All those lovey-dovey cuddly people who celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s been a couple of days, so are they gone?
Good. Because we were going to share this recipe and talk a bit about oysters, but didn’t want to get mixed up with all those posts about aphrodisiacs. Yes, oysters are considered aphrodisiacs, and have most certainly been on the minds of all those who are lovesick, but we hadn’t been paying attention to any of that because we’re actually sick sick.
Sniffling. Sneezing. Coughing. Aching. So we can’t do anything but wish we had scarfed down three dozen oysters last week.
Right. See, despite what the haters argue about the paradox of “immune-boosting” foods and supplements, we’re going to stick with the idea that certain foods and supplements, beyond just those all-around-healthy foods that make you grow up all big and strong, help your body fight illness. Echinacea. Vitamin C. Zinc.
Zinc appears to have some antiviral effect (although researchers can’t explain why), so when it comes to immunity, oysters are everything and the kitchen zinc. Six oysters provide 32 mg of zinc, four times the recommended daily amount the essential mineral, along with protein, iron, and calcium. And zinc is so crucial that a deficiency in this mineral causes your body to function as if it’s older than it really is.
Flu-fighting fountains of youth?
We’ll take a dozen.
Plus another five dozen for this incredible dish we got to try in the TasteSpotting Kitchen: Grilled Oysters with Chervil Butter and Caviar from the Chez Panisse cookbook. Ok, so maaaybe the butter balances the immunity boost of the oysters in the wrong direction, but that’s why we threw the fresh green chervil on there, right?
The oysters were sourced from local Carlsbad AquaFarm (how cute is the idea of an aquafarm?!), shucked by Pilar and Eric, and cooked by our very good friend Dan.
Grilled Oysters with Chervil Butter and Caviar
from Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook by Alice Waters
In California we were used to very large oysters that were difficult to eat on the half shell, but easily and wonderfully grilled. The chervil butter and yellow caviar are refinements, but the oysters can also be done very simply with melted butter and pepper…
5 dozen oysters
For the Fumet:
1 small leek
1 small celery rib
½ medium onion
5 medium shallots
1 cup dry white wine
Bouquet garni: 3 4-inch sprigs fresh fennel tops or 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 6 to 8 sprigs parsley, 2 3-inch sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 bay leaf, 10-12 black peppercorns
6 to 8 chervil stems
For the Sauce:
½ pound unsalted butter
¾ cup reduced fumet (from above)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Lemon juice and white pepper to taste
36 chervil sprigs
3 to 4 ounces yellow whitefish caviar
To Make the Fumet:
Shuck 2 dozen of the oysters and save their liquor. Clean and peel the vegetables. Cut the carrot, leek, celery and onion into quarters lengthwise. Roughly dice the 5 shallots. Tie the fennel, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns in cheesecloth to make the bouquet garni. Put the 2 dozen shucked oysters and their liquor, the cup of wine, the prepared vegetables and the bouquet garni in a stainless or enameled pot and barely cover with cold water. Bring the fumet to a boil, reduce heat immediately, skim the fumet and simmer for ½ hour. Strain the fumet, add the 6 to 8 chervil stems, and reduce by one-third.
Make the Sauce:
The ½-pound butter should be alittle cooler than room temperature. Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized bits. Remove the chervil stems from the reduced fumet and measure ¾ of it into a small heavy saucepan. Bring the fumet to a boil, reduce the heat and whisk the butter in bit by bit as you would for a beurre blanc. Add the 2 tablespoons cream, lemon juice and pepper to taste. The sauce should have a light syrupy texture.
Grill the Oysters:
Heat the grill with mesquite wood charcoal so that the flame is licking about an inch over the grill. Meanwhile, heat two or three large platters or shallow casseroles spread with ½-inch of rock salt in a very hot oven for 15 minutes. When the fire is ready, put 3 dozen oysters, curved side down directly on the grill. When the shells just open slightly or begin seeping or bubbling (2 to 4 minutes), remove the oysters from the fire. Finish opening them with an oyster knife and discard the flat top shell. Arrange the oysters on the hot rock salt and put a teaspoon or so of the sauce over each oyster. Garnish each oyster with a sprig of chervil and half a teaspoon or so of caviar.