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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Slurp. Suck. Repeat

It's prime time for oysters.
Served with mignonette sauce, cocktail sauce, horseradish, or hot sauce, briny plump raw oysters on the half shell are downright sexy. That said, on occasion it's fun to jack things up and turn on the heat.

Skillet Roasted Oysters with Spiced Compound Butter.
Compound butters are the simplest way to add punch to just about anything. Make them in advance, chill, and stash them away until needed.

A little dab will do you.
I tossed 1 stick softened room temperature unsalted butter into the bowl of a stand mixer before adding 1 tablespoon Green County Cacklin' Hen Jalapeno Hot Sauce, 2 tablespoons minced shallot, 2 minced Henkels hot red peppers, 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, flaked sea salt, cracked black pepper, and the zest of 1 lime. After whipping the butter into a frenzy, I scooped it onto a 10"x 10" sheet of plastic wrap, gathered the butter to the edge, formed it into a loosey-goosey log, and rolled it into a bumpy cylinder. After smoothing it out, I twisted the ends of the plastic wrap to compact the butter into a tight roll and slid it into the refrigerator to chill.

Aw, shucks..
Oyster shucking can be a challenge. Practice makes perfect. Diligence, patience, an oyster knife, a sturdy dish towel (or a meshed oyster glove), and a glass of wine help make it much easier.
After scrubbing, rinsing, and patting dry  2 dozen Blue Point oysters (from Lexington Seafood Company), I  used a dish towel to secure each oyster cupped side down, carefully wedged the tip of an oyster knife into the hinged end, and wiggled the knife to pop open the hinge before sliding the knife across the top shells and slicing the abductor muscles from bottom shells to release the flesh . Being mindful of the precious oyster liquor, I tossed away the top shells and nestled the oysters into a large cast iron skillet layered with chunky rock salt.

 I topped each oyster with 1/4" discs of the chilled compound butter and slid them into a blistering
450 degree oven. When the melted butter bubbled around the slightly curled edges of the oysters ( about 5 minutes), I pulled them from the oven, let them rest, and finished each oyster with a splash of fresh lime juice.

Stained with spice, the  soft oysters poached in the steaming hot butter, gently rendering the slippery raw flesh almost creamy and custard-like. Plumped from the quick blast of heat and teetering on the edge of barely cooked, the brackish oysters popped through the bold overtones of smokey heat. While the fresh lime provided bright acidity to counter the buttery oyster jus, flecks of minced shallot and hot peppers added biting fresh crunch.

Slurp. Suck. Repeat.
Puttin' on the Ritz.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Roots And Stalks

I'm a celery junkie.
Smear pimento cheese into crisp celery stalks and I'm a happy camper. Pony up a few  nubs side by side with chunky bleu cheese as a side kick for Buffalo chicken wings and I'm set. Spear leafy topped celery sticks into potent bloody marys and color me buzzed. And yes, I plead guilty to swiping snapped off broken pieces of celery through the peanut butter jar, much to Michael's chagrin. All of that said, I'm an absolute fool for long cooked braised celery. Smack a platter of juicy pot roast in front of me and I'm all over the celery, scooting the meat aside for garnish.  It is what it is. My lusty affair with celery.

Celery is a classic flavor building block for almost everything. While we may not even know it's there, we'd know it if it wasn't there. Usually relegated to supporting character, I brought it front and center.

Celery Soup with Horseradish whipped cream.
I kept it simple and clean.

The root of it all.
I trimmed, washed, and chopped 1 large bunch (about 2 pounds) organic celery and set it aside. After slicing 2 large cleaned leeks into thin half moons, I sauteed the leeks in equal parts butter and olive oil (2 tablespoons each). When the leeks started to wilt, I added 1/2 cup chopped Casey County candy onion, 1 clove minced garlic, a pinch white pepper, and flaked sea salt. Just before the onions started to take on color, I deglazed the pan with 1/2 cup white wine, let it reduce by half, and added the reserved celery. For body (in lieu of a starchy potato), I peeled and chopped 1 pound celery root and sliced the attached celery root stalks before tossing them into the pot with the simmering celery. When the wine evaporated, I added 1/2 teaspoon celery salt, 1 teaspoon celery seed, and 6 cups water. I brought the celery stock to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, covered the pot, and let it rip for 40 minutes.

When the vegetables were tender, I used a blender to carefully puree the soup in batches, passed it through a fine sieve to remove the fibrous solids, and returned the velvety soup to the hot pot. I brought the soup to a gentle simmer, splashed it with fresh lemon juice, and added 1/2 cup cream fraiche. After swirling the cream fraiche through the soup. I finished with quenelles of horseradish whipped cream, fresh celery leaves, and slivered radishes.

Drinkable celery.