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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bottoms Up

I promised Michael I wouldn't touch my camera during Thanksgiving. My sincere promise would've held up if it hadn't been for a bloody mary influenced mismanagement of time that forced me to roast our tangerine, celery, and onion stuffed herb-buttered 13 pound turkey much later than I'd planned. While I sliced, diced, chopped, assembled, and sipped bloody marys, time simply slipped away.

Mise un place.

It wasn't the end of the world because we had nowhere to go or nothing to do except lounge in our pajamas all day. Heaven-ish.  We eventually got hungry.  It was  Thanksgiving day, for heaven's sake.  Eat. Pimento cheese stuffed celery sticks quelled our appetites for a nanosecond. By mid aftternoon, I would have sold my soul for a  bowl of chili.

Eschewing peanut butter, cashew brittle, or cheese sandwiches,  I decided to make a snack with a few shucked Blue Point oysters from Charlies Seafood. We had  oysters on deck was Thanksgiving. Gotta have oysters. Although I wasn't sure where they'd fit into our meal, we had them safely tucked away for something.

With plenty of time to kill,  I played around in the kitchen and turned our something oysters into a mid-day riff on Oysters Rockefeller.  Last Thanksgiving, I made a bloody muddy mess in our kitchen shucking a dozen Blue Point oysters from the Lexington Seafood Company for an epic pre-dinner amuse bouche. Lesson learned. Not again. This year, I bought them shucked with their liquor reserved. Safe. Clean. Happy. No shells.

No shells? For Oysters Rockefeller?  Nope.  I had artichoke bottoms. Think about it.

Ok, so here's the deal.  I adore fresh artichokes. There are few things sexier than plucking petals from a beautifully steamed artichoke, dipping them in drawn butter or hollandaise, and scraping the soft flesh with clinched teeth through pouty puckered lips. Pluck. Dip. Suck. Repeat. All the way down to the hairy choke.

I also enjoy well turned fresh artichoke hearts and bottoms..... if somebody else does the tedious work. Who the hell enjoys cleaning, snipping, peeling, slicing, and paring a raw artichoke down to its glorious bottom? Not me. At All.  I always end up with nothing, so  I used frozen artichoke bottoms for our Oysters Rockefeller. Yeah, I know. Cop out.  Shoot me. It was only a snack and I didn't need a gigantic bowl of acidulated water to keep the fresh botttoms from turning grey.

Traditionally, Oysters Rockefeller are baked on the half shell,  topped with a mixture of minced parsley, chervil, watercress,  green onion, tarragon, butter, and a splash of anise flavored Herbsaint or Pernod. Too much work.  I pared the preparation  down to a simpler quick snacky riff on the traditional version using artichoke bottoms as a base.

It was fun, too.

While the artichoke bottoms thawed, I sliced thick-cut applewood smoked bacon into lardons and fried them in butter until crisp. After removing the bacon to drain, I tossed minced shallots and garlic into the buttery bacon fat to sweat before tumbling a handful of baby spinach (stems included) into the mix to wilt. When the spinach collapsed from the heat, I pulled everything out of the pan to cool. In lieu of Pernod or Herbsaint, I splashed the glistening sauteed spinach with white wine and ground fennel. That  was it.

After canking the oven to 425 degrees, I seasoned the artichokes with salt, pepper, and a dusting of ground parmigiano reggiano. After placing a plump Blue Point oyster into each artichoke bottom, I topped them with the sauteed garlic/fennel infused spinach, lemon butter, parmigiano reggiano, and the reserved bacon before slidimg them into the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes.

Oh my. Each bite literally exploded with layered flavors. The barely cooked oysters popped through the garlicky spinach, salty bacon, and nutty parmigiano, squirting sweet briney oyster juice swirled with hints of fennel and lemon down our throats. Oyster G-Spot. Perfect. 

Although I missed slurping oysters from their craggy shells, the artichoke bottoms provided a calming balance to their riotous toppings.



And a bit naughty.

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