bed, and have a population density of no more than 20 oysters per square meter. Only the Spéciales de claire stays longer (over twice as long), and has a smaller population density (10 per square meter). They are delicious, and "bien équilibrées"; providing a well-balanced taste with smooth flesh texture. As for serving them, hard-core enthusiasts insist you chew them "natural," with no additional sauces or dressings. For those not quite as fervent for the little bi-valves, a vinaigrette with shallots or a lemon sauce is dee-lish. Of course, the high-society way to nibble on the little guys is to eat an oyster (chewing for only a moment to release the flavors), take a sample of crusted bread (a la baguette), and a sip of a dry white wine. Repeat as necessary, or until you are mistaken for a debutante or ambassador's well-wisher.
While at our local Whole Foods, I spied a 16-ounce container of same-day-caught Maryland oysters. They may not be Gironde, but they are fresh, and that makes ALL the difference. Lightly-crumbed and sauteed, they were delightful with nothing more than a twist of lemon and a moderately-chilled glass of Sonoma Chardonnay.
(modified from MacGourmet)
18-20 fresh oysters, drained
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp telicherry pepper, coarsely ground
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
A pinch of lemon thyme or lemon grass (just a pinch to accentuate the lemon juice served with them.)
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
Drain the oysters. Mix the dry ingredients together. Coat both sides of each oyster and put on paper towel for two or three minutes. Heat oil and butter in a frying pan until hot but not burnt. Brown oysters on each side and remove from heat. Serve with your favorite sauce and a glass of chilled vino.