Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mobile Style Oysters

As the chronological archive on the right demonstrates, I have not posted as many recipes this year as I have in previous years.  This is due in part to a very busy schedule, both at work and at home.  It does not mean that I am not cooking or that I am not trying out new recipes.  It just means that those recipes sit in a queue, waiting for me to write a few pithy paragraphs about them.

This recipe -- Mobile Style Oysters -- was one that waited a long time in that queue.  A really long time.  The reason why it waited so long was not necessarily due to my schedule, but the fact that I wanted to make this dish for my very beautiful Angel, Clare.  However, I was unable to do so for days, weeks and months.  The reason is that Clare was pregnant with our little girl.  I was unsure about serving oysters, even when cooked, so I held off making this recipe.  This restraint was very difficult.  Many a night I wanted to buy a half-dozen oysters and make this dish.  I held off, and it was well worth it.

This dish, as its name suggests, heralds from Mobile, Alabama, where local restaurants have a ready supply of oysters from the Gulf of Mexico.  There are at least eight commercial oyster farms in Alabama.  In addition to these farmers, there are local fishermen who harvest the variety of oyster species in the bay, most notably the Eastern Oyster.  Once the harvests reach the shore or the store,  the oysters find their way to restaurants like Bluegill.  The chefs and cooks then grill or broil oysters in their shell filled with a bath of butter, garlic and parmesan cheese.  The end result is  Mobile Style Oysters.

There are two things that make this recipe work.  First, the combination of those three flavors -- garlic, butter, and parmesan -- always work together in a delicious harmony.  This is true no matter the dish.  Nevertheless, what makes the harmony work in this case is that it does not drown out the star ... the oysters.  The briny flavor of the oysters are still able to stand out, surrounded by the supporting elements.

The other thing that works with this recipe is that the oysters are cooked just enough.  Often times, oysters can be overcooked, which takes such a beautiful ingredient and turns it into trash.  The five minutes under the broiler (which I did) or on the grill provides just enough heat and cooking time to give the bivalves the opaqueness one expects from cooked seafood without turning them into a chewy mess.

It was definitely worth the wait.  Both Clare and I loved these oysters, almost as much as eating them raw.  

Recipe from Saveur
Serves 4

12 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons of fresh parsely, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
Tabasco sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
24 medium oysters, shucked and left in bottom shell
Crusty bread, for serving.

1.  Prepare the grill or stove.  Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium high.  Alternatively arrange an oven rack 6 inches from the heating element and heat the oven to broil.

2.  Prepare the topping.  Combine the butter, Parmesan, parsley, chile flakes, garlic, shallots, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Season with Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt and pepper.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mixture over each oyster.

3.  Grill or broil the oysters.  Grill or broil the oysters until the edges of the oysters begin to curl, about 5 minutes.  Serve with the bread.


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