11.01.2014

Months with an "R"

My parents used to say, "No seafood unless the month has an 'R' in it." That meant we could eat shellfish or seafood only from September through April.

Unless we were at the Cape (Cod, that is), in which case all rules were broken, because it came right our of the sea that day. We knew it was fresh.

The rule a widespread folk-tradition had to do with refrigerated transport, the difficulty of getting seafood safely from docks to cities without spoiling. It was most urgently applied to slurping raw shellfish. If you have ever had a bad clam/oyster/mussel, you would definitely follow this advice.

{Apologies to my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, you will need to figure this out on your own. . Anybody Down Under have an adage at works?}

This rule is not related to the seacoast snobbery that I mentioned once before - "Don't eat fish or seafood unless you can see or hear or smell the ocean." That just comes from coastal residents who want to make you feel diminished for living in the hinterlands.

These days, with good refrigerated transportation, it is easy to get great fish and seafood any time of year. Like this morning, for instance, when I wanted to test an old recipe (possibly Australian?) for Oysters Kilpatrick. There are many recipes out there - and some call them Kirkpatrick. As time has passed, the recipes have gotten more and more complicated, adding ketchup, hot sauce and so on. I kept these simple, and used the old name. Don't use a smoky bacon, as it will obscure the delicate taste of the oysters.

Off I went to the market and asked for the largest, plumpest oysters in their shells. The fishmonger gave me the "restaurant quality" specimens that he keeps in the cooler. He knew I was serious about this.

These are beautiful oysters and we are really excited to try this very simple recipe.

The nice thing about cooking oysters is that they require so little to make them extraordinary; in this instance, a drizzle of Worcestershire sauce, some diced bacon (or pancetta) and a broiler.

Even though there are eight "R" months in each year, when I was young, we only had oysters on one special day each year - New Year's Eve.

For that special night every year, Mom made oyster bisque for our evening buffet. I will be making it this New Year's here in Tucson, and look forward to sharing that family recipe with you as we get ready for 2015.

But, till then, give this recipe a try!

~ David

Oysters Kilpatrick

24 large oysters, in their shells
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces pancetta or unsmoked bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
freshly snipped chives
lemon wedges
rock salt (also known these days as "ice cream salt")

Line a large rimmed baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. Make a 1/2-inch thick bed of rock salt for the oysters. Set aside.

Preheat broiler to high, and set oven rack at the highest level (about 4 inches from the elements). Shuck oysters and place one half of each shell with the loosened oysters on the rock salt, making sure they are level. (They are attached on both sides of the shell, so make sure you detach the side you are using, as well.) You have the option of keeping the oyster liquor, or not. It is a matter of taste and, of course, soupiness.

Drizzle each oyster with 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle with the diced pancetta or bacon.

Broil for 10-12 minutes, until oysters are curled and bubbling, and pancetta is crisp.

Serve immediately sprinkled with snipped chives, and lemon wedges. If you like (and as we did), a nice prosecco or champagne is a lovely complement.

Serves 6.



28 comments:

  1. I have a bit of a soft spot for a classic kilpatrick. Oyster purists turn up their nose at anything other than au naturel, but the clean and sharp flavours of kilpatrick really work for me. Not sure that it's Australian. I'd think maybe English?

    During my apprenticeship I churned out dozen upon dozen of these. Now I have the urge to pick up some oysters today!

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    1. You know, John, when we started on these oysters we thought they were British, too, but the recipes I found were so convoluted that I just prefer to thing you all invented them Down Under! Does your recipe differ much from this one?

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  2. Now, even I would eat oysters prepared this way! I sadly have a texture problem with oysters, sushi, snails, etc. No can do. Especially sad since I grew up in New Orleans surrounded by people happily slurping oysters. I'll eat a fried oyster po-boy, however. So, I think the broiling or grilling would save the day with this recipe. I'll have to give it a try! Thanks!!

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    1. Thanks, Kirsten. I have had a few raw oysters in my life (peer pressure, you know) but I would just assume have the Rockefeller, Kilpatrick, or grilled variety we had in NOLA.

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  3. I love this! The folklore and the 'rules' people put out are so hilarious and I love hearing them. Don't eat seafood unless you can hear or see the sea.... good thing I have an 'ocean sounds' track on my iPod! As always, beautiful recipe that I'm sure tastes amazing any month of the year :)

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    1. I love the ocean sounds on your iPod! That is brilliant, Ahu! xo

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  4. This looks so simple and yet so elegant! Shucking them may be the toughest part! Your presentation is beautiful ,too. (I suppose, having a few of those dishes myself, I am already off to a good start!) Wonderful post!

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    1. Susan, I actually get really good and pretty fast at shucking when I made these. It wasn't was hard as I thought it would be. They do look pretty on "our" plates! I am glad there were some without cups and saucers for me to bring to Tucson! xo

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  5. David, is there anything better than oysters kilpatrick? I think not! Your recipe looks superb.... I have not heard the term ice cream salt. My recipe is not dissimilar, though I do add a tiny little bit of butter... http://www.bizzylizzysgoodthings.com/home/on-oysters-a-visit-to-wapengo-rocks-certified-organic-oysters-and-some-retro-recipes You might enjoy this post, which includes my visit to an award winning oyster farmer.

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    1. Liz - when I read your post on oysters, I wish I had actually paid attention to the recipe. I am going to try yours with some butter! I think ice cream salt is merely rock salt, but packaged to be more costly to the consumer!

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  6. Dear David, although I know about the "R" rule, around here, it was only used in the context ot whether it was safe to eat mussels or not, not those lovely, plump oysters that you used. Actually, I have never prepared oysters in my life although I have enjoyed them on occasion - this dish looks like such a treat. I am sure I would adore this! Next time I see oysters at the fishmongers, I will think of your recipe!
    Noch einen guten Start in die Woche & liebe Grüße,
    Andrea

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    1. Mussels were definitely included in our "no seafood" rule, Andrea! Pretty much anything that had a shell was off limits. Happy Monday!

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  7. Hi David, I adore oysters though have a hard time, trying to shuck them. Love the way you treated them here, so nice and simple.

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    1. Thanks, Cheri - do you have a hard time finding good oysters in Phoenix?

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  8. I'm not an oyster eater but my husband loves them. We even have a large progressional oyster opener that we had to bring with us when we moved to New England. Love your presentation and beautiful plate.

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    1. Wow - I would love to see your oyster opener, Karen! Thanks for your nice comment, especially since you are not an oyster fan!

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  9. These are lovely! John would absolutely love these!

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    1. Thanks, Susan! I hope you both get to try them! (And use the same dishes...)

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  10. Those look incredible... unfortunately I have had a bad clam/oyster/sea urchin in my day and the result is that the few times since that I had oysters (even the freshest) I got really sick. Not sure if I developed a temporary intollerance or if it is there to stay. It has been years now and although I adore oysters, I haven't had the guts to give them another try since the last couple of attempts were a disaster.

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    1. That is so sad, Fiona - but I really get it. I have a close friend who is allergic to bivalves - perhaps you are, as well. Thanks for the nice comment even though you can't eat them!

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  11. D, I am not an fan of oysters, but this plate looks so delicious, I just might have one or two!
    Actually, my hubby's loves them. So I will make this for his bday. Thanks! xo

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    1. Colette - I am finding that a lot of my friends don't like oysters! Who knew? You are a good loving partner to make these for Shawn on his birthday... :)

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  12. Scrumptious! The bacon puts them over the top!

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    1. Valentina - what isn't made better by bacon? Thanks!

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  13. Simply damn delicious oyster!!!
    bacon made everything taste better....

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    1. Thanks, Dedy! I always envy all the fresh seafood you get so easily there. Maybe someday I will come there and cook with you!

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  14. Oh my goodness David this looks delicious!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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