BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘MFK Fisher

Oregon Escargot?

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Those bastards devoured my fennel, artichoke and cilantro plants!

Hello again, dear readers. I’ve been blogging lots in my head these past few weeks, but somehow between mother-in-law and parents visits, teaching, and then this week traveling to Portland for the radio show and the Who’s Who of culinary conferences, actually writing up the posts got away from me. It’s hard to know where to begin again. So why not with slugs?

This spotted slug crossed our path on a hike.

The slimy mollusks plague our gardens out here in the Pacific Northwest this time of year. Though primordial creatures have devoured new cilantro and artichoke starts I planted. They really bring out your violent carnivorous side. En route to the compost bin at night, I’ve taking to smooshing any ones I find. I delight in their death. I’ve tried scattering gumballs in the beds, set beer-traps just this week and today finally resorted to Sluggo. If only we had backyard chickens. They would make good use of the protein.

Lagniappe with your organic produce.

But I have no interest in eating slugs. Apparently, you can eat them, if you first boil away their slime and then remove their digestive gland and some internal protective shell. I think I’ll pass. They might be served at this upcoming wild-crafted Slow Food Corvallis dinner that for some reason didn’t quite appeal to me. Sure, I’m a hypocrite. I’ll eat garlicky escargot (not that I do frequently). But I won’t touched slugs. Other than those I inadvertently consume while eating organic cabbage and salad greens. Consider them lagniappe that come with your fresh farmers’ market produce here.

La Grande Dame of food writers MFK Fisher perfectly captures my sentiments in her essay “Fifty Million Snails” in her first book, Serve It Forth.

I have eaten several strange things since I was twelve, and I shall be glad to taste broiled locusts and swallow a live fish. But unless I change very much, I shall never be able to eat a slug. My stomach jumps alarmingly at the thought of it.

I have tried to be callous about slugs. I have tried to picture the beauty of their primeval movements before a fast camera, and I have forced myself to read in the Encyclopedia Britannica the harmless ingredients of their oozy bodies. Nothing helps. I have a horror, deep in my marrow, of everything about them. Slugs are awful, slugs are things from the edges of insanity, and I am afraid of slugs and all their attributes.

But I like snails. Most people like snails.”

Written by baltimoregon

April 25, 2010 at 1:23 am

Considering MFK Fisher’s Oysters

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Consider the Oyster Stew: my re-creation of Mama Zu's version.

Granted East Coast seafood doesn’t usually compare to our abundant Pacific Northwest offerings: orange-red wild salmon, Dungeness crab, mussels, halibut. We even have our own respected local Yaquina Bay oysters there. But I might just prefer those plumper Chesapeake Bay oysters I indulged in while back here in Virginia. I got a mad craving for these luscious, briny mollusks while savoring MFK Fisher’s Consider the Oyster on the plane from Oregon to Baltimore. It’s hard to believe she produced such celebratory prose while facing the imminent death of her true love in war-torn 1941.

Fisher’s musings on the gastronomical pleasures of oysters made me lust for this most sensual of foods. She aptly describes the “three kinds of oyster-eaters: those loose-minded sports who will eat anything, hot, cold, thin, thick, dead or alive, as long as it is oyster; those who will eat them raw and only raw; and those who with equal severity will eat them cooked and no way other.” When it comes to oysters, as with all foods, I’m an omnivore, but I do prefer to slurp the freshest specimens raw. If they aren’t freshly shucked, my dad’s Mexican oysters and now oyster stews are my favorite cooked preparations. And of course I love them fried, if they aren’t too greasy, the batter light and slightly spicy. My grandparents contracted a bad case of hepatitis from some type of raw shellfish, so I try to avoid suspect ones.

Reading Fisher made me want to make a velvety oyster stew, that elegant “supper to sleep on” that I’d hardly eaten before. But there it was calling out to us this week at Mama Zu’s, our favorite no frills-yet-decadent Italian spot. What gave the creamy, smooth broth its piquancy? A pancetta base and crushed red pepper, obviously strained out, the waitress said. I had to recreate it.

Oyster stew recipes are as numerous as clam chowders, varying by region. Despite its simplicity, oyster stew gives the cook plenty of options, Fisher says. How do you assemble your ingredients? Boil the oysters in their own liquor first, and then add the creamy broth? Saute the oysters in butter first, until they furl? My father the chef recommended the latter. I fried up some pancetta, added the oysters and sizzled them with some dried chipotle peppers for a kick. In a separate pot, I boiled the oyster’s liquor, skimmed off the foam, added heavy cream and whole milk (healthy, I know), a pat of butter, celery salt and salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to substitute/add other spices, such as paprika. I simmered this broth and then added the oysters when ready. For a perfect texture you could strain the broth first, but I didn’t care.

Here’s to oysters for the rest of these winter “r” months. In truth, oysters are fine to eat anytime they aren’t diseased, but Fisher explains why oyster farmers have urged us not to consume them in the warm summer months. That’s the only time the ocean waters are warm enough for the oysters to spawn. Hence the rule. Indulge while you can now, comfort yourself now while the fields lie fallow, and then let our “indecisively sexed” friends reproduce in peace. Summer’s bounty will be enough to distract us then.

Fried oysters at Mama Zu's.

Written by baltimoregon

December 26, 2009 at 7:43 pm

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