Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pickled Oysters with English Cucumber "Capellini" and Dill

I have a confession to make.

I hate oysters.

What's that you're saying? You already knew that from a previous post about a different oyster dish?

Well, good on ya. Looks like you're paying attention. Gold stars all around!

The real confession is, I made this dish but didn't taste it. It's the first recipe I've made from The French Laundry Cookbook that I didn't even take a nibble of. Why? Two words: pickled oysters. Separate yet equally disgusting tastes/smells/textures that when put together really make me wanna hurl. And for someone who grew up surrounded by all things Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch, I'm supposed to be genetically programmed to like pickled things. I must be a robot, or something, because no can do. So, I only made half the recipe because I could only find three tasters, and none of them were really all that excited about the prospect of this dish. I'm sure it had absolutely nothing to do with the way I marketed it to them, what with the wrinkled nose, armpit farting noises, gagging sounds, spastic Bob Fosse moves, and dry heaves.

I will also confess that I did not spring for sevruga caviar either. Instead, I picked up some invisible caviar -- which really means I decided to forgo the caviar altogether since I didn't want to spend the money on something I wasn't going to taste, let alone enjoy, because I believe that money can best be spent on things I would enjoy more than pickled oysters, such as wine, bacon, cheese, or multiple colonics. Or 300 performances of this. Which, after you click on that link and come back after having stabbed your inner ear repeatedly with a grapefruit spoon, you will truly understand how much I would NOT HAVE ENJOYED THIS DISH, TRUST ME.

And, I'm sure some of you will email me or comment "but the caviar is what made this the best" or "you really should have tried it -- it's quite good" to which I reply, I don't care and no frickin' way.

Alright, enough disclaimers. Let's get to the food.

The first thing I did was get some oysters from BlackSalt. They shucked them for me and saved the shells for the plating. I took the oysters home, rinsed them well and cleaned the shells. Then, I prepared the pickling liquid: white wine vinegar, water, sugar, star anise, cloves, coriander seeds and dill:

I brought the pickling liquid to a boil, turned off the flame, covered it and let it steep for a half hour. I then added the oysters to the liquid and stuck the covered pot in the refrigerator for a day or so.

About a half hour before serving this dish, I made the cucumber capellini. I peeled an English cucumber, and using my mandoline sliced 1/16" thick slices lengthwise:

I then stacked the slices on top of one another (in a few piles so I didn't slice a finger off in the next step) and cut them into thin julienne strips to sort of resemble capellini. I'm sure the staff at The French Laundry do a far better job than I did, but I don't think mine looked too shabby:

More linguine-ish than capellini, but that's okay with me. I put a little bit of rice wine vinegar into the bowl and mixed it around to coat the cucumber and let it sit for about 30 minutes to extract the excess liquid from the cucumber. After 30 minutes, I strained it and squeezed out the remaining liquid and tossed in a little bit of chopped dill.

Time for plating, which was really easy. First on the plate went a bed of seaweed (thanks, BlackSalt!). Nestled in that was the oyster shell. I twirled some of the cucumber capellini around the tines of a fork (like I was twirling spaghetti) and put that into the shell, and on top of the cuke went an oyster. I then topped the oyster with a tiny sprig of fresh dill. The caviar should've gone on top of the oyster, but as you know, I didn't buy any. So, if you're making this at home, the caviar goes on top of the oyster and under the dill.

My tasters had the same reaction, which was "meh." They liked the cucumber a lot, and thought the oyster was unecessary. Perhaps the caviar would've revved up the presence of the oyster, but I tend to think not. And, the thought of caviar and cucumber together is kind of vile.

So, I'm 0 for 2 on oyster dishes here, kids.

Up Next: Vanilla Bean-Roasted Figs with Wildflower Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream (because it's FINALLY fig season and I can barely contain myself!)

Oysters and seaweed from BlackSalt
Star anise, cloves, coriander seeds and rice wine vinegar from the TPSS Co-op
English cucumber and fresh dill from Whole Foods

Music to Cook By: Ennio Morricone; The Mission. I can't tell you a THING about the movie because I was 17 when I saw it, and much more interested in Andrew McCarthy than the tale of Father Gabriel and his merry band of Spanish Jesuits conquering South America and then fighting the Portuguese. Or something. See, I TOLD you I was more into Andrew McCarthy. But this soundtrack is one of the best ever produced. And, I mean EVER.


Anonymous said...

Tell me you did Jazz Hands. Please God for all that is Holy, please tell me you did the jazz hands!

Kitt said...

Wow, I'm amazed you are willing to even attempt this. It's good as a public service warning, though.

Can't wait for the figs!

Dawg said...

I've been lurking for some time, now, but I can't hold back any longer.

The posts where you've hated the dish, are totally honest about your disgust, etc., are priceless.

As an oyster lover, however, I think there's causation with the correlation of you hating them and the 2 dishes you made not being liked by your tasters.

This dish sounds damn good, imo. Maybe I'll make it myself and it'll turn out better since I won't have my eyes closed and my nose pinched every time I'm in contact with the bivalve. :)

That being said, I clicked on your "300 times" link without scanning ahead and thought "Good God. She has such great taste in food, what the hell?" Of course, after returning to your page, I snickered at the point you made. I don't know if you watched the Oscars, but if you have, I'm sure you were shocked by Celine's craptastic version of Morricone's "I Knew I Loved You." Check out my blog post here about it. It also includes a fantastic live performance of "The Ecstasy of Gold" from Morricone's soundtrack to "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." In case the comments don't support href tags, here's the link:

Keep up the good work - it's not only totally acceptable that we have different tastes, but it's what makes this blog shine (not to mention the concept itself) - you're not caught in the pretentious trap of liking oysters just because you're supposed to. Well done. A vast number of food snobs could learn from your example.

Anonymous said...

hilarious - as usual

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should try a kosher cookbook next time?? No oysters, lobsters, or soft-shell crabs needs a face-removal. No a one!

Jaye Joseph said...

Again, I love oysters, and I love pickles, but the thought of pickled oysters makes me want to hurl.

I'm not touchin' an oyster that's just been sitting in something overnight, pickled or not. Ew.

bookwoman said...

I don't know many blogs that can reference Bob Fosse, Celine Dion and Andrew McCarthy in one post. Which is why I keep coming back. Can't wait for the fig recipe! Sounds delicious.

pdxblogmommy said...

I have to say that the last tomato tart was so great looking that I could taste it just by looking at the photo.

UNFORTUNATELY, I have a great sense for food and was ALSO able to taste the oyster bit above just by looking at it.

And I'm still chewing. Fech.

Moving on...moving on.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful plating! I love the feathery-ness of the seaweed. I haven't been at all tempted to make this dish and I love oysters, I can understand you giving it a pass.

Unknown said...

Why didn't you just skip this recipe and make something you might like? Come on!! Life is too short...

Liz said...

The whole concept of pickled oysters is beyond revolting. And I like oysters!!! Pickled fish recipes seem to be a recent trend in my food reading and I've started just flipping past those recipes. Normally, I read things that include stuff I can't eat because, even though I'm violently allergic to melons, that watermelon soup at least *sounds* good. Pickled fish. Not so much.

Anonymous said...

Not too sure how I feel about pickled oysters really. I am looking forward to the figs! Think I will go to my local Middle Eastern Market and buy some for a snack. Looking forward to the next dish!

Anonymous said...

John, she's systematically preparing ALL of the recipes in the French Laundry cookbook! That's the point of the whole blog! If she decided to pick and choose we'd all heave a collective, "eehhnnn. Why am I reading this?"

Rachael said...

Stumbled over here from Apartment Therapy, from Smitten Kitchen originally.

How funny - I just brought back a container of shucked oyster for my husband, who, it turns out, had a desperate craving for fried oysters. And now I can't bring myself to eat them. They're just too gross looking!!

Entertaining post and kudos on your plan to work through the cookbook!

Unknown said...

Oh I laughed when I clicked on the link and to my delight (read Horror) it was Celine!!!

Great recap, and I am impressed that you made this dish, even though you knew there was no way you were going to try it. That's dedication to the cause for you:)

Jim said...

Oyster fandom has gotten to the point where it makes me angry. Any time I go out to a seafood restaurant it seems all the people I'm with love oysters, leading to me picking at my own little appetizer while everyone else shares the oyster plate. Stupid oysters!

Mike & JB said...

I have also been lurking for a while, because I am also attempting a charge through the French Laundry cookbook, while not quite as systematically as you have been.

I have to comment on this dish, because I made it and was suprised to find that I really loved it. I used cheap caviar, which probably should have ruined it by itself, but was suprised that the whole thing worked quite well. I felt this dish was in need of a defender, so I thought it was the right time to chime in.