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Monday, February 13, 2012

Oysters on the Half Shell

Oysters On The Half Shell
My hub and I were in California recently where fresh oysters are abundant. Now, my hub absolutely LOVES raw oysters, so whenever he spots them on a menu, of course, he orders at least a half dozen or so (or several dozen) of these rock like mollusks.  Tomorrow being Valentine's day and all, I thought I'd show you how to put together your own platter of this aphrodisiac goodness. 
O.K., I still don't understand how or why these are aphrodisiacs, but, whatever. 
Let's start with what to buy. There are many different types of oysters, each having their own particular flavor and degree of brininess, due to the region in which they were harvested. You need to try several different types to ascertain what you like. 
Anyway, the only place to buy oysters is either at a reputable fish market, or at a gourmet grocer, like Whole Foods, that has excellent quality control and sells a lot of seafood, therefore has a lot of turnover, meaning fresher seafood. You really need to be careful with any raw shellfish. It must be alive and eaten ASAP. 
I buy my oysters at Whole Foods, since it is the only place in Colorado Springs that fresh fish comes in every day. And, there's no fishmonger here. Or seafood market. We are land locked.
I chose 6 "Pacific" and 6 "Atlantic" oysters, as they were the largest ones in the case. And they were on sale. For .89 cents a piece. Awesome. I liked both. I did not, however, like the oysters from Cape Cod. Too briny. Weird.


As soon as you get home, fill a big bowl with ice. Put the oysters on a thin cotton towel, and place it on the ice. Put it in the fridge. You don't want the oysters to be submerged in water. Or covered up in a plastic bag. This will kill them. Keep them cold, dry, and breathing air.

Before you ever start cleaning and shucking, get a few things in order. Either make (from scratch) a delicious cocktail sauce, (recipe at end of post), or put out your fave pre-made in a pretty dish.
 Put a serving platter in the freezer to chill out. I used a heavy metal bowl that stays really cold after freezing.

Crushed ice is great for presentation, as it keeps the oysters from turning over and spilling out their precious liquor, and keeps them nice and cold. 
I didn't have any, so I loaded up the food processor with a bunch of ice cubes and buzzed them up. Bravo! perfect crushed ice. You could also use a heavy duty blender.
 Lay the crushed ice down in your serving platter.
Slice up a fresh lemon into wedges.

Cocktail sauce: done. Check.
Ice in platter. Check. 
Lemons sliced. Check.
Now it's time to tackle the star of the day.

Give the oysters a good scrub under cold water. (They're really dirty). I didn't have a wire brush, so I used my mushroom brush. It worked just fine. Put them on a bed of ice to keep them cold.

Equipment you need: An oyster knife. I got this one, an OXO, at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $8.00, and used a 20% off coupon, so it was a steal. What's great about this knife is the size of the handle. It's big and offers a great, non-slip grip. Don't go off and use a regular knife or a screwdriver, unless you want to support your local E.R. and hand surgeon. Add a thick kitchen towel and you're ready to roll.
As there are plentiful sites that teach you how to shuck an oyster, I won't go into that here. Here's a tutorial link from another blogger that's really helpful:

O.K. Oysters are shucked! Here's the deal: Eat them within 20 minutes of shucking to avoid poisoning peril. (Remember the trip to the E.R.? Don't want that.)

Serve these beauties with a crisp glass of champagne for the start to a beautiful Valentine's day.

These oysters are HUGE! Much better and meatier than any we've gotten in a restaurant.


Zesty Cocktail Sauce:

It's so easy to make your own cocktail sauce, just the way you like it.  All you need is some ketchup, horseradish, hot sauce, worcestershire, and fresh lemon.
Put 1 cup Ketchup in a bowl.
Add 1 Tablespoon horseradish, or more, or less, depending on how hot you like it. I use about 4 Tbls, because I like it SPICY!
  Use this:

NOT THIS! One is horseradish, the other is horseradish sauce. Sauce is for beefy goodness. Not Oyster goodness. Luv ya, Ed, but this is not where you belong.
Add about 1 tablespoon each hot sauce and worcestershire sauce, and the juice of 1/2  a lemon. Season with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Stir it up. Taste and adjust. 
Sauce done.


Ingredients:
Oysters
Ice
Cocktail Sauce
1 cup Ketchup
1 Tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon hot sauce
tablespoon worcestershire sauce

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Creamy Asparagus/Spinach Soup

Creamy Asparagus Soup
Asparagus. Spinach. Soup. Creamy. Cheap. Spring.  Deliciousness. Good for you. Make this. Soon.

Spring is the perfect time to take advantage of plentiful, cheap, pencil thin asparagus. This soup is easy to make, beautiful, delicious, and great for you. We like to have soup and sammy night at our house, and this is a perfect complement to a grilled panini.

Let's start with the veg. Gather 2 pounds thin asparagus spears, 3 leeks, large shallots,  8 cups fresh baby spinach, 2 ( or  so) large cloves garlic. I say "or so" because you can put in as much as you like. I happen to be a big fan, so I'll probably use about 4 cloves. 5 if they're small.
 After washing, chop the asparagus into 1 inch pieces.
 Stems
 Tips
Leeks: Trim. Cut off all the tough green stems and roots. Slice in half vertically. Leeks are full of sand, because they grow up in sand. They must be thoroughly washed. 
 Thinly slice horizontally into half moons and rinse under cold water, .
 Drain
In a large soup pot, on medium high heat,  melt 2 Tbls butter
 Add the shallots and cook for 3 minutes
 Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes
 Add half of the asparagus stem pieces
 Saute for about 5 minutes
 Add the minced garlic. Stir for 1 minute.
 Stir in 2 Tbls flour
This will help thicken the soup without adding too much fat and calories
Stir until you can't see flour anymore. You want to cook out any pasty taste
 Add 1/2 cup white wine to the pot. Here's a hint: If you won't drink it, don't use it in your food. Don't go overboard and buy a $50.00 Chardonnay. Here are a few affordable suggestions: Black Box or Boda box, or Barefoot chard. 
Scrape up all of the brown bits of yumminess from the sides and bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Stir it all together.
Add 8 cups simmering chicken ( or vegetable) stock to the pot. Stir
 Throw in 8 cups fresh baby spinach. Stir.
Tie up a bundle of fresh thyme (5-8 sprigs) and 2 sprigs fresh rosemary with kitchen twine. Put it in the soup pot. Stir. Simmer about 15 minutes until asparagus is very tender.
 Heat the oven to 425 degrees. On a sheet pan, place the other half of the asparagus spears, cut into 1 inch pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, Kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Roast for 5 minutes.
 Set aside.
 When the spinach and asparagus pieces (not roasted) are very soft, the soup is ready to puree.
Fish out the thyme bundle and throw it away. It's job is done.
 Using an immersion blender, blend until creamy and smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, put the soup in a blender, cover the lid with a kitchen towel, and buzz it up. Here's a hint: if your soup isn't as thick as you'd like it after blending it up, add a couple tablespoons of instant potato flakes. They dissolve instantly and have virtually no taste, which is why you should never use them as mashed potatoes. They are, however, a great thickener for creamy soups.

 Add 1/4 cup heavy cream. You can leave out the cream altogether if you want to lighten it up. It will still taste delish, just won't be as creamy. Blend.
 Add the roasted asparagus into the soup, reserving the pretty tops for the top. Spoon into soup ramekins and top with roasted asparagus tips, croutons, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, and shaved Parmesan cheese.

So good!

Ingredients
2 pounds thin asparagus spears, cut into 1 inch pieces. 
8 cups Baby Spinach 
2 large shallots, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, minced
leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
 8 cups fresh baby spinach
 2 Tbls flour
8 Cups chicken (or vegetable) stock; simmering
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flake
Grated fresh Parmesan cheese, 1 tsp per bowl

Method:
1. Gather 2 pounds thin asparagus spears, 3 leeks, 1 large white onion, (chopped), 8 cups fresh baby spinach, 2 large cloves garlic.
2. After washing, chop the asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Dry thoroughly.
3. Leeks: Trim. Cut off all the tough green stems and roots. Slice in half vertically. Thinly slice horizontally and rinse under cold water.
4.  In a large soup pot, on medium high heat,  melt 2 Tbls butter.
5. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes.
6.  Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes.
7. Add half of the asparagus stem pieces and  saute for about 5 minutes.
8. Add the minced garlic. Stir for 1 minute.
9.  Stir in 2 Tbls flour and cook for about 2 minutes.
10. Add 1/2 cup white wine to the pot. Scrape up all of the brown bits with a wooden spoon.
11. Add 8 cups simmering chicken ( or vegetable) stock to the pot. Stir
12. Add 8 cups fresh baby spinach. Stir.
13. Tie up a bundle of fresh thyme (5-8 sprigs) and 2 sprigs fresh rosemary with kitchen twine. Put it in the soup pot. Stir. Simmer about 15 minutes until asparagus is very tender.
14. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. On a sheet pan, place the other half of the asparagus spears, cut into 1 inch pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, Kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Roast for 5 minutes. Set aside.
15.  Using an immersion blender, blend until creamy and smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, put the soup in a blender, cover the lid with a kitchen towel, and buzz it up.
16. Add 1/4 cup heavy cream.
17. Add the roasted asparagus into the soup, reserving the pretty tops for the top. Spoon into soup ramekins and top with roasted asparagus tips, croutons, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, and shaved Parmesan cheese.







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About Me

Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
I'm a home cook that can put some good tasting food on the table, most of the time. My family knows dinner is ready when the fire alarm goes off.