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Monday, March 22, 2021

Oyster Progression

* The listed oyster varieties will work beautifully with each preparation in this entry! However, due to a desire to utilize local oysters and ensure optimal levels of quality, I utilized the following oysters for this particular dish: Umami (from Rhode Island), Mookie Blues, (from Maine), Canada Cup (from Prince Edward Island), and Island Creek (from Massachusetts).

Freshly shucked oysters are a perfect prelude to any world class dining experience. These succulently seductive packages come bursting with intense ocean flavor sure to please the palate and tantalize the taste buds. The oyster progression is my way of showcasing a variety of oysters by preparing specific accoutrements that complement and accentuate their unique characteristics.


I chose the Kumamoto as the first bite in the oyster progression. Kumamoto oysters are petite in size, with a subtle level of sweetness, which serve as a point of balance with the selected garniture. Fresh lime juice is the perfect counterpart to the slightly sweet Kumamoto, as the acidity brightens up the eating experience. In this case, I transform fresh lime juice into a granita by adding a touch of simple syrup to the and freezing the mixture on a tray (while intermittently stirring). Shave the cold and sharp granita in a small pile atop the oyster along with freshly grated lime zest and a few drops of extra virgin olive oil. The olive oil adds an aromatic, earthy finish to the sweet and tart treat.  


The flavors of Bouillabaisse reimagined as a chilled accoutrement to a beautifully briny Blue Point oyster  

pleasingly pave the way for this oyster voyage. Discovering the intense expression of lobster, tomato, saffron, and flavors of the sea encapsulated by Bouillabaisse was undoubtedly an essential building block and moment of inspiration for my culinary journey. In this case, the essence of lobster shines through—quite literally—in the form of a lobster consommé en gelee. When preparing lobsters using the quick—and most humane—method by inserting the tip of a chef’s knife directly into the cross-section on the back of the head, take advantage of the ability to separate the tails, claws, and knuckles as the cooking times differ slightly. Chefs refer to the sections of the lobsters from the head down to the torso as lobster bodies, or shells. Carefully clean and lightly roast the lobster bodies and coat them with tomato paste for further roasting until the raw tomato flavor subsides. Combine the shells in a stockpot with garlic, fennel, onion, tarragon, and thyme, cover with water, and gently simmer for 45 minutes to create a light but flavorful lobster stock. The inclusion of lemongrass and Kaffir lime elevate the level of aroma to great heights. Combine the knuckle meat as well as meat from the smaller lobster claws with egg whites, mirepoix, and tarragon to create a raft which will contribute to the clarification process of what will become the consommé. After one hour of cooking and clarification, use a ladle to gradually strain the broth through a cheesecloth-lined chinois. Bloom approximately eight sheets of gelatin per quart of consommé. Heat the consommé in a saucepot and whisk in the gelatin to dissolve thoroughly. Strain the consommé for final clarity onto a flat surface and chill until set. The finished texture should be pleasingly silky, with the undeniable essence of a proper lobster consommé. The similarity of texture between the gelee and the oyster create a perfect setting for the delightful interplay of the briny characteristics of the oyster and the incredibly powerful lobster flavor. 

In order to pay homage to the tomato aspect of the Bouillabaisse concept, without overshadowing the delicate Blue Point oyster, a simple tomato water does more than justice for the preparation. Quarter six beefsteak tomatoes, season with kosher salt, and pulse in a food processor to a liquid consistency. Strain the pulpy mixture through a damp cloth and allow the liquid to drain slowly for at least one hour. The resulting liquid is clear in color, but full of tomato flavor.


Saffron is a luxurious elixir that gives Bouillabaisse its characteristic aromatic charm. The garlic rouille that tops the traditional crostini on a proper Bouillabaisse adds such a pleasant richness to the finish of the dish, that one would be remiss to omit it from the finished product. In order to respect tradition and maintain the cherished flavor profile of Bouillabaisse, mix a teaspoon of fresh saffron with lemon juice and use that mixture as the base for a rouille. The saffron rouille gracefully garnishes the Blue Point bivalve.  


The addition of spice from Espelette pepper creates a distinctive level of depth with the dish that entices the appetite and scintillates the salivary glands. Peel a Yukon gold potato, slice thinly on a mandoline, and use a small ring cutter to punch out perfect circles. Fry the chips at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown and season with salt and Espelette pepper. Using a Blue Point oyster as a platform for a Bouillabaisse preparation would undoubtedly stand out on any seafood tower platform. 


The Japanese preparation of dashi entices appetites as a standalone broth but can also be utilized as a deeply satisfying cooking medium. Simmer Kombu sheets in water for one hour, strain the broth and season with a large handful of Bonito flakes for 20 minutes. The result is an unctuous heartwarmingly savory concoction that can be adjusted with mirin, sake, and soy sauce for various preparations. The Olympia oyster coming from the Atlantic is small and carries on a delightful brininess and a slightly metallic finish. Gently poach the oyster in the dashi just to warm it through and take on some of the deep flavor of the broth. Mix hoisin sauce—a Chinese barbecue flavored glaze—with soy sauce and brush the mixture over the oyster and use a pastry bag to squeeze dots along the side of the shell as well. Create a pickling liquid using rice wine vinegar, salt, and sugar as a base and add ginger and lemongrass to infuse their aromatic qualities enhance the dish in a satisfyingly subtle way. Bring the liquid to a boil and strain it over thinly sliced cucumbers to create fresh pickles. Pickled cucumbers add a clean and crisp note of texture and flavor to the preparation.


Kusshi oysters come from the Pacific and typically tend to be less briny with herbal and melon undertones. These delightful treats are the perfect way to conclude this playful progression. Steep buttermilk with a few Tahitian Vanilla beans and marinade a freshly shucked Kusshi oyster for at least 15 minutes. Season all-purpose flour with salt and Espelette pepper, dredge the oyster in the flour and deep fry at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown. A crispy, crunchy crust with a silky-smooth oyster inside is an extraordinarily intriguing dichotomy sure to delight the diner. Dot the side of the oyster fritter with siracha to excite the palate.  Mix crème fraiche with lemon juice to serve as a wonderfully cooling component. While one can appropriately and satisfyingly enjoy oysters with nothing but a drop of lemon, this oyster progression is an exciting way to showcase the unique characteristics of various types of oysters along with how those features lend themselves to exciting presentation. 

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