Ask Peter: How to make bluff oysters go further
I have read that Bluff oyster season is just around the corner — do you have any ideas on how I can make a pottle go a long way; i.e. rather than just ripping the top off and eating as is? I would like to be able to serve them to guests without having to fork out for a half dozen each. Ouch! Josef
I guess trying to maximise the usage of these highly seasonal, moreish delicacies is rather like trying to make sure that the small truffle you have (about the size of a cumquat) will be enough to feed eight at dinner.
Although that’s comparatively easy if you know these unattractive little fungi tubers. The flavour and aroma on the nose of a truffle (black or white, perhaps locally grown or imported from Italy or France) is so intensely pervasive you can grate it over risotto, mix in with a creamy pasta sauce, or scatter paper-thin slices over a chunk of steamed hapuku or snapper.
Try doing that with one or two oysters and you’ll be pulling your hair out. Even the flavour and experience of parmesan, diced smoked bacon, chillies or vegemite is easier to spread around as subtlety of flavour doesn’t exist for the previous.
Oysters are so particular because the thrill your mouth undergoes when one is popped in is hard to repeat. If you’ve ever had to, as I once did, cut an oyster into 4 because you didn’t have enough to go around and then popped ¼ in your mouth, it simply isn’t the same — your mouth knows there’s supposed to be a lot more of that “slimy firm crunchy” texture.
So, it would seem best that you allocate a number per guest, say 2-3, and then figure out how to spread them out. Key is that when you open the pottle there are oysters and juices, and it’s the juices that can help you here. This is only going to work if you’re prepared to do a little simple cooking.
Think of the juice as a diluted non-textural flavouring. It can vary, from a flavour rating of eight in oysteriness to a three, so some juices will be more effective than others. I assume it comes from the careful rinsing of them to ensure no shell is present before they’re packed up.
Strain the oysters from juice, laying them in a dish — not on paper as that will absorb some of their internal moisture and flavour, and place, covered, back in the fridge. My father taught his children to like oysters and his trick for that is something I still occasionally make because it’s a fun snack.
You basically cut stale bread into cubes and soak them in the juices from the oyster pottles — I often add a little oyster sauce and a few finely chopped oysters to spread the flavour further. You then dip the oyster nuggets into a light beer batter, deep fry until golden and crisp, squeeze on lemon juice and plenty of flaky sea salt and serve alongside the raw oysters. The hot crunchy oyster flavoured fritters contrast really well with the raw oyster flesh.
No oyster has been used to diminish your limited supplies and you’ve got a new party trick up your sleeve. You can find the full recipe for these fritters on my Facebook page.
You may not want to cook your Bluffs but making an omelette or serving with linguine pasta is another way to spread them around.
For two, finely dice a large shallot and cook in butter until soft and translucent. You could add ¼ tsp finely grated ginger or a little finely chopped chilli at this point. Add 1 cup cream and cook to reduce by half. Add the reserved oyster juice from 6-8 oysters and keep at a gentle simmer. Cut half your oysters in half and add these and the whole ones to the sauce. Add 1 tablespoon finely snipped chives and taste for seasoning. Turn the heat off but keep warm. Boil the linguine and drain. Toss it with the oyster sauce and divide between two warmed bowls. Purists would say don’t add parmesan but I would finely grate some over the top.
You could also use this to fill two omelettes. Spoon half of the sauce along the middle of each one, then fold and flip on to two warmed plates.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.