Tastefull Blog: Oysters, Luscious and Local

By Marika Varro, The Convenient Chef

Okeover Organic Oysters has been owned and operated for the last 15 years by Andre Comeau and Chris Roberts. Committed to sustainable farming, their mission is to farm shellfish without harming the environment. They produce oysters of every size as well as “hand-dug” Manila clams. The tray-grown oysters are shipped to Vancouver and from there they are distributed locally and around the world. Oysters are not only delicious, they are also one of the most nutritionally balanced of foods, high in zinc, iron, calcium, selenium vitamin A and B12. As a bonus, they are also low in calories.

We are lucky to live in Powell River where we can just head down to the beach and pick our own, with a licence of course. Fresh oysters can be stored in your refrigerator, covered with a wet towel, for up to 10 days. Do not keep them in sea water or in a closed container. Shuck as close as possible to when you plan to eat them.

Shucking takes practice. You need a sharp knife, a small towel and a dish in which to catch the oyster’s juice, the “liquor” that keeps it alive ooystersnce it’s out of water. It is precious and tastes amazing.

For the best taste, eat oysters raw: squeeze a little lemon juice on the meat (or freshly grated horseradish or your favourite hot sauce for a bit more kick), knock it back, and chew ever so slightly to unlock the flavours. Oysters are also delicious when breaded and pan fried, poached, baked or barbecued. Toppings like cream cheese, bacon or Parmesan cheese also go well with oysters.

Drink what you like with oysters – Champagne, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, a buttery Chardonnay or your favourite Townsite brew. Even water can create the perfect marriage. It is possible for oysters to produce pearls when foreign material becomes trapped inside their shells; however they should not be confused with actual pearl oysters, which are from a different family of bivalves.

Naturally occurring bacterium called Vibrio parahaemolyticus can be found in coastal waters during increased water temperatures. Illnesses can be avoided by cooking the oysters a minimum of six minutes to a temperature of 140F. Do not consume oysters or other shellfish during “red tide” (harmful algal blooms) not even cooking will eliminate toxins.

So, are oysters really aphrodisiacs? Research shows that raw oysters are rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased level of sex hormones. Try some yourself to find the answer!
Oysters Rockefeller
(Chris & Andre’s favourite)

4 tbsp. Butter
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/3 cup Breadcrumbs, Panko
2 Shallots, minced
2 cups Fresh spinach, chopped
¼ cup Pernod
To taste Salt & pepper
Little Hot sauce (Tabasco)
2 tbsp. Olive oil
¼ cup Grated Parmesan
1 tbsp. Parsley, chopped
2 dozen Oysters, on the half shell
Rock salt
Lemon wedges for garnish

1. Sauté garlic in butter for 2 minutes
2. Mix half of the garlic butter with breadcrumbs in a bowl
3. Add to remaining garlic butter in the skillet shallots and spinach, cook for
3 minutes
4. Add Pernod, salt & pepper, hot sauce; allow the mixture to cook down
5. Add to garlic butter-breadcrumb mixture olive oil, Parmesan & parsley, season with salt & pepper
6. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of spinach mixture on each oyster followed by a spoonful of breadcrumb
mixture
7. Sprinkle a baking pan generously with rock salt and arrange oyster on the salt to steady them
Bake in pre-heated 450F oven 10-15 minutes until 8. golden
9. Serve with lemon wedges and more hot sauce on the side

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Tastefull Blog: Little Shrimp, Jumbo Taste

shrimp_convenientChef

As published in the Jan 2016 issue of Powell River Living Magazine.

What is the difference between a shrimp and a prawn?

The answer depends on where you live. On the West Coast, large shrimp are mostly known as prawns, and the name shrimp is usually reserved for the small cooked and peeled variety.

The exception for that is the sidestripe shrimp, which can also be found fresh here in Powell River.

On the East Coast, shrimp is the common name for all types and sizes. The British call all shrimp-like creatures prawns. The name persists in most British

Commonwealth nations, including India and South Africa.

Shrimp/prawns are crustaceans. They have ten legs like crabs and lobsters, and a shell covering the head and body. Shrimp/prawns live in a variety of habitats ranging from coral reefs to sandy bottoms, but the species that are consumed as food usually live on muddy bottoms and feed on detritus, small plants and animals.

Fresh shrimp

Here in Powell River we are lucky to be able to harvest or purchase fresh prawns and sidestripe shrimp. Shrimp are among the most widely available and most widely used seafood, but most seafood suppliers do not bother with fresh shrimp due to their higher cost and perishability. So take a moment to appreciate the bounty of the Salish Sea, if you’re getting truly fresh shrimp.

Whole raw shrimp/prawns should be stored on ice; their heads tend to blacken after about 48 hours.  Head-off fresh raw shrimp/prawns have a shelf life of about 5-7 days on ice as do truly fresh-cooked shrimp.

Thawing frozen shrimp

Shrimp are best thawed overnight in the  refrigerator. Place the frozen shrimp in a colander set inside a large bowl. The shrimp should not sit in their own juices as they thaw.

There is a quick method if you are in a hurry. Place the shrimp in a colander and run water over the frozen shrimp. Avoid letting thawed shrimp sit in water for a long time; they may become waterlogged.

Cooking and preparing shrimp

The most common error in preparing shrimp is to over cook them. Shrimp should be boiled in well salted water. Small to medium shrimp should be boiled 3 to 5 minutes and large 6 to 8 minutes.

Shrimp can also be broiled, baked, stir-fried,  sautéed, deep-fried or barbecued but; whatever the cooking method is avoid overcooking!

RECIPE

Spicy Thai Prawn Stir-fry

(Serves 6)

  • 3 red chilies (cut into thin strips)
  • 3 cloves garlic (cut into thin strips)
  • ½ -inch piece peeled fresh ginger (cut into thin strips)
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 6 green onions (green part only, chopped diagonally in ¼-inch pieces)
  • 1-1½ lbs prawns (shelled, leaving tails intact)
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 2 cups broccoli florets cut into small pieces
  • ½ green pepper, sliced
  • ½ red pepper, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
  • 12 mushrooms (cut into 4)
  • 8-12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced
  • green onions (white part, cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • (Vegetables can be added or substituted to personal preference.)
  • 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 1½ tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

Heat oil in wok, stir-fry chilies & ginger for 2 minutes, add garlic & green onions, fry together until lightly brown & crisp. Remove from wok, drain and set aside.

Re-heat oil in wok, add prawns & stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Remove from wok & set aside.

Re-heat oil, add vegetables, stir-fry until vegetables are just tender.

Add combined sauce, and prawns, stir fry until prawns are cooked. (Don’t over cook prawns)

Sprinkle with the crisp chili, garlic, ginger & green onion mixture.

Serve with Jasmine rice or chilled on a bed of greens.

Garnish with cilantro.