Monday, March 10, 2008

Oysters Chez Brooklynguy

Have you ever tried to open an oyster? Not a simple task, my friend. This I learned the other night when my pal Adam came over for dinner and brought a dozen Malpeques in tow.

The problem is, there is no clear lip along the side of the animal's shell, no place to put the blade of a knife. Instead, you use the tip of the knife to pry into the point on the shell where the top meets
the bottom. Once you get the knife tip in there, it no more force is necessary. You rotate your wrist, jiggling the knife from side to side, and the shell opens.

If you can do this cleanly, then I bet you've done it many times already. By cleanly, I mean preserving the oyster's liquor (the flavorful seawater/oyster juice liquid inside of the shell), even after using the knife to separate the oyster from the inside of the shell. I mean without gouging your own hands with either the knife or the shell.

As you might have guessed, Adam and I experienced only measured success in this department. But succeed we did, and by oyster number four I was getting into a rhythm. The half-inch gash on the knuckle of my right index finger is not infected and healing properly, and I can promise you this: as soon as the fish boat comes back to my farmer's market, and as soon as they sell oysters, I will host some sort of mini-festival featuring oysters and various wines. And the fish boat carries Peconic bay oysters, which are half the size of a Malpeque, and hopefully easier to deal with.

So...what did we drink with our oysters? Well, it was a special occasion. Not a birthday or anything like that, but special because it's a pleasure to hang out with a good friend in the kitchen, sipping good wine and cooking together. You already know what type of wine I reached for, I bet.

I wanted a Blanc de Blancs Champagne, something fresh and vibrant enough to work well with the fresh briny-ness of the oysters. And delicate too, nothing overpowering. I decided to try the NV Guy Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Reserve Brut, $32, imported by Willette Wines. This one came highly recommended - I remember reading that Craig at Wine Camp enjoyed this one, and Charlemagne is on Alice Feiring's list too.

We both really enjoyed this wine, and it paired beautifully with the sweet and briny oysters. It took a lot of air time to really show itself, but when it did it was very lovely. Chalky minerals and a bit of yeasty bread, some citrus too on the nose. The palate was biscuits and minerals, and very sharply cut. Quite powerful, focused, not an obvious fruit-driven wine. I can't say that this is one of my favorite Blanc de Blancs, but it was definitely very good.


Marco said...

Those Malpeques are huge. Drago's in NOLA has dyno-way to flame broil them on a grill.

2 lb. butter, softened
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
1 Tbs. black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
6 dozen oysters on the half shell
1 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses, mixed
3 Tbs. chopped parsley

1. Mix butter with the garlic, pepper, and oregano.

2. Heat a gas or charcoal grill and put oysters on the half shell right over the hottest part. Spoon the seasoned butter over the oysters enough so that some of it will overflow into the fire and flame up a bit.

3. The oysters are ready when they puff up and get curly on the sides. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan and Romano and the parsley on top. Serve on the shells immediately with hot French bread.

Drink, Memory said...

Oh, and that liquor you managed to preserve was heavenly, wasn't it? My favorite part.

Peconic bay oysters I will have to try. Ever had Peconic Bay wine?

Unknown said...

I haven't had the Blanc de Blanc Charlemagne yet. But I did have the regular cuvee, and enjoyed it greatly.

Anonymous said...

In the past year or two, I've become an oyster fiend. (3 dozen this weekend!) Yep, I went from being unable to shuck, to perhaps(?) no oyster will not open for me. I'm already done with kumamotos...they're just boring now (the Yellow Tail of oysters?).

Personally, I try to only buy small oysters to shuck/eat raw. Large ones (and most mediums), I avoid raw, and would rather have them baked or in oyster stew.

Also, when you talk about terroir, Oysters so rule over Wine. Oysters taste of where they came from....most wines can only aspire to that.

RougeAndBlanc said...

The farmer's market you refer to, is it the one at 5th Ave & 4th Street?

Brooklynguy said...

hi marco - sounds good, thanks. can you still taste the oyster under all of that? i've never had a cooked oyster before, except maybe once in a po'boy. sounds like something to try.

hey memoree - the whole thing was tastey, but yes, the liquor is essential if you're going to eat 'em raw. i've become some one who chews them a bit too. i've tasted many LI wines, yes. i want to like them much more than i actually like them. although i was quite surprised by the quality of the mature wines i tasted last summer at something called 12 at 12 years old. it's in my "new york wine" section if you want to see.

andrew- never tried that one. i've seen it though at one store and plan on tasting.

hiya jack - 3 dozen eh? that's pretty intense. do they affect your mood in that quantity? i prefer them small too. problem with most wine is that it does NOT aspire to that. aspire to be something else entirely. the wines you love and i love do aspire to that though, and i think that many of them succeed.

Brooklynguy said...

hi andrew - not 5th ave, i meant the grand army plaza market.

KJ said...

I just LOVE the Guy Charlemagne Bl de Bl. Biscuity and yeasty indeed, Big and laser sharp all at once. I'm sure it was fabulous with the oysters, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Marco said...

Yes, I could, as long as you watch them closely on the grill.

SLAKED! said...

Hi Brooklynguy, first time visitor, first time commentor...LOVE the blog guy, I am really digging your writing and your taste in wines. Keep it up - I'm bookmarking this site and coming back for more. SLAKED!

Brooklynguy said...

jon - i hope you dealt with your craving. not good to sit with that kind of thing...

marco-that is one to try. do you have a restaurant or something?

hey slaked- glad it's working for you, thanks for the kind words.