It is legend that the sultan swooned when he tasted the dish imam bayeldi, created in his honour. (Imam bayeldi means ‘the sultan swooned’.) Never mind swoon, I am positively multi-orgasmic when confronted with smoked oysters. Not fresh oysters – altogether too reminiscent of snot, regardless of lashings of Tabasco sauce … the devil take those descriptions of fat, creamy, salty-sweet.
“Oyster, n. A slimy, gobby shellfish which civilization gives men the hardihood to eat without removing its entrails!” – Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’ (1911)
Says it all. But smoked oysters? Luv ‘em.
“I never was much of an oyster eater, nor can I relish them ‘in naturalibus’ as some do, but require a quantity of sauces, lemons, cayenne peppers, bread and butter, and so forth, to render them palatable.” – William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
He had it right.
Delighted to enjoy them in pâtés, dips, soups, stuffings, with pasta … and to prove it, I offer a selection of ideas I have picked up along the way.
Smoked Oyster Pâté (1)
85g can smoked oysters, drained. (Avoid those in cottonseed oil – affects the flavour in a big way.)
125g cream cheese (a good, full-flavoured one!)
100g unsalted butter
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Chopped chives (or tarragon, or coriander or parsley)
Optional extras: Worcester sauce (homemade would be good), cayenne, chopped cornichons.
Chuck it all in a processor or blender and blitz. Divide between ramekins or fill one dish. Garnish with fresh herbs and melted, clarified butter. Will keep for several days in a fridge. Freezes too – but better to enjoy it NOW!
Smoked Oyster Pâté (2)
4 cans oysters, drained (ditto above re cottonseed oil)
2 spring onions (scallions)
2 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice – or to taste
Chopped parsley, grated lemon rind – the zester utensil gives strands of lemon rind which look attractive.
This is obviously for a larger number of people – or be greedy and eat it all yourself – but the recipe divides quite easily. Just use a small spring onion, a small clove of garlic and half a tablespoon of lemon juice to one can of oysters.
Blitz in a processor and scoop into one or more dishes. Garnish with fresh herbs and the lemon rind strings.
Serve with toasted sourdough bread (preferably stoneground), crudités or interesting savoury biscuits/crackers.
Smoked Oyster Pâté (3)
2 tins smoked oysters, drained. (Ditto re cottonseed oil.)
A fat clove of garlic – black garlic if you have some.
2 hardboiled eggs
2 small eschallotes (mild shallots – not spring onions)
Fresh herbs – parsley, coriander, thyme, tarragon – mixed or any one
125 – 175 ml of your favourite liqueur – I like Frangelico (adore toasted hazelnuts), but Curacao, Amaretto, port, brandy, scotch, will be good.
Melted butter, clarified
Blitz in a processor or blender. Taste – you may want to add freshly ground black pepper, more garlic, or liqueur.
Transfer to large/small ramekin(s) and top with the clarified butter.
Keeps well in the fridge – if you can resist it. Serve with crudités, breads, biscuits.
Pasta with Smoked Oysters
Tagliatelle, spaghetti, angel’s hair pasta – or fat macaroni, so the sauce can sneak inside
2 cans smoked oysters, drained. (Ditto re cottonseed oil but keep the oil if it is olive oil)
Oil from the oysters, or olive oil
2-4 garlic cloves, depending on how much you like it. (we eat LOTS – keeps Dracula away. He has never been to our house.)
500g baby spinach leaves
Small head of fennel – very thinly sliced
Small glass of Marsala or vermouth (well, big, if you must …)
Fresh parsley, chopped
Lemon zest (I like it in ‘strings’ from a zester, so they can be seen in the sauce)
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt to add when served
Fresh black pepper
Cook pasta – reserve 1-2 tablespoons of the cooking water – will give the sauce a gloss and help it to stick to the pasta.
While the pasta cooks, sauté the thinly sliced fennel (can add fennel seeds if wished).
Add the garlic when the fennel is j-u-s-t tender (good to leave a bit of ‘bite’– but do not burn. Burnt garlic is horrid. Throw it away if you do burn it.
Stir in the oysters and marsala or vermouth
Add the baby spinach and cook till wilted.
Add lemon zest
Taste for pepper and lemon juice – I prefer to let others add their own salt. Not keen on salty food but like the zing of sea salt added when I am about to eat.
Mix with the pasta and serve – remembering to add the 1-2 tablespoons cooking water.
Serve with extra herbs and a crisp, varied green salad.
Optional: Parmesan cheese – there are those who say that it should never be served with fish or shellfish. Your choice.
Beef Stuffed with Smoked Oysters
A rib of beef – for 4-6 people.
OR one steak per person – but thick cut, rather than large
2 cans smoked oysters, drained – keep the oil if it is olive oil. Discard cottonseed oil – flavour affects the oysters and the dish in general.
Large handful of chopped fresh parsley – or a mix off fresh herbs
Stick of celery, finely sliced
Small onion, finely chopped
Garlic – lots or to taste …
Freshly ground black pepper
Sauté the celery and onions in olive oil.
Add garlic but do not burn.
Quarter the oysters and add
Add the herbs.
Take a sharp knife and slice between the ribs and the nut of meat, without detaching the meat, to create a pocket.
Stuff the mixed celery, onion, onions, oysters, herbs and garlic into the pocket. Use a skewer or string to close the top.
Roast in a very hot oven for ten minutes, then turn down the temp. and cook till rare, medium rare or medium. Well done would be sacrilege!
If using steaks, make an incision through the middle of each steak, without separating the halves.
Stuff as above.
Use small skewers or string to hold the two halves together.
Sear both sides in a hot pan, lower the temperature and cook till rare, medium rare or medium.
No well-done steaks allowed.
Buttered noodles, broccoli, spinach, mixed green leaf salad go well with this.
P.S. I told a teensy-weensy fib about fresh oysters … I love Oysters Rockefeller. Fresh oysters topped with wilted, chopped spinach, then hollandaise sauce and parmesan cheese and grilled till bubbling. Yum.
#oysters #smokedoysters #pâtés #pasta #beefandsmokedoysters