Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oysters with a Lemon Basil Mignonette

A mignonette is a sauce with two principal components, namely vinegar and shallots.  Those two ingredients are just the beginning, because you can add a variety of ingredients to make different mignonettes to match or pair with different types of oysters.  I have previously made a Peach Champagne Mignonette and a Mango Habanero Mignonette.  Every once in a while, especially when I see oysters at a grocery store, my mind starts racing and I try to develop new mignonettes for the oysters.

Recently, I was standing at the seafood counter at the local Whole Foods when I saw an iced bin full of Chesapeake oysters. Just as their name suggests, these oysters are cultivated in the Chesapeake bay where they are second in the hierarchy of food in the Mid Atlantic region.  (Blue crabs are and will always be at the top of that hierarchy.)  Most Chesapeake oysters that you find in stores are farmed; very few are actually "fished" from the bay.  Chesapeake oysters are very delicious, being very meaty without being too briny.

This mignonette pairs two classic flavors ... lemon and basil.  The key is that you must have fresh basil, dried basil will not work.  You should also use the zest of the lemon, in addition to the juice, because the zest (which is edible) adds a nice visual element to the mignonette.

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-4

12 fresh oysters, shucked (I used Chesapeakes, but any will do)
1 lemon
1 shallot, diced
6 medium to large size basil leaves, chiffonade

 1.  In a non-reactive bowl, add the shallot, basil leaves (to chiffonade, stack the basil leaves, roll them tightly and slice them.

2.  Zest the lemon and make sure the zest is strips, as opposed to grated.  Add the zest to the bowl.  Then add the juice of the lemon to the bowl.  Given the lemon juice is acidic, I have left out the vinegar because it would make the mignonette to tart and acidic.

3.  Mix all of the ingredients well and spoon over the shucked oysters.


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