As I am a trained chef, I get a lot of people asking me for suggestions for what to serve their significant other on Valentine’s Day.
Oh it’s a dangerous thing to give advice! And with this in particular, so much depends on personal taste and so I often say “Make them something you know they love.” I mean, what’s the point of grilling steak for a vegetarian??
With that out of the way, I love oysters. Absolutely love them. And what could be more classically Valentines than a little oyster-aphrodisiac appetizer? I’ve got a few easy ways to prepare them and some brilliant wines to pair that won’t break the bank.
An utter classic, this recipe has been around for almost two centuries, and this is my adaptation of it. Not brave enough for raw oysters? Give this a try… I’ve even given this to “non-oyster” eaters who declared “Hey – this is actually pretty good!“
6 oysters on the half-shell, shells cleaned
1 cup 36% cream
1/2 cup sparkling wine
cornstarch to thicken
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup blanched spinach
1/2 cup home-made bacon bits, cut large
6 large slices of medium-firm white cheese like: Jarlsberg/Gruyere/Fontina
- bring the cream just under a boil in a saute pan. Add the wine, whisk thoroughly, and as it returns to a low-boil add the butter and whisk again.
- add the oysters and poach 2 minutes, turning them as necessary to ensure even cooking
- place the spinach on the bottom of the oyster shells to provide a stable base and put the oysters on top of the spinach
- thicken the poaching liquid with cornstarch and spoon a small amount of the sauce over
- place some bacon over the oysters, top with the cheese and place under the broiler in your oven under the cheese starts to brown (gratinée in French)
WINE OF CHOICE:
Bold. Fresh citrus notes in this wine will cut through the dishes richness and bring it into focus. A keen mineral edge to the wine will harmonize perfectly with the mineral-tang of fresh oysters.
Those who truly love oysters though, will adore fresh fresh oysters with nothing more then a bed of coarse sea-salt, a great glass of wine, and pleasant company. I know that restaurants are full of fresh oysters with “Mignonette” sauces, lemon, cocktail sauce, fresh horseradish, pickled daikon and the like. Infidels! Oyster connoisseurs around the world enjoy the fresh ocean-brine quality of great oysters and most of the above simply overpower these more subtle flavors.
Of course, it’s not for me to tell you that you can’t or even shouldn’t enjoy oysters with a condiment, but if you spend $2 per oyster for something that is only a mouthful, why wouldn’t you want to savor the flavor??
WINE OF CHOICE:
First-place finisher at the Whistler Cornucopia wine-festival, this was my choice for Top Sparkling Wine (under $50) for 2013. Worth the work to find, it’s bright red berry tones of cranberry/raspberry/young strawberry will delight! Very approachable acids mean that it works well with slightly leaner seafood/fish dishes.
And if oysters just aren’t your thing, and cooking is the last priority for Valentine’s, then consider a plate of fresh fruit: your local grocer is bound to have some special goodies this week so (as I do) pile a plate with grapes, cut melon, ripe pear and garnish with a few long-stem strawberries (yes a real thing), maybe some blackberries or raspberries, a wedge or two of starfruit or mango and a little chocolate dipping sauce on the side.
Riondo Prosecco, $10-15
A decidedly feminine wine, small wonder this is the #1 sparkling wine of Italy! Ripe flavors of melon, tangerines and lemons are cut by mild yet zesty acids and an ultra-creamy mousse. Truly addictive you may want to purchase an extra bottle for mimosas the next morning and this will surely make your list of what to keep on-hand for romantic evenings or Monday nights watching “Castle”
So enjoy your Valentine’s Day in your way, with some good food, great wine and even better company. Treat yourself, spoil someone else, and above all: savor the moment~!
As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or: