Kachemak Cuisine: Think oysters for New Year’s

The Christmas season feasts were filled with roasted prime rib, smoked turkey, baked ham, a rich cream and cheesy potato dish, baked rolls, traditional sweet cookies, special chocolates and decadent confections enjoyed at this time of the year. Oh, and don’t forget the crab dip, cheese and sausages, queso and chips, eggnog and brandy old-fashioneds. They’re all delicious and wonderful treats, but a bit rich. By this time, my taste buds crave seafood. This week we will enjoy dining upon oysters, crab, shrimp, black cod, salmon and rock fish.

If you are an oyster lover and live on the southern Kenai Peninsula, you are extremely fortunate. The oyster farming industry is thriving on the south side of the bay and we have easy access to some of the best oysters in the world, grown right here in Kachemak Bay.

If you are a seafood lover and live on the Alaskan coast, you are also very lucky. The seafood that comes from the cold and clear Alaskan waters is the freshest and best in the world. I am spoiled for life after living on Adak and in Homer for almost 40years.

For those of you who aren’t raw oyster aficionados, I suggest trying a baked or grilled oyster. They are entirely different than a raw oyster as obviously, the raw factor is totally eliminated. I understand that some of us just can’t enjoy raw proteins. When it comes to what is good and complements a baked oyster, the combinations of ingredients are endless. Additions of sausage, cheese, fruit and vegetables, sauces, crunchy toppings of panko or breadcrumbs and nuts are just a few of the things you can add to the incredible oyster. There is a delightful restaurant in Anchorage where they serve raw oysters from many different places and individual baked oysters that are made in so many different ways you can easily end up with a pretty hefty tab getting carried away indulging in too many tempting offerings.

Buttery Herb Baked Oysters

These easy baked oysters are flavored with a buttery herb crumb topping. A little lemon juice adds zip to the oysters, and panko crumbs make the topping crunchy.

If you prefer a variety of herbs, consider fresh chopped thyme leaves or fresh marjoram. For garlic lovers, add a small, finely minced clove of garlic to the butter in the skillet. Cook in the butter for 1 minute before you add the panko crumbs and then continue with the recipe.

1 dozen fresh oysters (in the shell)

1 stick butter (8 tablespoons, softened, divided)

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons chives (finely chopped)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest (finely grated)

Optional: sweet paprika

Garnish: fresh chopped parsley

2 to 3 wedges lemon (for serving)

Directions:

Heat the oven to 425 ° F.

Add a layer of rock salt to a rimmed baking sheet, or substitute dry, uncooked rice. This will keep the oyster shells from wobbling. The salt also provides an attractive backdrop that retains heat.

Scrub the oyster shells with a stiff brush. Carefully shuck the oysters over a bowl (to catch any liquids that might spill out). Run the knife along the bottom of the inside of the shell to loosen the oyster. If some of the oyster liquor does spill out, return it to the bottom shell. Discard the top shells and arrange the oysters with their liquid in the prepared baking pan such as a large baking sheet.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the panko crumbs and cook, stirring, until the crumbs are lightly browned.

In a bowl combine the remaining 4 tablespoons of softened butter with the snipped chives, lemon juice, and the lemon zest.

Top each oyster with a scant teaspoon of the butter and chives mixture and then sprinkle each one with some of the buttered panko crumbs.

If desired, finish with a light sprinkling of paprika.

Bake until oysters curl around edges and topping is golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

Sweet Chili Ginger and Lemongrass Cream Baked Oysters

3 cups kosher salt

1 dozen fresh oysters in the shell

Ginger and Lemongrass Infused Cream Sauce

In a small saucepan add 1 cup heavy cream. Add 1- inch knob of fresh ginger cut in slices like coins. Take a stalk of lemongrass and cut it into 3 pieces. Gently pound it with a meat tenderizer to “bruise” it. Add to cream and ginger coins. Add a pinch of sea salt. Gently heat cream until it just starts to simmer. Remove from heat and add 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy). Let steep 30 minutes. Strain through fine mesh strainer.

Make Topping of:

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons butter (melted)

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

¼ teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest

Freshly ground pepper and salt

In a small bowl, combine panko, Dijon mustard, cilantro, lemon zest and butter; season with salt and pepper.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 °. Spread salt in a shallow baking dish. Nestle oysters in their bottom shells in the salt.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of sweet chili ginger and lemon grass cream sauce over oyster in the shell.

Sprinkle top of oyster with about 2 teaspoons butter panko mixture.

Bake until oysters curl around edges and topping is golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve immediately.

I’ve had fun sharing some of my favorite recipes with you this year.

As we welcome in the new year, I’m looking forward to memorable adventures in the kitchen and lots of fun with my family and friends. This last year was filled with many blessings. We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful and bountiful state.

Happy New Year and best wishes to you all as we welcome in 2019. Here’s to preparing and enjoying many good meals together in the new year. Cheers, my dear readers.

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