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Zox Kitchen

Zox Kitchen: March 27, 2014

How Oysters Became A Favorite

It’s amazing to live in a region of the country where you can find an evening meal at your finger tips. As mentioned last week, oysters, like clams, lobsters and mussels are available year around. Both coasts of the U.S. feature such seafood riches. Up and down the Eastern seaboard and similarly on the West Coast, crustaceans, mollusks and bivalves are extraordinarily available. Wellfleets are prized in New England, especially on Cape Cod. New Yorkers can’t get enough Blue Points. And Kumamotos and Olympian oysters from San Francisco, Seattle and Puget Sound prove the rule that size is no measure of flavor and taste. For those of you who visit Manhattan I recommend eating at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station to experience all of these seafood delights from all parts of the country.

Of course such riches of the sea were once considered punishment to force upon those who spent the night in the local jail. Eventually Boston’s finest could not impose serving lobster or oysters for dinner more than once or twice a week. It was thought to be cruel and unusual punishment. How times have changed.

Eating lobsters, clams, mussels and oysters have become a treat that many look forward to. When my aunt, who lived in Chicago, would visit us when we lived in Maine, she made a point of eating three to four lobsters at a sitting without blinking an eye. She set a high bar for all of us. Prices were lower then but most locals, even those on fixed incomes today, look forward to a clam and lobster bake before the summer is over. Young and old alike enjoy these seafood specialties.

My sons loved reading about Misty of Chincoteague, a story that told about the outdoor adventures of youngsters who lived on a small island where oyster fishermen made a living from catching and eating the oysters and crabs from the local waters.

I too enjoyed reading to my sons the story about the wild, miniature ponies who ran free on Chincoteague. Of course I realized that driving to such a place would take eight hours from our doorstep in Upstate New York where I was teaching at the time. But somehow it didn’t seem that far; and it would be an exciting trip to experience for all of us, especially if we could see the tiny ponies who hopefully ran free in Chincoteague. The first time we visited, my middle son jumped out of the car in hopes of petting one of the ponies who was nearby. He was able to do so and the experience became a memorable one we all enjoyed again and again.

 We made the trip four times during Columbus Day Weekend when the ponies were there and the annual Oyster Festival was held. Of course, each trip seemed longer than the year before, but the oysters and the ponies made it all worthwhile.

Grilled Oysters With Pancetta And Red Chard

Serves 8-10 as a light meal with a salad on the side including baby spinach, jicama, cucumber with slices of pear, roasted slices of beets and pear vinaigrette (see recipe below).

Ingredients

1 pound red chard, finely diced

24 live fresh oysters

3/4 cup toasted bread crumbs   

1-1/2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Crush 2 sheets of Nori seaweed in a medium-sized bowl. (This is the same type of seaweed that is used as the outer wrapping for sushi.} 1/3 cup diced shallots

2 cloves minced garlic

2 slices pancetta, 1/4 inch thick, diced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 ounces unsalted butter

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Wash chard in cold water. Drain water and repeat the process, making sure all sandy grit is removed from the leaves. Remove chard leaves from the water, and cut out the ribs; set aside. Stack the leaves, and roll them into a tight log. Cut the log every ¼-inch and then again cross ways giving you diced leaves.

2. Using a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté the shallots for 1-2 minutes. Add the diced pancetta and garlic and continue to sauté for 2-3 more minutes.

3. Reduce heat and add the vinegars and diced chard. Mix and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in bread crumbs with 2 ounces of butter.

4. Check to see if the oysters are alive by confirming that shells are tightly closed. Scrub oysters with a stiff brush under running water.

5. Build a charcoal fire on the side of the grill.

6. Open the oysters with an oyster knife. Discard the top shell and loosen the oyster meat with the tip of the oyster knife. Leave the oysters in the bottom, flatter sides of the shells and set aside on a sheet tray.

7. Top each oyster with 1½ teaspoons of red chard mixture, toasted bread crumbs and remaining butter, melted, drizzling a bit in each oyster, placing on grill, covered, for 3 minutes.

8. To add a crunch, add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed Nori seaweed on top of each oyster.

9. Carefully remove the stuffed oyster shell from the grill with tongs without spilling the briny liquor and vinegar and mixture in each oyster and serve in the half shell. Wow.

Pear And Roasted Beet Salad

Serves 8-10

• 1 lb. spinach and 1 bunch of watercress, cut 1” of stems off of both, rinse well and dry

• Using a can of the best quartered pears you can buy, save the juice in a small bowl; and place the pears in another small bowl.

• 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

• Roast beets, quartered, washed well, lightly covered in olive oil and enclosed in aluminum foil for 40 minutes; open the foil and roast for another 10 minutes until the tip of a paring knife easily pierces the skin

• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

• 1 tsp. white wine vinegar

• 3 tbsp. pear juice

• Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Whisk the pear juice and the vinegar with grainy Dijon mustard. Taste and add a pinch of white pepper and sea salt, Rinse the baby spinach well; drain and spin dry. Cut the jicama in half and peel half; cut into julienne strips, 1/4 inch x 3-4 inches long

Assemble the spinach with the 2-3 slices each of jicama, pear and beets. Dress when ready to eat. Not before. Enjoy.

Please send comments, questions or observations of interest to Chef Alan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it