Thursday, April 30, 2009

Whisk Wednesdays—Huîtres Chaudes au Muscadet (Poached Oysters with Muscadet Sabayon Sauce)

Huîtres Chaudes au Muscadet (Poached Oysters with Muscadet Sabayon Sauce)Do you ever feel like an oyster? Raw. Shell clamped tight. Knowing there's a pearl inside. Only to find out you're not the pearl-producing type of oyster but the one that gets eaten.
"I must confess I’m feeling some trepidation. ...
I’m unused to communing with my meals while they’re still alive."
— Suzanne Podhaizer, Shuck and Awe
Oysters got their aphrodisiac reputation from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love who unwittingly sprang forth from the sea on a convenient oyster shell and then in the same breath gave birth to Eros, according to this link. And if you believe that, you can have faith in their aphrodisiac powers too.

Oysters with the thickest shells have the most juice. Before shucking, make sure they're alive. It's ok if they're sleeping. Just tap them and discard any that do not close firmly. They're dead and not worth getting food poisoning from.

Raw OysterI was amazed at how tight the oyster shell was clamped shut. I worked from the hinge at the back to pry it open, and even then I chipped off pieces of the shell in the process. Some were easier to open than others, and with each shell opened, I felt more powerful and confident. Now I don't have to go to an oyster bar and pay premium prices for someone else to shuck me some plain ol' oysters. I can do it myself and make a fancy-shmancy sabayon to go with it.

After you've figured out the shucking part, it's onto the poaching. Simple. They're just poached in their own juices until the liquid boils. Then they wait on the sidelines while you make the star of the dish: the sabayon.

But first there's the spinach to steam. I found the spinach to be the perfect foil to the rich sabayon and oyster. It acted as the go-between, diplomatically keeping the oyster and sabayon from being the dueling divas.

Sabayon means "wine-foam cream". It is zabaglione without the sugar and with the use of Muscadet instead of sweet Marsala, changing it from a fancy dessert into a rich, savory sauce.

The base of the sabayon is a shallot/wine reduction. Cook the shallots in butter until translucent. Add the wine and oyster juices to round out the sauce. A bit of reduction builds flavor and then add the crème fraîche for tang, richness and viscosity. Again, the sauce is reduced to build flavor.
While the sauce reduces, whisk the yolks and water into a foamy frenzy. Then, while they're distracted, set them over a bowl of simmering water. Gently cook the eggs until the mixture becomes thick and creamy and increases in volume. This is probably the hardest part of the recipe. If it gets too hot, you'll have scrambled sabayon. Not so sexy.

After you've cooked this sauce to its ribbon-y texture, whisk in the clarified butter slowly. The sabayon and the butter should be at the same temperature, which is the key to a successful sabayon. Finally, add the reduced shallot/wine mixture. Lots of eggs, butter and crème fraîche make this a very rich, sensual sauce.

Spinach, again
Back to the spinach. It's sautéed in even more butter and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Finally, assemble and serve.
"An oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life."
— M. F. K. Fisher in Consider The Oyster

Serves 6

Huîtres Chaudes au Muscadet (Poached Oysters with Muscadet Sabayon Sauce) mise en place
24 oysters
2 pounds spinach, stemmed and rinsed

Muscadet Sabayon Sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, chopped fine
2/3 cup dry white wine, preferably Muscadet
2/3 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream (I would use sour cream)
Freshly ground pepper
4 egg yolks
¼ cup water
½ pound unsalted butter,
clarified and cooled to lukewarm

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Freshly ground pepper

Coarse salt for platter

You can find the recipe for Huîtres Chaudes au Muscadet (Poached Oysters with Muscadet Sabayon Sauce) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with their recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Serve with Muscadet, Chablis or Champagne, or even red wine.

Huîtres Chaudes au Muscadet (Poached Oysters with Muscadet Sabayon Sauce)Tasting Notes
I've had oysters before, but usually they just came with a squeeze of lemon. This was decadent. I wouldn't want to eat more than an appetizer size serving, but they were the best tasting oysters I've ever had. I even shucked a few more oysters the next day and re-heated the sauce. After the sabayon broke in the microwave, I stirred in some cold sabayon and it emulsified again and I had a perfect lunch.
"He was a bold man that first ate an oyster."
— Jonathan Swift
Next Class
• Aubergines Bayildi (Gratin of Stuffed Eggplant) pages 255-256

• Thomas Keller's signature dish "Oysters and Pearls"
• Thomas Keller video that shows for a brief moment Oysters and Pearls being assembled
• Red wine with oysters: A Rule Just Waiting to Be Broken
• cookthink: Root Source: Oyster

My Bucket List
• Visit Locmariaquer, France and taste their famous Belon oysters (and read The Oysters of Locmariaquer)
"If you don't love life you can't enjoy an oyster; there is a shock of freshness to it and intimations of the ages of man, some piercing intuition of the sea and all its weeds and breezes.
[They] shiver you for a split second."
— Eleanor Clark in The Oysters of Locmariaquer
. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $1,262.59 + $17.99 (oysters) + $6.60 (sabayon) = $1,287.18
($8.20 per serving)

Butter used so far: 11 pounds, 25.5 tablespoons

. . . . . . . . . .
::Whisk Wednesdays::
We're cooking our way through a cooking school curriculum using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, we try to find a suitable substitution. Find out more here.
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    Anonymous said...

    You never cease to amaze me! What a perfectly lovely post and presentation! Your shots are really fabulous!! I think you've outdone yourself! was a wonderful read, and what a presentation! Well done my dear!!~Glennis

    katie said...

    mmmm... love oysters. My mom bargains for them at the farmer's market. kumamotos are the gold standard for use, but the steamboats are pretty tasty too, but cheaper.

    I always do the mignonette suace because I am boring and do not know what else to do. This is a nice alternative.

    My friend had the oyster and pearl dish at per se. He loved it. Have you tried?

    Suzanne Podhaizer said...

    Hi Shari,

    Thank you so much for linking to my "Shuck and Awe" article! It's an honor to be quoted in a post along with M.F.K. Fisher and Jonathan Swift!

    Your blog is great: It's a fun concept and I like the pictures! Can't wait to see what you'll cook up next...


    vibi said...

    I wish I could comment with Ooohs! and AHhhhs! but because I'm allergic to everything that comes out of the sea... I'm sorry to say, I can't even imagine the great flavours! BUT! BUT! BUT! I will say this... the pictures mannnn... are so cool! Strange how something that (humpf... how could one describe it?) ...would be so interesting to shoot! Wow.

    bellaguinness said...

    Looks beautiful. I want a print of that first picture - the oyster on the half shell, balancing on the coral. Gorgeous!

    angela@spinachtiger said...

    Now, I'm super intrigued by the post. I love the way I cooked mine sans the sauce but might have to try this way anyway. They might be an aphrodisiac because you go to so much trouble for a few bites of food.

    lisaiscooking said...

    Beautiful oysters! Now, I'm inspired to try shucking some for myself.

    Sippity Sup said...

    oh MY! I mean REALLY oh my! I have goosebumps. Well done! Oh MY! GREG

    Sara said...

    This looks so delicious. I very rarely cook with oysters, but I should do it more often!

    NKP said...

    This sounds sooo good! I have never had oysters before, but I love mussels so I think I will like them too.

    Manggy said...

    I've never had a raw oyster before-- now I'm afraid your delicious pics have just spoiled me for all others now!

    Anonymous said...

    OMG. Those sound so delicious. I admire you for making all of these dishes. They're things I would only order at a restaurant or eat at party.

    matt wright said...

    AWESOME post. fantastic food shots, and you are making me seriously hungry - and with that I should say oysters don't normally do it for me.

    Kayte said...

    Kudos for shucking your own oysters! I might work into it someday. Your photos were fantastic. I was so excited to make sabayon sauce and gave myself a lot of extra time as I thought I would surely scramble those eggs, but I didn' worked just fine. I just love this class! Yours look great!

    Monica H said...

    Very impressive Shari! The thought of butttery spinach with oysters makes me drool.

    pretty coral, byw.

    La Bella Cooks said...

    Wow, this is so elegant. I can definitely count on you to post with some top-notch recipes. This is very impressive.

    Unknown said...

    This looks so yummy!!! I love oysters especially warmed ones.. I love the photos you have taken too.. you made it look so easy and I will definitely give this a shot! I am totally craving for oysters now! Yum!

    Aaron said...

    That was amazing, and now I have to go find an Oyster Bar of which there are not many in Austin. Oh, and the sabayon . . . what else would you serve that with? It sounds awesome!

    Lori said...

    I just recently began to love oysters. This looks amazing. I admire your conviction to opening the clams. When I last had them I wanted to try one raw but alas I was afraid I'd lose a finger in the process.

    Melissa said...

    Shari - that is amazing! How did you get the oyster to balance on the coral? Great photo. I really enjoyed your writing this week too.

    Lo said...

    Absolutely gorgeous photos... I've always figured that part of the oyster's aphrodisiac powers come from the fact that they're one of the world's most lovely foods. Doesn't hurt that they TASTE fantastic!

    CookiePie said...

    Amazing!! I love oysters, and what a fabulous way to serve them!

    AmyRuth said...

    You know I have never (I can't believe it) tasted an oyster. I'm chicken.....there, I said it. However, your presentation really perks my interest. So, the next time I am near a coast. I may gather up the gumption to try them. They sound scrumptious. Thank you for making them look/sound so appealing.

    Jeff said...

    Beautiful presentation.

    Normally I order oysters just in a restaurant and man they are a beautiful thing. I enjoy them with just a squeeze of lemon but if I find some good ones I am definitely going to give this a shot.

    kellypea said...

    This is a truly beautiful dish for a special occasion. I'd love to try it and should considering I've never shucked oysters before. Your presentation is incredible!

    Elyse said...

    Shari! I'm so sorry that I'm just now getting around to commenting. Exams have prevented me from tending to my google reader. Eeek! I must say that these oysters look deeeelicious! I love much. I want to make these as a reward when I finish exams!