If you intend to spend an amorous evening tomorrow with your Valentine you may indulge in an abundance, nay a veritable feast of aphrodisiacs, chillies, chocolate, figs, avocados, bananas and pomegranates to name but a few. There is, however, one foodstuff that features in web searches, recipe books, and people’s imaginations more than all the others put together and this is, of course, the oyster. Now here in Jersey, we are lucky to have Royal Bay of Grouville oysters which are delicious, but why are they considered to be such an amatory stimulant.
Most people think that since Giacomo Casanova, the Italian adventurer, author, and perhaps more famously renowned lady’s man was said to consume fifty oysters a day for breakfast they perhaps had some magical quality.* This has been put down to the zinc levels which handily for you lusty feeling folk are highest in early spring. Then in March 2005, a group of American and Italian researchers presented a paper to the American Chemical Society following a study into molluscs, such as clams and mussels, that were rich in a series of rare amino acids that triggered increased levels of hormones in mice. There was a huge interest in the research but really no proof of the effect from eating oysters directly, in fact, Nancy Amy, a nutritionist, and toxicologist at the University of California provided another theory “There’s an amazing placebo effect with aphrodisiacs,” she said. “It’s very culturally specific and there’s no scientific evidence, but if you think it’s going to work, then there’s already a 50 percent chance that it will.”
*Casanova retired from adventuring and took up the position of librarian to a Bohemian Count, perhaps he relished a quieter life but it somewhat dispels the image we have of shy, retiring bookworms.
Oysters are eaten raw traditionally with lemon, tabasco or a spoon of migonette, a mix of very finely diced shallots, cracked black pepper and wine vinegar or lightly baked or grilled. There are a number of classic grilled oyster recipes such as with garlic butter, oysters Rockafeller with spinach and pastis, oysters Kilpatrick with Worcestershire sauce and crisp bacon. Alternatively, oysters can be deep-fried in in tempura batter or covered in breadcrumbs for the Southern favourite oyster Po’boy.
So while I cannot guarantee that this recipe will have you swinging from the lampshade in leopard skin briefs it’s really rather nice and tasty and uses some really nice Jersey ingredients. The oysters are gratinated with a crisp mix of fresh herbs, savoury biscuit crumbs, and Jersey Blue soft cheese which creamy and slightly tangy taste accentuates the salty ozone flavour of the Jersey oysters. The very light continental style beer, Liberation Blonde provides the base for a refreshing dressing to the baked oysters and chilled is an ideal accompaniment. You can substitute these with a local cheese and beer of your choice and you won’t be disappointed.
Grilled Jersey Oysters ‘Blonde and Blue’ serves 2 or 3
12 Jersey oysters
Classic Herd organic Jersey Blue cheese or similar such as organic blue veined Brie
50 ml Liberation Blonde ale
25 ml quality White Wine Vinegar
80 gr crushed Water Biscuits or plain Cheese Crackers
2 medium Shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 generous pinches of Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon each of the following, finely chopped Chives, Chervil and Parsley
If you have a friendly fishmonger you can ask him to shuck or open your oysters for you before taking them home to cook and serve. If not you first need to open your oysters and loosen them from their shells. Set each opened oyster down on a small mound of rock salt, on a baking tray. Remove the rind from your cheese and finely dice, divide evenly onto the oysters. Mix the herbs with the finely crushed biscuit crumbs and sprinkle over the cheese topped oysters.
For the dressing simmer the chopped shallots with the white wine vinegar, cayenne, and a little water until the shallots start to soften but retain a little bite. Evaporate almost all of the liquid. Chill. When cold add in the Blonde beer. Grill the oysters for 3 to 4 minutes under a medium grill until the cheese starts to bubble and the crumb mix browns. Serve topped with a little dressing, extra chopped herbs and the remaining dressing as a side.