Showing posts with label oysters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oysters. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

R in the Month Stew

When I was growing up we were told that the only months that were OK for eating oysters are those with an R in them. Well, it's September, so the season for oysters has begun. Truthfully, I sometimes eat oysters in other months as long as they are local ones. We have companies in our area which grow oysters year-round in Tomales Bay, so there are always some oysters in the right stage of development to be eaten. Still, old tapes are hard to dislodge. September means I can eat oysters and so I do.

Oysters are an acquired taste. If you eat them raw, it is like a slurp of sea brine with a little bit of muscle thrown in. It's hard to imagine why anyone ate them in the first place, but once you get to like them they get a hold on you. I could eat them all the time. Unfortunately they, like most seafood these day, are somewhat expensive, so I save them for a treat.

Tonight's treat was Oyster Stew. Our market had jars of small ones on sale and I had green onions, celery, carrots, parsley, small red potatoes, corn and milk handy, plus some bacon. That, plus some salt, pepper and thyme is all you need to make a warm, hardy bowlful of deliciousness.

There are lots of ways to make Oyster Stew. I started by cooking the red potatoes. Mostly that was because I wanted to keep this a one pot dish. After they were cooked and draining, I used the same pot to cook some bacon, then, after fishing out the cooked bacon, I used the bacon grease to cook the onions, celery and carrots. After that it was a simple matter to drain the oysters, mix a bit of flour with the reserved liquid the oyster had been packed in, and then used that to thicken the milk/veggie combo a bit. Throw in some thyme, salt and pepper, the potatoes, the corn and heat 'em up. Right before you are ready to serve, add the rinsed oysters and stir. Set the timer for 1 minutes, stir again, and let sit one more minute. You'll see the edges of the oysters curl like ruffles on a dress. That's it! Time to ladle the stew into bowls and top with a bit of chopped Italian parsley, then dig in. Mmmm.

Elle's Oyster Stew

3-4 small red potatoes, cut into small bite-sized pieces
3 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 green onions, sliced fine, including part of the greens
1 medium carrot, diced fine
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1 jar small oysters
2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 -2 cups frozen or fresh corn - if frozen, thaw in the microwave
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped

In a large pot, cook the red potatoes in simmering water until tender. Drain and set aside.
In the same pot, cook the bacon until crisp, turning once or twice for even cooking. Remove the bacon and set aside.

In the same pot, sauté the green onions, carrot and celery in the bacon grease until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
While the veggies cook, drain the oysters in a fine mesh strainer, reserving the liquid they were packed in. Rinse the oysters under cold running water. If the oysters are large, cut them in half. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and the reserved oyster liquid.  Set aside.
Add the milk, thyme, salt and pepper to the pot of veggies, stirring to release any browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pot. Stir in the flour mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until liquid thickens a bit. Add the reserved potatoes, bacon, and corn. Heat thoroughly but don't boil.

2 minutes before it is time to serve the stew, make sure that the stew is hot, then add the prepared oysters. Set a timer for 1 minutes. When one minute has passed, stir the stew, then let sit a few more seconds. The oyster edges will have ruffled, so you know they are cooked. Ladle stew into bowls and top with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Serve at once.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

One for the Cookbook

The Family Food cookbook revision is coming along. I've gotten some additional old favorites thanks to the Wolf's wife, Second Sister Down, and Big Sis. Still hoping for the new rendition of Lane Cake from Mandy. She figured out how to make it almost traditional but with no artificially candied fruits so it would be a great addition.

You many not be blessed with as many siblings as I am but I'll bet you have shared stories and the occasional (or not so occasional) difficulty between siblings. I think that is the way of it. A lot of the books I've been reading recently seem to have stories that hinge, in one way or another, on relationships between siblings. My own relationships with my siblings are mostly warm and friendly but we only communicate now and then with each other...the Internet helps there...but when we are face to face you will see us talking non-stop. This can be puzzling to anyone else, including spouses. It is not the result of bad feelings between us (usually) or not caring about each other, or selfishness or indifference; the root lies in our childhood (now that's different, right?)

One of the reasons we don't just pick up the phone and get some of that talking done when we are apart is that we were raised to only use the phone when absolutely calling a friend for the homework assignment if we were home sick. With each call no matter how short having a cost attached and with 8 children you can see how that became the rule...and is was sensible. Unfortunately even as adults many of us don't feel comfortable just calling someone for no good reason, just to chat. I suspect that this is unusual. What is your experience in this regard dear reader?

So it may take a while before I call around and get the rest of the recipes the cookbook might be missing but in the meantime I want to share our recipe for Fried Oysters. It was passed down by Dad to me as the Friday cook and to other siblings but certainly to the Wolf, who passed them on to sons Captain and Cucumber Spraygun.

I'm going to give Dad's recipe with a few tips from the latter three. I use this recipe but my variation is to use Panko instead of dry bread crumbs. I like the lightness and crunchiness of Panko coated fried oysters.

Raw oysters look so nasty that it is totally amazing that anyone ever tried to eat one. They must have been pretty hungry. Of course once they tasted them and got that briny deliciousness imprinted on their brain it is quite understandable that shell mounds soon followed.

If you have trouble with the idea of eating a raw oyster, do try this fried version. The oysters become creamy and almost light and the crust has some crunch that is a great counterpoint in texture and flavor. I add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice while Sweetie likes Chili sauce with his. Plain ketsup is good with them, too. Just be sure to serve them hot. Don't those look delicious?

Fried Oysters

1 jar oysters for two people
1 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
1/4 cup water or milk
2 cups fine dry bread crumbs or Panko
Vegetable oil or shortening...enough to come up 1 inch on your frying pan when hot

Drain the oysters in a strainer or colander. Discard the drained liquid or reserve to flavor oyster stew.

Prepare the breading: In one bowl combine the flour and salt and pepper. In another bowl beat the eggs with the water. (Note: the Wolf and sons use milk in their egg wash and make it an eggy wash, not so much liquid.) In a pie pan or similar wide shallow bowl place the fine dry bread crumbs (plain, not seasoned)or Panko crumbs.

Line a sheet pan with waxed paper or parchment paper. Using a fork or spoon, transfer an oyster to the flour bowl and dredge with flour. Transfer to the egg mixture bowl and coat with the egg mixture, then transfer to the bread crumbs or Panko and coat with that. Lift the oyster up to dislodge excess bread crumbs or Panko and place the breaded oyster on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat this process until all of the oyster have been breaded. Chill the oysters for at least 15 minutes, up to 30 minutes to set the breading.

Slowly heat the vegetable oil or shortening in a frying pan to about 1 inch depth (the Wolf and sons might have it deeper, more like 2-3 inches), until oil is very hot, just shy of smoking. When the oil is hot, fry the oysters, about 6 - 8 at a time, turning to the other side when the first side is golden brown. When golden on both sides, remove from the oil with slotted spoon or tongs to a tray lined with absorbent paper. Add the next batch of oysters, then transfer the ones on the absorbent paper to a cookie sheet in a warm oven to keep them warm. Put them in to fry at intervals so you don't cool the oil.

When all are fried, mound on a platter and serve with lemon wedges and ketsup or chili sauce.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sea Dreams and Chowder

I've always loved the ocean for as long as I can remember. Both my parents loved the beach even though my Dad wasn't a swimmer and my Mom's fair freckled skin burns easily. When I was little there were many summers when we would pile into the station wagon, my Dad would expertly fit in more luggage and beach paraphernalia than the back of the wagon should have held, and off we would go to the Eastern shore, usually to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

It was bliss to spend long days swimming in the ocean, making drip sand castles, lying on towels reading books and listening to the surf washing up on shore. Often we would eat fresh fish or oysters for dinner since the beach cottage always had a kitchen.

I still love the ocean and now I live a half hour drive away so I don't have to wait for summer. I also love fish and usually prepare it very simply. This week our local market had 10 0z jars of fresh local oysters on sale. There was also fresh coho salmon from Alaska at a not-too-astronomical price. I even found some tiny already cooked shrimp in the freezer section to add to the seafood.

For some reason as I was growing up and reached the age when I was old enough to cook dinner, my day to cook ended up being Friday. I suspect it may have been because no one else wanted to cook on Friday (no meat as we were good Catholics and this was far enough back that meat was off limits on Fridays), but it may also have been because I was slow in finishing my school work some days, so a Friday dinner responsibility didn't conflict with my studies.

Whatever the reason, I was the Friday cook and became very comfortable with cooking fish. When my Dad would show up with jars of fresh oysters on occasion, he almost always wanted them prepared as fried oysters...a messy and time consuming job! As you might imagine, when I bought oysters this week frying them was not what I had in mind.

As I found various kinds of seafood available it occurred to me that I could make a seafood chowder, full of all kinds of veggies and the seafood and that I could thicken it with mashed potatoes. To make it even better, I made part of the chowder one day and let it sit overnight to mingle the flavors, then finished it off tonight. The mashed potatoes were served hot with our evening meal the first night and the leftovers mashed potatoes were then stirred into the chowder base.

What was ladled into bowls tonight was a stupendous soup with celery, onions, mushrooms, parsley, those mashed potatoes, corn, peas, salmon, shrimp, oysters, and some pancetta, although you could leave that out if you wanted no meat at all.

Pancetta, which looks sort of like bacon

This soup is a dreamy sea-inspired chowder, perfect for chilly weather. You can always substitute other fish for the salmon, but make sure it is firm fish like cod or snapper or halibut. Frozen shrimp is readily available and sometimes you can also find scallops, calamari or other interesting substitutions.

If you are not using fresh oysters you will need to purchase some clam juice...about 6 - 8 oz should do substitute for the oyster juices.

As for the veggies, I would keep the onions and celery, although you could use yellow or white onions instead of the red. Idaho or baking potatoes make the best mashed potatoes for the thickener.

Fresh corn and/or peas are always great. Red pepper would be a nice addition...about 1/4 you can see that this is a recipe that can be played with pretty extensively and you will come out with a yummy seafood chowder no matter what you choose. Just remember to heat things through and to cook the seafood over a low heat so that it stays tender.

We served it up with a nice green salad some some fresh from the oven graham sourdough. I keep making this recipe over and over because I love the taste and it is so easy (if I keep the graham sourdough fed).

Seafood Chowder
Serves 2 - 4

1/8 lb pancetta, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, washed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup water
2 cups mashed potatoes (see below if you need a recipe)
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup cooked, flaked salmon
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 lb baby shrimp
10 oz. (1 jar) fresh oysters including their juices

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium-low heat, cook the pancetta, stirring often, about 5 minutes to render some of the fat and to crisp the pancetta somewhat. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Put in an airtight container and refrigerate until time to finish the chowder.

To the same pot, with the pancetta drippings, add the chopped red onion. Stir to coat with the fat and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring often, until translucent. Add the celery, stir and cover the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover the pot, add the lemon juice and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan and scrape up the browned bits. Add the water, stir and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the mashed potatoes, stir to combine. Mixture will be thick. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 3 hours to combine the flavors.

Place the saucepan with the mashed potato mixture over low heat and heat through, stirring often. Once mixture is hot add the flaked salmon, Italian parsley, peas, corn and baby shrimp. Stir to combine and continue to heat over low heat, stirring often, until everything is heated through.

While this is heating, recrisp the pancetta either on a paper towel in the microwave or by frying briefly in a small frying pan.

Once the chowder is heated through, add the oysters and their liquid. If the oysters are large, use a sharp knife to cut them into two or four pieces before stirring them into the chowder. Continue to heat the chowder for another 3 minutes or so until the oysters are just heated through.

Serve at once, garnished with a sprinkle of the pancetta on top.

Mashed Potatoes
5-6 large Idaho or baking potatoes, scrubbed, halved, and sliced, then put into a pot of cold water to cover
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste

Note: I like chunky mashed potatoes and I love potato skins so I leave them on. For a more refined mashed potatoes, peel the potatoes before cutting and use a potato ricer once the potatoes are drained.
Put the pot of prepared potatoes over high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer about 20-30 minutes or until tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife.

Drain the cooked potatoes and return them to the pot. Off heat, mash them with a potato masher. They will still be somewhat chunky.

Meanwhile heat the milk to scalding. Add to the potatoes with the butter, salt and pepper and mash some more until the potatoes are the consistency you like. Serve at once while still hot.