Recipe: Untraditional Curry Oyster Chowder

curry oyster chowder

Spring, when the days fill with blossoming flowers and gentle breezes, and we move from robust stews to lighter fare! Except here in the Northeast, we’ve been experiencing an unusual cold spell, with a slew of below freezing nights and umbrella-flipping winds. We realize it could be worse; there are fruit farmers who might lose entire crops. But this blustery weather definitely means it’s still soup weather, and what could be better than a traditional oyster chowder?

And by traditional, this is definitely NOT the standard New England chowdah treatment. Looking to mix things up, I began thinking about Southeast Asian fish curries, and realized that there was nothing stopping me from concocting a curry-influenced oyster chowder, one that combines the fish sauce, cilantro and curry pastes of Thailand, with the hearty potato and carrot comforts of a chowder.

We recommend using 1 dozen East Coast oysters (or 2 dozen, YOLO), shucking them and reserving the juices. Or, you could use a jar of preshucked oyster meats, cutting the oysters to bite-size pieces if needed.

Like many recipes, the following is more of a guide than strict directions, so feel free to substitute vegetables that you have on hand. There are those who might insist that a chowder have potatoes, but we’re already breaking so many rules that we’re certainly not going to judge if you change that. Depending on how saucy/soupy you make it, this can be treated either as a soup and served with bread, or treated as a curry, and served with rice.

Curry Oyster Chowder

Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 30 min

Serves: 4 for dinner

1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1″ ginger, peeled and minced
2 potatoes, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 15-oz can coconut milk
2 T fish sauce
salt (to taste)
1–2 T curry paste (to taste)
1 c frozen peas
1 3-oz package enoki mushrooms, roots cut off, separated in small bundles
1 dozen oysters, shucked, juices reserved or 1 jar preshucked oysters (see note above)
1/4 c cilantro, minced
peanuts, chopped (for garnish)

In a medium pot, add 1 T of oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, and toss until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the potatoes, carrots and coconut milk. Add the reserved oyster juices, and about 2 c more water, or enough so that the vegetables are submerged. Add the fish sauce, and additional salt to taste. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes have begun falling apart, about 15–20 minutes. Add the curry paste, peas and enoki mushrooms. Cook for 2–3 min until the peas and mushrooms are cooked. Add the shucked oysters, and cook gently for 2 minutes, or just until the edges have begun to curl. (Note that the oysters will continue cooking from residual carryover heat). Turn off heat, stir in the cilantro. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve the curry oyster chowder with additional cilantro and crushed peanuts as garnish, accompanied by crusty bread or rice. 

A Fish Ball Throwdown

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Let’s face it. Little gray balls of fish won’t win any beauty pageants, but dip one in a spicy chili sauce and you’ll find that you want another. And another after that.

Ever wonder what it’s like to be inside the W&T Seafood warehouse? We were lucky enough to host oyster farmers/writer Tamar Haspel and Kevin Flaherty a few weeks ago for a fishball making lesson, and you can read about the day in the WaPo! Tamar and Kevin have a small oyster farm in Cape Cod (you may have seen them in our previous installments about Barnstable Oyster), and Tamar had asked us to teach her how to make Chinese fish balls. After some experimentation between different types of fish and mixing methods, we came up with a recipe that gives great results for home cooks without too much fuss. You can check out the recipe (and be a fly on the wall of our kitchen) here.

The following is our recipe for traditional Chiuchow-style (潮州) white fish balls. They are larger in size than the average fish ball, and should be made primarily with fish. They should have an elastic, bouncy texture and a distinctly fishy taste (in a good way!). This type of fish ball is boiled, not fried, resulting in a white appearance.

Spanish mackerel is the recommended fish, however you can substitute kingfish, walleye, yellow pike, white perch and whiting. 

White Chinese Fish Balls

Yield: 40–45 1.5-inch fish balls

2 lbs fish meat (from 1 large Spanish mackerel)
0.5 oz salt
0.8 oz sugar
3 oz egg whites (from about 2 jumbo eggs)
1 oz cornstarch
0.14 oz white pepper
0.2 oz sesame oil
0.5 oz fish sauce
4 oz water

Fillet the Spanish mackerel, remove visible belly fat and rinse off blood thoroughly under cold water. Place in a colander and cover, let dry overnight in fridge.

Using a spoon, scrape off the meat from the fillets. Be careful to avoid the bones and don’t use the dark meat at the center of the fillets near the blood lines. Discard the skin or save it for fish stock.

Optional: For a smoother texture, put the fish through a meat grinder on a fine die. 

Otherwise, place the fish in a stand mixer bowl with the remaining ingredients. Using the paddle attachment, on the lowest setting, mix the ingredients for 2 minutes, or until thoroughly mixed. Then increase to the next highest speed (2) and mix for another 2 minutes. The fish paste should begin sticking to the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed one more level (4) and mix for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, ready a large pot of water at a low boil, and a small bowl of water on the side. When the paste is ready, using bare hands (no gloves), squeeze the paste into a ball by pushing it between your thumb and index finger on one hand. With the other hand, use a spoon to cut the ball, scraping against the back of your hand. Gently drop the ball into the simmering pot of water. To prevent the paste from sticking to the spoon, periodically wet the spoon in the small bowl of water. Repeat with the remaining fish paste. The balls are ready after a few minutes of cooking, when they are floating. Remove them from the pot using a slotted spoon or skimmer. 

Serve with soy sauce and chili oil. 

Give Shellfishly: an oceanic holiday gift guide

General Post

World Is Your Oyster Card

It’s that time of the year again, when we’re barraged by ever increasing pressure to find that perfect, unique, wow-I-would-have-bought-this-myself gift. Gulp! So, we’re joining the holiday listicle train this year, with what we hope is a list of surprisingly awesome oyster and ocean-themed gift ideas. Skeptical? Read on, and let us help you treat someone (or yourself) to a gift that’s sure to make a splash!

For Your Buddy Who Makes You Order at the Raw Bar Every Time:

Oyster Books

A Geography of Oysters: THE definitive guide to the world of oysters, Rowan Jacobsen brings us on a journey to explore oyster merroir around the world. You’ll learn the basics of oyster farming, species, what to try at the raw bar, and everything about oysters that you didn’t know you wanted to know. A must-read for the true oyster connoisseur.

33 Oysters Tasting Journal: Love oysters but can’t keep track of which ones you like? 33 Oysters is a one-of-a-kind oyster journal that provides an easy way to quickly record your shellfish tasting notes in a small, convenient notebook format. It’s perfect for oyster novices and pros alike, and it’s designed by our friend Julie Qiu, from In A Half Shell oyster blog.

For the Say-It-Loud-and-Proud Oyster Nerd:

Oyster Knives

Oyster Knives: This is my knife. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Oyster knives come in many shapes, sizes and colors, and it’s best to try a few out before settling on your go-to knife. From a classic 4″ rounded tip Boston knife to an ergonomic handle designed by a Canadian speed shucker, there’s a knife waiting for you! Around the office, this sharp tipped, 2.5″ speed shucker is a favorite for getting under those shells quickly.

Virginica Oyster T-Shirt

T-Shirt: Move over, Virginia—oyster lovers want to have some fun too! The Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is the dominant oyster grown on the East Coast, and flourishes all the way from Southern Canada to the Gulf. Celebrate the Virginica oyster and show your appreciation for fine brine! For additional options, you can also brush up on your oyster geography with an Oyster Map shirt, or flaunt your knowledge of a 5 oyster species with a Merroir shirt. These shirts are lightweight fine knit jersey cotton tees, with contemporary fitting and tear-away tags.

For the Dapper Gent at the Low Country Oyster Roast:

Charleston Oyster Tie

Charleston Oyster Tie: This bowtie is made of natural woven burlap, similar to the material used in Southern oyster sacks. It is hand-sewn with vintage ribbon and available in a wide variety of colors and sizes.

For the Hostess with the Mostess:

Half Sheller Board

Half Sheller Board: Looking for a help while shucking AND displaying oysters? The Half-Sheller Board is a revolutionary shucking board and serving tray carved from solid maple wood. The grooved center helps grip the oyster in place while you shuck it, and then oysters can be displayed in a ring around the tray’s edge.

Shucking Board: While a towel is generally sufficient protection for your hand while shucking, this shucking board does the job even more elegantly. Simply slide the oyster into the “shoe,” hook the end of the board over a table edge and shuck away without fear! This sturdy wood board will last for years to come in your kitchen.

World Is Your Oyster Notecards: Send some bivalve benedictions to inspire someone today! We love the elegance of this gold foil oyster card with a blank interior and matching envelope.

World Is Your Oyster Print: We could all use a reminder that we’ve Totally Got This. A fun print for your office or kitchen.

For Anyone Who Shellebrates with a Sugar Rush:

Chocolate Oyster Shell

Chocolate Oyster Shells: These shells are stunningly realistic but completely edible! Each one is hand-crafted with a candy shell and 72% dark chocolate on the inside.

For the Dude Who’s Into Nice Racks:

Oyster Grill Rack

Oyster Grill Rack: We’re partial to raw oysters, but definitely won’t say no to grilled oysters with a drizzle of Tabasco and butter. Or parmesan and bacon. Use this rack to keep your oysters level, with no spilled oyster liquor as you transport them. You can even use the rack for items like grilled artichokes or mushrooms.

For your Gal Pal Who Loves Her Bling:

Oyster Necklace

Oyster Necklace: We love this simple yet elegant silver necklace with an oyster and pearl pendant! Along the same lines, these oyster-shaped earrings also made us smile and would make a great stocking stuffer. 

For the Art Collector:

Spring Fever by Carlos Lopez

Modernist Oyster Paintings: Oysters in Flight? What does it really mean to have a charbroiled oyster? Go on a fanciful journey with these oyster-themed paintings by Carlos Lopez, who reminds us that the oyster is beautiful in nature and in our dreams.

Oyster Treasure Box: This oyster box with an antique bronze finish comes complete with freshwater pearls inside. Keep something special inside, or display it on your coffee table.

For the Budding Marine Biologist:

Plush Oyster

Plush Oyster: This handmade fleece oyster toy comes with a smiling pearl, and overwhelms our cute overload synapses. The perfect mollusk for rounding out your stuffed animal collection.

Seashore Field Guide: What did I just pick up on the beach? What’s in that shell? This field guide gives introductory information on seashells, crabs, starfish and more. Great for the aspiring naturalist and suitable for ages 7 to 77.

For the Foodie Who’s Already Tried That in Thailand:

Oyster Tasting

Private Oyster Workshop: Ready to take your oyster knowledge to the next level? Eager to demonstrate your shucking finesse at your next cocktail party? We offer private oyster classes in the comfort of your own kitchen or workspace. This is also a fantastic corporate team building exercise for any companies looking to expand their food and beverage knowledge. Your interactive workshop can be tailored to meet your interests, and our standard package includes a comprehensive Oysters 101 presentation, a tasting of East and West Coast oysters, hands-on shucking lessons, and an oyster knife to take away for your future oyster parties. This is a great opportunity to take your oyster knowledge to a new level in an intimate setting, or a perfect gift for the oyster connoisseur in your life!

Gift Certificates: Can’t decide what they’d want? Take the guesswork out and simply give them a W&T Seafood gift certificate! We’re offering gift vouchers for any product on our website; note that live shellfish must be picked up on-site, but merchandise can be shipped. 

Recipe: Oyster Stuffing To Convert Non-Oyster Eaters

Oyster Stuffing
Psst, the not-so-secret kryptonite ingredient in our Thanksgiving stuffing is…oysters!

Oysters have historically been part of stuffing since colonial times, back when oysters were cheap and oyster reefs were plentiful all along the Eastern seaboard. Today, oysters are typically served raw on the half shell at fancy restaurants, but not long ago, they were a humble, poor man’s food.

What’s that, the idea of oysters in stuffing sounds crazy to you? Give us a minute to explain. Like anchovies in Caesar dressing, or fish sauce in a Thai curry, oysters provide a salty umami punch to stuffing that will NOT be overwhelmingly fishy. You will certainly taste the extra briny oomph, but it will be as you reach for more stuffing because you can’t stop. In fact, we are so confident in the universal appeal of this stuffing that we dare you to serve it to first-time oyster eaters, or anyone who says they don’t like oysters (without telling them that there’s oysters inside).

The following recipe is highly adaptable to the ingredients you have on hand. You simply need bread, some aromatics, a highlight ingredient or two (we’ve used oysters and bacon), and some good stock to tie everything together and make sure the stuffing stays moist. And if you’re concerned about the time required to shuck oysters, fret not. We have shucked oyster meats available, perfect for all your cooked oyster dishes. These are big, plump Pacific oysters, which means they’ll stay meaty and sizable even after cooking shrinkage.

You’ll note that this recipe calls for toasting fresh bread, rather than using stale bread. This is because toasted bread will absorb liquid more readily, becoming more flavorful, so it’s better to use this over stale bread.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Oyster, Bacon & Mushroom Stuffing

Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 45 min

1 lb firm white bread, cut into 3/4″ cubes
2 T butter, unsalted
1/4 lb bacon
1 lb mushrooms, sliced, such as shiitake or cremini
3 large celery stalks, leaves removed, diced in 1/4″ pieces
3 medium leeks, green and white parts, washed and diced in 1/4″ pieces
1/4 c parsley, minced, reserve some for garnish
1 t thyme, dried
1 t sage, dried
2 c shucked oysters, cut with kitchen shears into 1/2″ pieces over a bowl to catch the liquor
1 1/2 c chicken broth
2 eggs, beaten

Toasted Bread

Heat oven to 325 F. Bake bread on a sheet tray for 12 minutes until toasted and dry. Cool completely.

Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cook the bacon in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until browned. Transfer the bacon to a large bowl and crumble into smaller pieces. Add the mushrooms to the pan with the rendered bacon fat. Sauté the mushrooms until they are browned and most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt, and transfer to the bowl with the bacon. 

In the same pan, melt 4T butter over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and celery, and cook until soft and translucent. Season with salt. Add the leeks, celery, parsley and dried herbs to the mushroom mix and toss. Add the bread cubes and oysters to the vegetables, stir gently to combine. Mix in reserved oyster liquor, chicken stock and eggs. The bread should be moist, and there shouldn’t be too much liquid left at the bottom of the bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Put the mixture into a baking dish. At this point, you can cover the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate it until ready to bake. Bake the stuffing uncovered at 350 F until heated through and golden brown, about 45 min. Garnish with parsley.

Oyster Stuffing Bite

Recipe: Oysters & Beer Granita

IMG_8547
It’s October, which means the air is crisp and the oysters are fattening up nicely for the winter! We’ve moved from summer rosés to heartier beers, and what better way to embrace Octoberfest than with some beer granita over oysters?

The following granita is a fun way to branch out from the usual oyster toppings of cocktail sauce and mignonette, and it requires ingredients you probably already have around the kitchen. The slight bitterness of beer pairs nicely with the brininess and snap of an East Coast oyster. Treat yourself today!

Oysters & Beer Granita

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 40 min

12-oz bottle of beer, such a saison for some citrus notes or a stout for some bitterness
zest from one lime or lemon, reserve some for garnish
chili flakes (optional)
12 oysters, rinsed and shucked, preferably East Coast

Combine the beer, citrus zest and chili flakes in a shallow pan or wide bowl. Place in the freezer and check every 10 minutes, mixing with a fork and moving the frozen crystals toward the center of the bowl. Break apart any large pieces. Repeat every 10 minutes until you have a fine, frozen slush. (Alternatively, you could put the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn until at a sorbet-like consistency.) Top oysters with a spoonful of granita, garnish with citrus zest and enjoy!

When You Like It Hot: Grilled Oysters with Spicy Herb Butter

grilled oysters
Nothing better than an ice-cold raw oyster on the half-shell, right?

Well, it’s hard to top that, but we recognize that sometimes it’s nice to mix things up with cooked oysters too, especially if you’re trying to convince someone to try an oyster for the first time. And with Labor Day right around the corner, we’re here to remind you that grilled oysters are the perfect way to coast out the unofficial end of summer.

Plus, if you’re not feeling up to the challenge of shucking, popping the oysters on the grill will allow you to circumvent some of that work. Just place them on the grill for a few minutes until they start to open, then remove the oysters, let them cool until they’re easier to handle, and remove the rest of the top shell with a sharp oyster knife. 

Of course, if you can shuck your oysters confidently, we definitely recommend pre-shucking before placing them on the grill to speed things along. Who wants to wait any longer than they have to?

I hesitate to call this a recipe because it’s really more of a hand-waving guide to grilled oyster nirvana, and there are many different but still valid roads to paradise. Essentially, you’ll need a few (dozen) oysters (we can help you with that), some butter, something aromatic like minced garlic or parsley or chives, some hot sauce or chili flakes (if you want things spicy), a few cold beers and a few good buddies. Melt the butter and combine it with any other seasonings you’re using. Once the oysters are cooked, off the grill and shucked, drizzle them with the herb/garlic butter and/or hot sauce. Sit back, slurp, and repeat.

One last tip, if you’d like to make sure your finished oysters are sitting with their cups upright, fill a tray with salt or rice so that they will stay level and not spill that precious liquor.

Happy grilling!