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Oysters Buffett

Fresh Local Seafood

One of the best things about living in this part of the country is the ready availability of fresh regional seafood. It is easy to find a variety of salmon, Pacific halibut, shrimp, clams, oysters and Dungeness crab. Most can be found at the local grocery store. Still, I am not above claiming that we need to take a trip to the coast to pick up the freshest seafood even closer to its source. It provides a great excuse for a nice day trip or an overnight getaway.

Last weekend was just such an occasion. It was Valentine’s Day weekend and I planned a seafood dinner to accompany some locally produced Pacifique absinthe I recently acquired. The herbal and anise notes of the absinthe work well with the flavor of oysters and other seafood and so I planned a dinner around those flavors.

I seldom cook with oysters. The only ones I have ever used, even then, came in a jar. I have eaten some great oysters, though. One of those occasions was a fantastic weekend in Astoria, Oregon where I faced down my fear of bridges as well as my fear of raw oysters. We had a wonderful dinner followed by lunch the next day, at Clemente’s, where I sampled oysters in a variety of dishes both raw and cooked. I fully enjoyed every oyster I ate that weekend.

Rich Flavors, Updated

Though I am no longer squeamish about raw oysters I admit that, in general, I still prefer to eat them cooked. And, I must admit, I am still squeamish about serving uncooked oysters myself. I really don’t understand oysters well enough to feel confident about serving them raw. So, when I brought home a half bushel of oysters last weekend my husband definitely wanted to cook them.

That worked for me since I wasn't as interested in recreating an authentic version of the whole rich-butter-laden-bacon-enhanced -creamed-spinach-topped-Oysters-Rockefeller-thing as I was in borrowing the primary flavors and adapting them to the tastes of those who would gather around my table.

This recipe interprets the rich flavors of classic Oysters Rockefeller with an updated take on the quantity of fat and freshness of the ingredients. The spinach here is wilted, not creamed or cooked until mushy. It is added, along with a splash of absinthe, to shallots and garlic sauteed in butter. The steamed oysters, topped with the spinach mixture, crumbs and a dusting of Parmesan are then lightly browned and served warm.

Oysters Buffett

2 dozen fresh oysters in shell
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons butter
8 ounces baby spinach, washed and roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon absinthe (or anise flavored liqueur)
pinch of salt
ground pepper to taste
dash of Tabasco
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan

Clean oysters by scrubbing the shells with a stiff brush.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add spinach and sauté until wilted. Stir in absinthe, salt, pepper and a dash of Tabasco and remove from heat. Set aside.

Bring several inches of water to a boil in a large covered pot fit with a steaming basket (if you have one). Once boiling, add the oysters to the basket (or simply add to the water if you don’t have a basket) and cover the pot. Steam the oysters for 5 – 10 minutes or until the shells open slightly.

Drain the oysters and, using an oven mitt or towel to hold each oyster carefully, remove the top (flat side) of the shell and discard, revealing the oyster. Run a table knife under the oyster to release if from the bottom (cupped side) of the shell but leave it resting loosely inside.

Place the bottom half of the shell with the oyster in it on a large baking sheet. Top each oyster with a scant Tablespoonful of the spinach mixture.

Stir together the bread crumbs and Parmesan. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the top of the spinach mixture.

Place the oysters in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes or until the crumb mixture begins to brown. Place oysters on a serving dish on a bed of kosher salt, if desired.

Serve and enjoy!


Cathy said...

These oysters looks fantastic, Lisa. I don't eat them very often, but know I would love this preparation. I'm keeping this recipe for a special occasion.

grace said...

i'm too much of a coward/baby/pansy/what-have-you to eat oysters at all, but my stepdad is hilarious--he'll only eat one if he knows the exact age and source. he's picky too--he rarely accepts the offering. i think he'd tolerate these though. :)

Christi Krug said...

Oysters always make me think of The Walrus and the Carpenter. "'Oysters? Oh, Oysters?' But answer came there none. And this was scarcely odd because they'd eaten every one!" Beautiful post, as always.

Janine said...

These look amazing!! I made oysters rockefeller for my husband many years ago and haven't since. Wish I could get them as fresh as you do!!

George Gaston said...

Lisa, for my next dinner party I am going to have to serve this as one of my appetizers. What a spectacular "buffet" pleaser this will be.

I really enjoy your blog and I look forward to browsing through your past post. Every thing is creatively presented.

Many thanks for this terrific oyster recipe idea...

Anna said...

Wowzers! Those look utterly divine.

matmedmera said...

Hi! Nice blog!
I tried oysters this year för first time with lite tabasco.It was really god and yoyrs looks amazing