Sunday, January 24, 2010

Oysters a la Nicholas

Know your food:  Oysters are bivalve mollusks, of the family Ostreidae.  True oysters (the edible ones) are not pearl-producing, so forget finding a present for your girlfriend at your local raw bar.  Like all bivalves, they are filter feeders, which means that they draw water into them, pass the water through a gill or other structure and pull out food and nutrients while expelling the water, which prevents excess algae growth.  They're also delicious!

Stephanie and I love oysters.  We are partial to the classic accompaniments - a squeeze of lemon for Steph, some mignonette for me.  Our favorite place to get oysters is at Dock's Oyster House in Atlantic City, but we are definitely not averse to ordering them at other finer restaurants.  Naturally, we've ordered them at Restaurant Nicholas, and we've been amazed at the balance of flavor and texture, generated by what appeared to be a surprisingly small amount of garnish.  I was pleasantly surprised as to the secret of their amazing flavor - they are 'marinated' in a pickling brine!  I love pickling food!

I get my oysters from Woolley's Fish Market on Route 9 in Freehold - as good of a fishmonger (that's for you, Steve) as you'll find anywhere.  The guys there were nice enough to shuck them for me - I'm not proficient with an oyster knife and I didn't want to end up with one sticking out of my palm, unlike the cocky bastard in front of me who bought 10 dozen top neck clams & 2 clam knifes and said that he'd 'figure it out.  I rinsed the oysters of dirt and muscle and shell and kept them swimming in their 'liquor', while I cleaned the shells for presentation by giving them a bath in some boiling water and scrubbing the hell out of them to have a smooth and clean inner shell.

The spices in the marinating mixture were star anise, black peppercorns (in place of the Szechuan peppercorns I couldn't seem to find) and whole cloves.  Those went into the pot with some rice vinegar, sugar fennel and carrot trim to simmer.  The trim came from my semi-awesome brunoise, of which I have another lame stylish-type picture (I'm taking these pictures in Digital Macro mode, and they seem to be alright.  It'd be better if I knew what all the numbers and acronyms on my camera meant).  The pickling mixture was then strained, combined with the brunoise, poured over the oysters and stuck in the fridge.  After they cool, I spooned them back into the shells, topped them with some minced chive and red onion and a dollop of creme fraiche, and prepared to chow down.

Like my blog buddy Rob likes to do, a picture to try and match the book:

I've got to give tons of credit to Chef Nicholas and Peter Zuorick, as this recipe came out exactly the way the dish tastes when made at the restaurant.  Everything was in perfect balance, and the flavors were out of this world.  Here's Steph and I, toasting the bittersweet end of football season with the hope of even more success for our J-E-T-S next year.  You can tell we really love our oysters since we devoured 2 dozen them even though we were stuffed from all the food we ate during the game.

This is definitely a recipe that will be made again (and again and again) in the future!


Stepha said...

The aroma of the sauce from the stove was intoxicating. My mouth was watering and I was in agony, knowing I couldn't eat them until hours later.

Ms. Meg said...

Your knife skills are looking stellar, Rosey! And this looks absolutely beautiful and delicious!