Simone Appetit: Oysters three ways this Valentine’s Day
I have never understood the appeal of oysters as a precursor to a romantic interlude. Sure, I guess they can be kind of suggestive when being consumed — all hands and mouth going for it.
But does not a slice of pizza utilize the same skill set? And God knows a big wedge of pepperoni only leads me to a big nap. Chocolate, which they say is laced with pheromones or something, can often do the trick, but that makes sense when you consider the sweet, creamy goodness in every bite.
But oysters? That mouthful of brine better have a pearl in it somewhere to get me in the mood. For my answer on why these mollusks are connected to the love muscle I had to turn to science.
Apparently these rough and ready shellfish are rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Gotcha. They do not tell me how many of these suckers you have to eat before you’re swooning, but, for a quick reference point, Casanova, the famed 19th century lover, was known to start his day with a breakfast of 50 oysters. This does not say amoré to me.
Keep in mind there were no handy tins of Altoids in the 1800s. Still, who am I to argue with science? And, if nothing else, fresh oysters are super tasty.
I am not going to share 50 different recipes (so many oysters, so little time), only my top three (love the one your with). Please note, one of them consists of oysters braised in Champagne. If the mollusks don’t make you swoon, a little bit of bubbly will do it every time.
Fresh oysters are available in most of your local grocers and you can ask the butcher to shuck (open) them for you, but it is not difficult to do yourself. Just take a sharp paring knife, insert it between the top and bottom shell, and work it back toward the base. Here you can cut through the muscle and it will pop right open.
Baked Sriracha oysters with or without spinach
For these, the butter, Sriracha, onion and spice mixture serves as the first layer on the oysters, pre-baking. You can add spinach and Parmesan to any, none, or all of them. If you decide to go with straight Sriracha/butter, then you top the oysters with a sprinkling of cilantro and a squirt of lime.
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup diced scallions
1 1/2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon Sriracha
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 limes cut into wedges
24 fresh oysters (in the shell)
Cook and drain spinach, set aside.
Combine all remaining ingredients with the exception of Parmesan, cilantro and limes.
Top oysters generously with butter/Sriracha and then, if desired, a tablespoon of spinach and the a teaspoon of Parmesan. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.
Oysters in Champagne
1 large can oysters (12 large or 24 small) in their own juice (save juice) or use fresh oysters but, again, save the juice.
1 cup champagne
1 cup beef bouillon
about 1/3 cup oyster juice from can
1 tbsp. butter
pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper
Pour champagne and bouillon into large skillet and bring to boil.
Add the juice from the oysters. Bring back to boil, add oysters and then remove from heat.
Let sit for a couple minutes, add butter and salt and pepper to taste.
Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen “must-haves” and food news email@example.com.