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A Local Thanksgiving

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Chris Quartuccio, Blue Island Oyster Farm  

Roasted Oysters With Leeks & Bacon

THE CHEF:
Ed Brown
(Eighty One)
“Shucking oysters on Thanksgiving is a nightmare” says Ed Brown. Instead, he recommends roasting the oysters so the shells open on their own. Roasting concentrates the brine, he adds. The Blue Points from Blue Island Oyster farm “sparkle with salinity and have a great ocean flavor,” Brown says.

THE FARMER:
Chris Quartuccio
(Blue Island Oyster Farm) Blue Point; 631-987-0106 or blueislandoyster.com
Long Island native Chris Quartuccio started clamming in the Great South Bay as a childhood hobby, but by 1985, the area was overharvested. Next he turned to oyster diving on the North Shore, but in the late nineties the oysters were wiped out by a disease. “After that, I had the opportunity to buy a house and dock right by the Fire Island Inlet, which is ideal for growing oysters,” he says. Quartuccio now runs the No. 1 oyster and clam distributor in the New York area, and his farm produces the only genuine Blue Point Oysters cultivated in the bay.

THE RECIPE:
1 teaspoon softened butter
4 ounces sliced bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
8 cups fresh leeks, white part only, diced about 1/2-inch square
3/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup light fish stock (chicken stock can be substituted)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and ground black pepper
2 pounds kosher salt for roasting
32 medium-size oysters, scrubbed well twice, then soaked in ice water for 1 hour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the butter, bacon, and garlic to a large saucepan set over medium heat, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the leeks, and sweat without coloring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the wine, and reduce until the pan is dry. Add the stock, and reduce until dry. Add the cream; reduce until all the ingredients come together as one. Add the tarragon, nutmeg, and cayenne, and season with salt and pepper. Discard the garlic, and keep mixture warm.

Spread a layer of salt over a baking sheet. Set all the oysters into salt, rounded side down so tops are level. Roast in the oven until the top shell loosens and the oyster starts to open, about 15 minutes. Using a butter knife, carefully remove the top shell, scraping the shell as you go to detach the oyster, making sure not to lose any liquid in the oyster shell. Divide the leek mixture, about 1 tablespoon per oyster, evenly over the roasted oysters and return to oven for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.


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