ODE TO THE OYSTER
Like a lot of folks November is my favorite time of the year. The weather is changing to the cooler temps, the holidays are quickly approaching and like clockwork it is shellfish season.
Of course this time of the year, the Stone Crab steals most of the press as Stone Crab season just opened on October 15th. Most Floridians are now enjoying their sweet Crab fix for the first time in six months.
While it is true that Stone Crabs are a must have this time of year, and so far the catches have been plentiful, don't overlook the Quahogs, Mollusk and Bivalves. A few uncommon names for the common Clams, Mussels and Oysters that thrive in the colder months as the water temperatures fall.
It's the time of year when we look for seafood delights that are a little heavier than the summer Shrimp Gazpacho dish and not quite as comforting as a winter Paella or Jambalaya….no, what we are looking for in the Fall is Mussels Marinara, Seafood Gumbo or Linguini with Clams but my favorite is the granddaddy of all shellfish…the Oyster.
Right now the Oyster profile is that of a very briny, buttery and clean taste with a salty finish. Oysters are most commonly eaten raw, steamed, or grilled. Recent travels to New Orleans and Pensacola, Florida have opened my eyes to a variety of creative and delicious ways to serve Oysters.
Most of us are all familiar with the traditional Oyster Rockefeller and the Oyster Casino but some of these Oyster bars in the Gulf panhandle have taken the Oyster to another level. Smoked Oysters with bacon, jalapenos, cheese and bread crumbs was one menu item that left a delightful impression on my tastebuds while broiled Oysters with a Buffalo Wing Sauce and crumbled Blue Cheese left me dazed and confused.
As a self-proclaimed “Oyster Expert” it is essential that before I eat an oyster I will actually need to witness the opening of the shell to ensure maximum freshness and taste. The best Oyster bars shuck the Oyster in front of you and serve your freshly shucked dozen with a cold draft beer. If you haven't sat at the bar of Monks Oyster Bar and had a dozen Monkefellas or an East Coast Oyster Roast at The Big Water Fish Market, you are missing out on two local Oyster favorites.
So, as the big Thanksgiving weekend approaches we all think turkey, ham and deviled eggs but don't forget the Shrimp Cocktail, Stone Crabs and a Thanksgiving tradition…the Oyster stuffing.
It's not the turkey I look forward to but it’s being home with my family watching the big Michigan vs Ohio State game with a giant bowl of Dad's homemade Oyster Stew.
May the world be your Oyster…whatever that means.
Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving all!
Big Water Fish Market
2 Bags Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing I stick unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion chopped
1 cup celery chopped
1 qt chicken broth
1 Quart Oysters & the liquid
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sage
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350*.
SautÃ© butter, onions ,& celery for 8-10 minutes.
Combine stuffing mix & sautÃ©ed vegetables. Add oysters & liquid, eggs,poultry seasoning thyme. Get mixture to "moist consistency" with chicken broth; as much as needed. Add salt, pepper,& sage.
Pour all into greased 9×12 baking pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Insert knife in middle until it comes out clean and dressing is slightly crusty on top.