Although we are sad to wave goodbye to Dinner Party Skills, the New Year is bringing us new beginnings in more ways than one. But here we are, a year older, a year wiser (ish) and hopefully a little more refined. Along with that vein, we are excited to kick off this year with something entirely new. So without further ado, we are delighted to announce our brand new series ‘Cooking in the Danger Zone’. The aim of this is to tackle ingredients that make some a little squeamish – we’re talking strange fish, offal and game. They are the opposite of your classic ‘safe’ dishes in your dinner party arsenal and will push the boundaries of not only your guests and their delicate palates, but your culinary skills too.
Where else could start other than our slippery little friend the oyster. Considered a delicacy by some and a slimy, ticking time bomb by others, it is safe to say that they grace the top of the controversial foods list. Of course, G&T is a little biased as we love a bit of shellfish, but we have to admit that we were momentarily squeamish after our conversation with the fish monger upon their collection. Apparently, it makes sense now, but our faces dropped when he mentioned in passing they were alive… when you eat them.
We got over it quickly, granted, but we just decided that our squeamishness was fitting with the theme of the post. We bought native oysters from our very own shores of the British Isles, and it is said that these are in season in any month that contains an ‘R’.
Now, a word of warning. The oysters are an absolute bitch to get into. It took two of us and five different household tools to get into the buggers, and it doesn’t matter how many videos you watch of chef’s doing it effortlessly, it isn’t going to get any easier. Be prepared for the use of a little elbow grease and for your kitchen to be sprayed in oyster juice. We would attempt to write down instructions for this, but the truth is, for us, there was no set method for us other than ‘HULK SMASH’ – so just go watch a video and perhaps recruit someone strong to help you. This process is called ‘shucking’, you never know when you might need that piece of information for a pub quiz, so you can thank us later.
Once you’ve shucked them, it is best to serve them straight away for freshness. Serve the oysters over crushed ice dusted with a little salt to lower the temperature of the oysters and keep them cold. Now, when it comes to toppings, traditional ones include shallot vinegar, lemon juice and Tabasco. If you want to adapt a tradition a little, try a touch of chilled vodka and Tabasco… it’s like a fishy Bloody Mary.
We opted for the wondrous Black Cow vodka; unique in the way its made, Black Cow vodka is like nothing else on the market. The creation of Dorset farmer Jason Barber, his inspiration came from a desire to diversify the produce from his 250 strong dairy herd and his deep personal interest in vodka. That’s right – it’s made using the same processes you use to make cheese. During the process, milk is separated into curds and whey, like that age-old nursery rhyme. The curds are used to make cheese, the whey is fermented into a beer using a special yeast that converts the milk sugar into alcohol. This beery-yeast is then distilled, treated, filtered then bottled. Beautiful huh?
However, in real G&T style, we have given our recipe a little twist with an Asian dressing, shredded spring onion and caviar for a little-added opulence, because why the fuck not?
When it comes to eating them, the trick is all in one. Using a small fork, scoop the flesh from the shell and tip it into your mouth in one go. Press the oyster against your palate for the ultimate flavour release before swallowing it whole. It should taste like the sea, and although it will feel strange at first, the creamy, subtle aftertaste you are left with will have you, and your guests going back for more.
It’s a risk, sure, but this year is all about taking those risks and stepping out of our comfort zones, and if you definitely don’t like it then at least you can say you tried. Better luck next time.
See you next Thursday,
Oysters with Asian Dressing
12 Oysters, Freshly shucked
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp. golden caster sugar or honey
Caviar or salmon roe
2 spring onions, finely sliced
Easy one this one – combine the ginger, soy, rice vinegar and sugar and mix with a fork to combine well. Topp the oysters with the spring onion, and drizzle with dressing. Top with a few blobs of the caviar and a squeeze of lemon or lime.