From Sarah Leah Chase: This recipe ranks very high in my to-die-for category. Sometimes, when a recipe is that great, you have to go to extraordinary lengths to get it. The recipe does require a fair amount of labor, a bit of which I have simplified for home cooking, but I am confident you will find the sinfully delicious results worthy of the effort.
Barnstable Habor Oysters “Pepin”
INGREDIENTS FOR THE OYSTERS
- 4 ounces pancetta, finely diced
- 1 shallot, peeled and minced
- 1 pound freshly baby spinach leaves, rinsed and patted or spun dry
- 3 to 4 cups rock salt
- 24 fresh Cape Cod Oysters or other favorite meaty oysters, shucked (see Note below)
INGREDIENTS FOR THE BUTTER SAUCE
- 1 shallot, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- ½ teaspoons minced fresh lemon thyme or regular thyme
- ¼ cup heavy (whipping) cream
- ½ pound (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
- Preheat the oven to 400°F
- Place the pancetta in a medium-size skillet and cook over low heat until the pancetta is crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the skillet. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the fat in a large skillet or wok.
- Heat the reserved pancetta fat over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until it just begins to soften, 1 minute. Add the spinach and increase the heat to high. Using tongs, toss the spinach to coat the leaves with the hot fat and to help them wilt, about 2 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a platter and let cool to room temperature.
- Line 2 baking sheets with a half-inch-thick layer of the rock slat. Embed the oysters in their half-shells in the salt in a manner that keeps them level and secure. Divide the cooled spinach mixture among the 24 oysters, placing about 1½ tablespoons of the wilted spinach on top of each raw oyster to cover it.
- Begin making the butter sauce: Combine the minced shallot, vinegar, lemon juice, white wine, and thyme in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the liquid has reduced to a scant ¼ cup, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in the cream and immediately reduce the heat to low.
- Places the oysters in the oven and bake until the oysters are just cooked through and piping hot, 10 to 12 minutes.
- While the oysters are baking, finish making the butter sauce. Whisk the chilled butter, 1 piece at a time, into the reduction, waiting until each piece is incorporated and the sauce has formed an emulsion, stir in the reserved pancetta. As soon as the oysters emerge from the oven, spoon 1½ to 2 tablespoons of the butter sauce over each. Using tongs, carefully transfer the hot oysters in their shells to serving plates, allowing 2, 4, or 6 oysters per person, depending on the rest of the menu and the level of oyster enthusiasm. Serve at once with cocktail forks.
Note: If you’re not adept to shucking, ask your fishmonger to open the oysters for you within 2 hours of preparing the recipe. Reserve the shells separately.
New England Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase
From a born-and-bred New Englander comes a book that sings with all the flavors and textures of the beloved region. Sarah Leah Chase is a caterer, cooking teacher, and prolific writer. In New England Open-House Cookbook, Sarah draws from her memories of growing up in Connecticut and Maine; her experience living and cooking on Cape Cod; and her extensive travels meeting farmers, fishermen, and chefs. The result is a wide-ranging cookbook for everyone who has skied the mountains of Vermont, sailed off the coast of Maine, dug for clams on Cape Cod, or just wishes they had.