Grilled Octopus Tentacles

Portugal

The Portuguese kitchen is not known for its subtleness or refinement. But that should not stop you from enjoying it! Portuguese cuisine comes with powerful flavours, lots of fish of course, bacalhau, Caldo Verde, octopus, cuttlefish, and the well known chicken piri-piri and pastel de nata. Same for Portuguese wine: perhaps not the most subtle wine (apart from Madeiras and Port wines), but how about an excellent Vinho Verde, a red wine from the Dão region made with Touriga Nacional or a red wine from Alentejo? We love flavors and we very much enjoy the bold dishes from Portugal.

Recently when in Brussels we booked a table at Chez Luis, a Portuguese Bar à vin and Restaurant. Tasty dishes like Pasteis de bacalhau, Cassolette de palourdes and Polvo lagareiro. Served with Portuguese wine, of course. And Chez Luis has an excellent choice! So we drank a vibrant espumante and a refreshing Vinho Verde (Longos Vales Alvarinho 2016). The Polvo made us think of one of our favorites: Octopus with summer vegetables. And since one octopus is way too much for two people, we simply bought two cooked tentacles. Feel free to buy a whole octopus, clean it, cook it, braise it and then follow the recipe below.

Wine Pairing

A Portuguese white wine will be a excellent choice, for instance a Vinho Verde like we enjoyed at Chez Luis. You could also go for a Spanish Verdejo from Rueda. Look for characteristics like fresh, fruity, clear acidity, subtle bitterness and full bodied.

What You Need

  • 2 Octopus Tentacles (cooked)
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 2 gloves of fresh Garlic
  • 1 Spring Onion
  • Jerez Vinegar
  • Black pepper
  • (Optional) Parsley
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil

What You do

Clean the red bell pepper and slice in 4 to 6 chunks. Grill it in your oven until nicely burned. Transfer to a plastic container and close the lid. Wait a few hours before peeling the bell pepper. Slice it into cubes (not too small). Remove the pits from the tomato. Slice in similar cubes. Slice the garlic (again, not too small). Slice the spring onion. Mix the vegetables and fry gently in a hot pan with olive oil. Set to low heat. In parallel heat your grill pan. Remove the gelatinous substance from the tentacles, dry them, coat with olive oil and grill for 4*2 minutes, creating a nice brown criss-cross pattern. It will not be very visible, but it will be crunchy. Just before serving the dish, add some Jerez vinegar to the vegetables, turning it into something like a salsa. Perhaps some parsley and black pepper. Serve the hot tentacle on the vegetables and add a slice of lemon.

grilled octopus tentacles

Haddock with Shiitake

Popular Fish

When you mention Haddock, Cod is never far away. Two of the world’s most popular fish. Many recipes and foodies describe the two as being very similar in terms of taste and preparation. We humbly disagree. We think Haddock is more flavourful and present compared to the mild taste of Cod. The structures differ as well, although both require your constant attention; they easily overcook.

Shiitake is more and more widely available, which is great! The nutty taste in combination with their firm structure makes them ideal for this dish. Powerful but not overwhelming. The classic white mushroom (or the chestnut coloured variation) will not do the trick; too soft and not sufficiently intense. Shiitake brings umami to the dish.

The white wine sauce is enriched with Classic Dry Noilly Prat, our favourite vermouth. Why favourite? Because Noilly Prat comes with a touch of bitterness, with umami, bringing the sauce and the Shiitake together. The vermouth is made with a number of botanicals, including chamomile. The white wine will bring acidity, but the dish also requires a hint of sweetness. The vermouth will enhance the natural sweetness of the Haddock. We use fish stock to create the sauce, obviously. Spend some money on buying a jar of excellent stock (or make your own).

So on your plate you have an intriguing combination of fish and mushrooms, with all five tastes represented. Nice isn’t it?

Wine Pairing

Our choice was a bottle of Pinot Grigio made by MezzaCorona. This is a dry and crispy white wine with a beautiful deep yellow colour. It’s an elegant wine with just the right acidity to relate to both the fish and the sauce. The producer mentions hints of chamomile.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Haddock (without the skin)
  • 100 gram of Shiitake
  • Shallot
  • Parsley
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Fish Stock
  • Noilly Prat
  • Dry White wine
  • White pepper

What You Do

Start by cutting the shallot. Fry gently in butter for a few minutes. Clean the Shiitake with kitchen paper and slice. Check the fish for bits you don’t want to eat. Add wine and Noilly Prat to the shallot and let the alcohol evaporate. Then add parsley and some fish stock. Leave for a few minutes and taste. Maybe add a bit more vermouth or fish stock. Be careful with the white wine. In parallel fry the fish in butter and olive oil. Both sides should be beautiful golden brown. Gently fry the shiitake in olive oil. When not yet completely ready (check the flexibility, feel how warm the fish is) transfer the fish to a sheet of aluminium foil. Don’t close it; you only want to keep it warm. Pass the sauce through a sieve and be ready to blender the sauce. Add all juices from the two pans and from the aluminium wrapping. Blend the liquid. You could add a small chunk of ice-cold butter to thicken the sauce.
Serve the fish on top of the sauce and add the shiitake. Perhaps a touch of white pepper.

Skate with Capers

When you Google for skate with capers you will find many recipes with capers and brown butter. We think you can do better!
The trick in this recipe is to clarify butter and then deep-fry the capers in the clarified butter. The result is a crunchy and salty caper with clear acidity from the brine. This works brilliantly with the meaty, fatty skate.

Clarification

Butter is an emulsion of butterfat, water and proteins. The process of clarification means breaking down the emulsion. The goal is to have pure butterfat, which will not burn and which allows for deep-frying.
The water will simply go when you warm the butter.
How to remove the proteins? Option one is to start by melting the butter and to wait until you see white foam and until the water is gone. Now pour the fat into a jar or cup, carefully keeping the foam in the pan.
Option two is to continue warming the butter until the white foam becomes brown. Be careful not to burn it, this will ruin your butter. The now brown foam will sink to the bottom, which makes it easier to pour the butterfat in a jar or cup. If you want to be even more sure of the quality, use a cheesecloth when pouring. The idea is that using the second option will give the clarified butter a more nutty taste.

Wine Pairing

Skate goes really well with a glass of classic Chardonnay with a touch of oak. The chardonnay comes with a velvety taste which is great with the skate and its consistency. The touch of oak combines very well with the fried capers.

What You Need

  • Skate Wing (let’s say 200 grams for 2 persons)
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Capers (in brine)
  • 75 grams of Butter (to be clarified)

What You Do

Clarify the butter and set aside. Fry the skate in a non-sticky pan for 5-10 minutes or so, depending on the size and shape. Please notice that there is more meat on one side then on the other side, so it’s not 10=5+5. Transfer the skate to a warm plate. Heat the clarified butter to frying temperature and in parallel wash the capers and dry them with kitchen paper. Fry the capers until crispy. Serve the skate with some black pepper and sprinkle the capers on top of the skate.

Sweetbread with Madeira and Truffle

A Starter to Remember

A culinary treat that is delicate, balanced and overwhelming yet subtle. In a restaurant you will probably get Sweetbread (Ris de Veau, Kalfszwezerik, Kalbsbries, Molleja de Ternera, Animelle di Vitello) dusted with flour (okayish) or breaded (awful idea, it’s not a Wiener Schnitzel). In some countries Sweetbread is grilled, which is an interesting idea. We stick to a very traditional approach that works extremely well because it’s all about the taste of the Sweetbread in combination with Madeira and Truffle.
Sweetbread should of course be hot and soft on the inside and golden and crispy on the outside. Use your non-sticky skillet and a bit of butter for a beautiful result.
Sweetbread should be between rosé and well done. It requires a bit of attention, but it’s hard to overcook Sweetbread. Although some restaurants are very capable of creating rubber.
It is essential to clean Sweetbread. For some the process of removing the membrane from Sweetbread is intimidating, but don’t be put off. Just watch the video!

Wine Pairing

First the Madeira: don’t be tempted to buy so called ‘cooking Madeira’. This is some horrible, sweet liquid that is not even close to Madeira. One for the bin. We bought a bottle of Santa Maria Fine, Medium Dry, Vinho Madeira. It is perfectly suited for this recipe. The story behind Madeira is complex so if you get the chance to buy one that is 10 or 15 years old, please give it a try. Just sip and enjoy.

We’re looking for a wine that will be supporting the delicate taste and the sweetness, earthiness and the slight nuttiness of the sauce. If you want to drink a glass of white wine, then it should be a full-bodied Chardonnay, although not too oaky. Chablis will be a good choice. If you go for red, then we recommend a Beaujolais Cru (St. Amour or Fleurie) or a Bourgogne. It’s about soft tannins, aromas like dark cherries and licorice and on the palate a lean texture and dry.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Sweetbread
  • Two leaves of Bay Leaf
  • Crushed black pepper
  • Butter
  • Shallot
  • Veal Stock
  • Madeira
  • Preserved Truffle (preferably without additional flavours)
  • Jus de Truffes

What You Do

Start by filling a big pan with water. Add the crunched pepper and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Now add the sweetbread and make sure the water remains close to boiling. Blanch the sweetbread for let’s say 5 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the sweetbread.
Transfer the sweetbread to a large bowl with ice-cold water and cool the meat as quickly as possible.
Now it’s time to clean the sweetbread. Remove the bits of fat, the fleeces, any membrane, the veins and anything else you don’t like. Best way to do this is with your hands and a very sharp small knife. Once your sweetbread is clean, you will be able to see how to slice it later on. But first put it on a flat plate, seal it with plastic foil, put a similar flat plate on top of it and put something heavy on top of the plate. Transfer to the fridge and leave it for a few hours. The idea is twofold: on the one hand the sweetbread will be firm and easy to partition. And it will lose some liquid because of the weight.
With the sweetbread in the refrigerator it’s time to think about your sauce. Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze in butter. Aftre a few minutes add the veal stock and the Madeira. Mix and reduce. Add one preserved truffle. Blender the liquid after five minutes. Pass through a small sieve and warm what is the beginning of your sauce. Add Jus de Truffes. This is an essential ingredient because it brings volume and depth to the sauce. It’s not to be confused with Truffle Oil, which in most cases is some kind of horrendous chemical invention. Taste and perhaps add some more Madeira or stock. A pinch of pepper may also be helpful. Keep warm for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. You will notice that the sauce becomes more intense and mature, which is exactly what you want.
In parallel cut 2-3 cm thick slices of sweetbread. Fry them for 5 minutes or so in a very warm (but not hot), non-sticky skillet with butter. It’s simple: when the sweetbread is golden and beautiful they are ready to be served. If in doubt: there is bound to be a small slice, one that you can use to test. Remember it’s offal, so you don’t want to take a risk.
Take two warm plates, add sauce and carefully put the slices of sweetbread on the plate. You could add slices of (fresh) truffle on top.

Video

 

Pimientos de Padrón

Lovely and Simple Starter

Pimientos de Padrón are mild, sweet tasting and small green peppers, originally from the Galicia region in Spain, but now widely available in Spain and Portugal. Story has it that one in a hundred (or more?) is actually very spicy, but rest assured, we have eaten many more and never encountered a spicy one. Ask your greengrocer for these lovely peppers because we’re sure you will enjoy them.

Wine Pairing

We would suggest drinking a Vinho Verde with the Pimientos de Padrón. Vinho Verde is a wine from the most northern part of Portugal, between the Douro and Minho rivers. Verde refers to the fact that the grapes are harvested very early in the year. This implies that the grapes contain a fairly small amount of sugar. As a result of this the wine (in most cases) has a fairly low percentage of alcohol (think 10%). But don’t be surprised if you find one with a higher percentage.

About Vinho Verde

In general we feel Vinho Verde is undervalued. It’s a great, very taste wine; one that is not just wonderful on a summers evening.
Vinho Verde is not a wine to store, so make sure you buy one from the most recent harvest.
Most Vinho Verde wines are white. They tend to have a very subtle bubble. The taste is light, floral and the wine comes with some clear acidity.
We also found a rosé and a red Vinho Verde. Seldom have we seen a wine with such an intense colour! To balance the acidity of the red Vinho Verde you must be combined with fat meat or rich sauces. We combined it with grilled Secreto of Iberico pork, which is a treat in its own right. Secreto is a thin, juicy cut from acorn fed, free range Iberico pigs.

Secreto

As an extra: for two people buy 300 grams of Secreto. In a way the structure of the secreto resembles skate. One side of the secreto will look nice, fat and meaty, the other may look like if you have to remove extra fat. Which is exactly what you need to do! After having done that, heat a heavy grill pan (or the barbeque) and grill the meat for 4 times one minute, creating a nice pattern. The cuisson should be rosé. It’s not a problem if the thinner parts of the secreto are well done because the meat will be very juicy anyway, thanks to the fat. Serve with a sautéed courgette. The bitterness and the sweetness of the courgette combines really well with the juicy secreto. The red Vinho Verde will balance the fat and will turn the combination of secreto and courgette into an intriguing dish.

What You Need

  • Pimientos de Padrón
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt

What You Do

Clean the Pimientos de Padrón and dry the peppers. Heat a heavy skillet, add olive oil and fry the peppers for a few minutes. Make sure they are fried but not cooked. Sprinkle some sea salt over the Pimientos de Padrón, fry for a few seconds making sure the salt is somewhat adsorbed in the olive oil. Serve immediately.

White Asparagus with Sauce Gribiche

End Of Season

This tends to be a combination we like to serve towards the end of the asparagus season. The combination of asparagus with capers, cornichons and chives is unusual but it works really well with both green and white asparagus.

In most countries the season for asparagus is well-defined. It starts around April 23rd (St.George’s Day) and finishes on June 24th (the nativity of Saint John the Baptist). Green asparagus tend to be available all year round, however we recommend being careful. It’s a bit silly to buy the very skinny ones grown in darkest Peru. Nothing wrong with Peru, we love Paddington, it’s just that following the season and focusing on local, organic products is our preferred approach, but not in a dogmatic way.

Sauce Gribiche

This sauce is made with chives, chervil, parsley and tarragon. In this case we use chives only because especially the tarragon would be too much for the asparagus. Chives give it a touch of onion, which is exactly what the sauce needs.
Two notes regarding the oil: when you want to make a true sauce Gribiche (so with chervil, parsley and tarragon plus more vinegar) you would add more oil to give it volume and smoothness. In this case you want a very rich sauces with clear presence of all ingredients. And (second note) because we use less oil we use excellent olive oil only. Otherwise you would use a combination of olive or grapeseed oil with a more neutral oil like sunflower or arachis (peanut) oil.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Asparagus with sauce Gribiche with a glass of Macon (Louis Jadot Mâcon Villages Grange Magnien). The wine (100% chardonnay) comes with some gentle acidity and minerality, which is great with the acidity of the Sauce Gribiche. It’s fruity with a floral scent.

Interestingly you can also combine the dish with wine made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. We very much liked the combination with a glass of Menetou-Salon from the house of Clement Chatenoy. A remarkable Sauvignon with citrus and passion fruit, freshness and an exceptional length in the mouth. The wine has flavours and complexity very similar to the sauce and to the asparagus, making it a harmonious pairing of food and wine.

What You Need

  • Two Eggs
  • Dijon Mustard (1 tea spoon)
  • (White Wine) Vinegar (1 small tablespoon)
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Pepper
  • Chives
  • Cornichon
  • Capers (in brine)
  • Asparagus

What You Do

Start by boiling the eggs, making sure the yolk is set but not too much. Depending on the size add them to boiling water and leave them in the simmering water for 7-9 minutes. We steamed them for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.
Once cold, peel the eggs, separate the white from the yolk. Cut the white in very small bits and store. Crush the two yolks using a fork. Make sure it becomes a paste-like substance. Add the mustard, stir, add the vinegar and stir well. Continue stirring (spoon preferred) and slowly add the olive oil, as if making a mayonnaise. Which is basically what you’re doing anyway! Main difference is that cooked yolk is less powerful when it comes to emulsifying. So the amount of olive oil you can add is (more) limited.
Once you’ve added the olive oil, add a bit of lemon juice, taste and decide if more mustard, vinegar, pepper or lemon is needed.
Now add the chopped egg white, the finely chopped chives, the drained and chopped capers and the thinly sliced cornichon.
The sauce should be ‘stable’ so feel free to store in the refrigerator.
Steam or cook the white or green asparagus and enjoy!

 

 

 

The Art of Sauces: Kimizu

Yamazato

A few years ago we enjoyed an excellent Kaiseki dinner at Yamazato in Amsterdam. The menu featured many wonderful dishes, one of them being Kimizu-Ae: a combination of white asparagus and Kimizu. We were immediately intrigued because Kimizu is a rich and light sauce. It comes with a velvety feeling, a natural note of sweetness, a bright yellow colour and perfect acidity. So yes, the next day we prepared our own Kimizu.

Kimizu brings together two ingredients: egg yolk and rice vinegar. You could add some mirin (or sugar) and a pinch of salt. Within two minutes you will have created a beautiful, golden sauce; one that combines very well with fish and asparagus.
Kimizu does not contain butter (the egg yolk being the only source of fat) so Kimizu, although it seems similar to Hollandaise, is lighter, easier to digest and fresher.

Many recipes include starch, probably because the cook has trouble making a warm, emulgated sauce. Our advice: never use starch or beurre manié. The consistency is an essential element of the sauce and must be the result of the combination of egg, liquid and warmth. Same for a sabayon.

Using a microwave oven to make Kimizu is a great idea (see our recipe for Hollandaise), although it does require more whipping and more attention compared to making Hollandaise.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Asparagus and Kimizu with a glass of Sancerre, 2017, Domaine Merlin Cherrier. This classic wine reflects the chalky terroir of Sancerre beautifully. The combination of Sauvignon Blanc (citrus, minerals) and Kimizu (touch of sweetness, present but not overpowering acidity) works really well. A wine of true class and complexity with a long finish.

Now embrace your microwave and start using if for making Kimizu.

What You Need

  • Two Egg Yolks
  • 2 tablespoons of Rice Vinegar
  • Teaspoon of Mirin or a Teaspoon of White Sugar (optional)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 6 Asparagus

What You Do

Whisk the two egg yolks, add the rice vinegar and whisk some more. Now transfer to the microwave and give it let’s say 10 seconds of 30%. Remove from oven and whisk well. Repeat. You will now feel the consistency changing. If not, don’t worry, just repeat the step. Towards the end of the cooking process, move to steps of 5 seconds on 30% power. Whisk, whisk again and feel free to find your own way. When the Kimizu is ready, take it out of the oven, continue whisking gently and cool slightly in a water bath.
In parallel steam the asparagus (depending on the size 25 or 30 minutes; they should be well done for this dish). Serve the asparagus with a generous helping of Kimizu.

White Asparagus with Kimizu © cadwu
White Asparagus with Kimizu © cadwu

 

Red Gurnard with Shrimps

Red And Blue

Such a beautiful fish! The Red or Tub Gurnard (or Roter Knurrhahn, Rode Poon, Galinette or Grondin Perlon) has a bright red body with blue, greenish pectoral fins. And isn’t the armoured head with the big eyes impressive? And on top of this they are capable of making a drumming, grunting sound.

For some obscure reason they have a poor reputation in the kitchen. You may find them as an ingredient in a stew or soup, but on its own? Not really. A pity, because it’s actually a delicious fish with firm fillets that keep their shape when prepared. Perhaps the gurnard comes with a more acquired taste (meaning that it’s not the kind of fish that is suitable for people who enjoy eating fish fingers). Some say the taste reminds them of shrimps, which would be interesting, given the Gurnard feeds on crabs, shrimps and other invertebrates living in the sediment.

We combine the Gurnard with shrimps and a classic Bisque, made with the shells of unpeeled shrimps. Agreed, it’s a bit of extra work, but it’s worthwhile.

Wine Pairing

A glass of Pinot Blanc or Gris will be a nice accompaniment to the dish. Light and fresh with a touch of sweetness. Chablis will also be nice.

What You Need

  • 2 Gurnards (preferably cleaned)
  • Butter
  • For the Bisque
    • 200 grams of unpeeled small grey shrimps
    • 1 small Tomato
    • 1 Shallot
    • Olive oil
    • Bouquet Garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley)
    • Cognac

What You Do

Start by peeling the shrimps. It’s a very simple, mindfulness exercise. Remove the heads and discard. Use the shells for the bisque and transfer the bodies of the shrimps to the refrigerator. Chop the shallot and the tomato. Gently glaze the shallot for 10 minutes or so in olive oil. Add the shells and increase the heat for a few seconds. Add the tomato, some water and the bouquet garni. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Pass the liquid through a fine sieve. Make sure you get all the lovely juices. Add a splash of cognac and reduce the liquid until it’s powerful. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
In a non-sticky pan heat some butter and fry the gurnards. Isn’t the colour beautiful? In parallel warm the bisque. Just before serving add the shrimps. Don’t cook them (cooking will make them rubbery), just a bit of warmth will do the trick.
Serve the gurnard on a warm plate and dress with the bisque and shrimps.

 

Mussels with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Moules marinière, Mosselen met Look, Mussels in Beer, Mussels with Anise, Mussels with Cream, served with crusted bread or with French fries: mussels are great to combine. Mussels with Spicy Tomato Sauce is a nice, spicy surprise, provided the mussels are really tasty. If not, then the spicy sauce will overwhelm the mussels and it will be an unbalanced dish. Best to make the tomato sauce a day before. You could also go for Piri Piri, but please make your own. The industry-made Piri Piri is never as tasteful.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of Picpoul de Pinet AOP les Flamants. Let’s explain the name: the grape is called Picpoul Blanc. And the vineyards belong to a village called Pinet; close to the Etang de Thau in the south of France between Narbonne and Montpellier. The terroir (think calcareous soil, clay, quartz) is influenced by the sea, which is reflected in the mineral taste of the wine. The story is that Picpoul could be read as pique poul which translates into something like ‘stings the lip’; a nice reflection of the high acidity of the grapes. This acidity guarantees a refreshing white wine, which is exceptional given the warm climate. The wine is bright yellow with a very subtle touch of green. It’s aromatic, floral and fruity. The taste has notes of citrus and hopefully some bitterness, which will make it into a really interesting wine. To be combined with oysters, mussels, fruit de mer, skate and fish in general.

What You Need

  • For the Mussels
    • 1 kilo of Mussels (we prefer small ones)
    • Olive Oil
    • 1 Shallot
    • 1 Garlic Glove
    • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, Thyme)
    • White Whine
  • For the Sauce
    • 4 Ripe Tomatoes
    • 1 Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 3 Garlic Gloves
    • 2 Chili Peppers
    • Red Wine
    • Bay Leaf
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Please remember to read our mussel basics. Start by making the sauce. Remove the pits from the tomatoes and cut the meat in small chunks. Remove the seeds from the peppers and slice. Peel the onion and garlic gloves and chop these. Glaze the onion, garlic and chili pepper in olive oil. Ten minutes on low heat will do the job. Add the tomatoes , the tomato juice (simply put the pits and the left overs from the tomato in a sieve and use a spoon to squeeze out all the lovely juices and flavors), some red wine and the bay leaf. Cook for at least two hours, remove the bay leaf, transfer to the blender and make a very smooth sauce. Pass through a sieve. Transfer back to the pan and reduce until it’s a nice, rich sauce. Cool quickly and transfer to the refrigerator for the next day.

Warm a fairly big pan and gently glaze the sliced onion in olive oil. Then add the chopped garlic. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the flavours to integrate.
Turn up the heat to maximum and when really hot add the mussels and close the pan with the lid. Listen and observe: you will be able to hear when content of the pan is becoming hot again. You will see steam, more steam. Check the status of the mussels. Close the lid, listen and observe. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon, transfer to a warm soup dish and serve with the warm and spicy tomato sauce and crusted bread.

Oysters With Tarragon

Not Just Any Oyster

The best way to eat an oyster is to eat it raw. You will taste the saltiness, the texture and all of its flavours. The usual way to counter the saltiness is by adding a bit of lemon or mignonette but you could also go for something spicy like Tabasco, horseradish or perhaps wasabi. Don’t add something sweet because the oyster has its own sweetness.
Enjoying an oyster begins by deciding which oysters to buy. Should they be small or large, should the taste be creamy, sweet or more lean and juicy? The rule is simple: if an oyster looks creamy (opaque) then it will taste creamy.
The next step is opening the oysters and then you’re good to go. Please remember, as always: eating means chewing and tasting. Some people think they should drink an oyster. And then state that an oyster is just a bit of salt water.
Be careful if you see cooked or steamed oysters on a menu. In most cases the oysters will be covered with lots of overwhelming ingredients, in an attempt to hide the taste of the oyster. Plus if the oyster is overcooked its structure will be rubbery and nasty. Feel free to go for Steamed Oysters with Black Bean Sauce at your Chinese restaurant, or for Oysters Rockefeller (when you trust the chef) of for our quick and delicious Oysters with Tarragon.

Wine Pairing

When eating oysters, your wine must have some minerality. Think Chablis, Picpoul de Pinet, Sancerre, Sylvaner, and Champagne. We enjoyed a glass of Sylvaner Reserve 2017, Fernand Engel. It has a nice yellow colour with aromas such as citrus. The taste is fresh with an elegant acidity and fruit. It’s a very open wine and one that combines very well with the flavours of the oysters and the tarragon.

What You Need

  • 6 oysters (or 12).
  • Butter
  • Lots of Tarragon
  • White pepper

What You Do

We will add butter to the oyster, so buy ones that are lean (so not creamy), for instance the ones from the Île de Ré. Pre-heat your oven and set to grill. Combine the butter and the finely chopped tarragon with some white pepper. Make 6 equal sized lumps. Set aside and keep cool. Scrub each oyster under cold, running water. Open the oyster. Use your knife or a spoon to detach the muscle underneath the oyster from the bottom shell. Remove any small bits of broken shell or sediment. Remove some of the liquid, top with the tarragon butter. Make sure you have everything ready for serving the grilled oysters (plate, tongs, wine, guests). Place under the grill for 1 minute and serve immediately.