Penn Cove Oyster Stuffing

categorygarden,gatherings,recipes

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” ~ Ernest Hemingway, ‘A Moveable Feast’

IMG_3859

Born into a family of food lovers, I never had the option to be a picky eater, it would have been met with suspicion. Both my grandmothers had a way in the kitchen, and the wife of the family I worked for out of college, all preparing foods with ease and simplicity. As a young girl and grown woman, I learned to cook from the women that surrounded me.

I tried oysters for the first time as a teenager. Sitting across from a platter of them, at a beach house table, I looked at their shiny opulence with general mistrust and hesitancy. Once I slurped one down, others soon followed.

In my own home we eat simply and well, with shellfish from local fishermen, bread from artisan bakers, and vegetables grown in the garden. Meals are crafted with love and flavor, and usually involve a good bottle of wine in the process. Saturdays trip to the farmer’s market resulted in the most beautiful oyster stuffing. Using Penn Cove oysters, a bounty of onions, carrots, and celery, foraged mushrooms, and fresh bread, this coastal recipe brought about the greatest of pleasures.

Penn Cove Oyster Stuffing // serves 12

1 large loaf french bread, about 1 pound, cut into 3/4″ cubes (I used Essential Baking Pugliese)
1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1/2″pieces
2 cups Shiitake mushrooms, caps removed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled, quartered, and diced
1 1/2 cups celery, diced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 dozen large Penn Cove Oysters, shucked, drained, and chopped (see below for easy handling)
1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 325*

Slice bread into 1″ cubes. In a shallow baking pan, spread the bread cubes evenly and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool, then transfer to a large bowl.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain, reserving fat in the skillet.

Add shiitake mushrooms and cook about 5-7 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add oil, diced onions, carrots, celery, thyme, sage, garlic, salt and pepper back to the skillet and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes until vegetables are softened.

In a large mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs, bacon, shiitake mushrooms, vegetable mixture, parsley, butter, and oysters. Drizzle lightly with stock. Transfer to a 3 1/2 quart shallow baking dish. Bake, covered, on middle rack of the oven 30 minutes. Uncover and bake about 30 more minutes.

Stuffing can be assembled (without the oysters and not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature and stir in oysters before baking.

*Simple Oyster preparation:

Preheat oven to 400*

Bake cup side up about 20 minutes

Remove from oven, crack the shell, and remove the meat.

“Laughter is brightest in the place where food is.” ~ Irish Proverb

IMG_3795

This recipe was created on a whim for a ‘Crocktoberfest’ cook-off back in October held at my local fly-shop. Locals were invited to bring in their best slow cooker dishes and the top three winners would receive a cash prize and boasting rights for the next year. Having recently harvested our spring pig, a friend of mine made the brilliant suggestion to enter with pulled pork, genius! Not holding back, I went with some of my favorite ingredients and used plenty of beer – a natural tenderizer for breaking down tough proteins in meat. The end result was nothing short of awesome.

During the judging event, I was, for just a few hours, taken back to those days in my twenties when every day was shaped by community, laughter, and, as I said, a lot of beer. I felt somewhat relieved that, despite my newness to fly-fishing, it was still a relaxed hangout of a place I have come to know, where unwritten characters of humor, unspeakably good food, and fishing stories are as ornate as the flies for sale.

Happy to place first for this pulled pork recipe, (…I used the prize money towards a new spey setup!) I can’t help but think about the other dishes that were just as fabulous, and how entering again next year will be just as fun.

7 Seas Rude Parrot IPA Pulled Pork // makes 24 sliders or small soft tacos

¼ cup tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons sriracha (optional)
2 tablespoons honey
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 cup chopped pineapple
4 lb natural pork shoulder
Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
12 ounces IPA I used 7 Seas Rude Parrot IPA
24 Hawaiian rolls, split or small corn soft tacos shells

Combine tamari/soy sauce through pineapple in a blender or food process and blend until smooth.

Liberally salt and pepper all sides of the pork shoulder. Add to the slow cooker. Pour the sauce over the pork shoulder and slowly add the IPA.

Cook on low for 8 hours until fork inserted inside pork releases clear juices.

Remove the pork from slow cooker to a large cutting board. Using two forks, shred the meat, discarding any large pieces of fat. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the juices from the slow cooker and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, skim extra fat off the surface, and allow to cook down about 5 minutes.

Return meat and sauce mixture to the slow cooker. Serve with your favorite condiments.

xo,

“I want you to deviate according to your ingredients, I urge you to break the rules. Follow your appetite.”
~ Nigel Slater

IMG_3761-2

I have a great attachment to Christmas and tend to view the Christmases of my childhood as one big shiny mass of tinseled-trees strung up with popcorn garland and hand-tied ornaments from Mrs. Rurik’s second grade class, rather than a series of separate occasions with their own unique identities. However, Christmas for me was predictable, magical, and simply wondrous.

At my grandparent’s we ate a traditional meal. There were usually several baskets of piping hot rolls that gave off a dizzying scent of sugary yeast to tease us before the turkey appeared, two different kinds of fruit salad, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and more good eats than our little bellies could hold. At the end of it all, after the gifts had been torn into and exhausted, the women would serve up a dessert of sugar cookies or pie with ice cream, keeping us all happy. Us children didn’t exactly know all that was going on, but we appreciated it just the same.

I like a salad most days and fancy this one to be a perfect holiday accompaniment. The irrefutable fact being real foods served at their peak of freshness set the table for some deeply compelling eating. The vibrant colors from the pomegranate arils and pears are highly seductive and provide a perfect pop of flavor to the earthiness of arugula and pistachios.

Arugula Salad with Christmas Pear, Feta, and Blush Wine Vinaigrette // Serves 4

6 cups baby arugula
1 Pomegranate, arils separated from flesh
1 Christmas pear, cored, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled and coarsely chopped
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
4 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil
Coarse ground pepper, to season

In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper to combine. Gradually add the oil. Let sit to emulsify.

Gently toss arugula with dressing. Divide greens equally amongst four salad plates. Add pear, pomegranate arils, pistachios, feta, and mint. Season with fresh ground pepper. Serve and enjoy!

xo,