Sunday, February 07, 2010

Pearlescence

Notwithstanding the ebbs and flows of the kitchen modifications–three major steps crossed off the list (hood/backsplash, counter/sink, tile) with no major fuck-ups so far–I've managed to keep a working kitchen through most of it. We've had some takeout, true, but it's been due more to abject fatigue than lack of functionality. And tonight, to celebrate the beautiful new Moroccan tile, we had some friends over to admire it, since they're in the process of redoing their kitchen as well and they wanted to take a look at our sexy, sexy counters.

And they brought a chicken.

So we spatchcocked it, rubbed it, and roasted it, and served it with their pressure-cooked burdock and some steamed kabocha, sautéed collards, gravy, and it was freaking delicious. But what I want to talk about is the first course. We had a dozen oysters lurking in the fridge from last week's order, but I hadn't gotten to them yet (see above) and also because I had this idea and I needed a bit of time to get it together. See, I also still had the rest of the whey left from the cheesemaking, and that got me thinking about chowder, naturally, and so I curdled, simmered, and strained it to make a whopping two tablespoons of ricotta, which I ate. Then I took the resulting liquid and strained it through paper towels twice until it was truly clear and pale yellow.

I shucked the oysters and strained their liquor through a fine sieve into the whey and added the last four ice cubes of fish stock from the halibut skeleton we'd received as a gift last fall. I very gently poached the oysters in this, and then added in finely diced carrot, fennel stalk, and endive that I'd caramelized a bit with minced lardo in a pan until just tender. I let this all simmer barely for another minute or two, and then ladled it into bowls. The result was a sort of translucent chowder; there was the dairy richness of the whey, the cured pork element from the lardo (but not the overwhelming power of bacon) and the toothsome and colorful vegetables for sweetness and complexity, all in service of these gorgeous, plump, briny oysters. It was a lovely dish. Potato would have made it a bit more traditional, but I left them out for no particular reason; they just seemed like they'd be too heavy. As it was, the oyster liquor clouded my painstakingly clarified whey, so you can't see these beautiful Wellfleet bivalves in their frilly splendor. But they're in there, lurking below the surface like fat little dumplings. Next time I'll strain it all one more time after combining.

The scallion garnish was more than mere decoration; it added a bright, alliumaceous tang that set off the oysters excellently. A little more tinkering, and this could be a thing.

4 comments:

Muskeg Harpy said...

Lovely soup! Right now oysters are cheap at the dock and I've been looking for an excuse to buy some.

Also, as a person who has been building a house for nearly 5 years I totally understand the desire to show off completed projects. And how dirty awful the work can be.

peter said...

I'm not building the house, thank God, but bit by bit I am trying to improve the parts of it that piss me off. And the kitchen pisses me right off. Once I grout it, maybe I'll post a picture.

cook eat FRET said...

my what i big vocabulary you have... as in - i wish i could write like that.

peter said...

I bet you say that to all the guys.