Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"O" is for Oysters on Valentine's Day

The oyster is a well-known aphrodisiac. It contains a high zinc level, which is an important nutrient for the production of testosterone. Testosterone stimulates the libido in both men and women.

So, this Valentine’s Day you may want to consider enjoying a feast of raw oysters with an accompanying wine with your romantic partner.

Rather than serving the traditional dish of oysters on the half shell, why not prepare a few Japanese oyster shooters?

To make oyster shooters, you’ll need to buy about a dozen oysters. Many supermarkets carry fresh oysters in the fish department. Remember that the size of the shell is not an indicator of the fattiness of the oyster.

You need not hunt for the biggest shells. The shell size does not determine the size of the oyster. Look for shells that are not chipped or cracked and are tightly sealed.

Be sure to purchase an oyster knife, if you don’t already own one. It need not be expensive, and supermarkets usually sell them.

When you get home from the supermarket, store your live oysters in a bowl, flat side up in their own liquid in the refrigerator. Because they need to breathe, do not store them in an airtight bag, otherwise they will die.

To clean, rub the shells with a stiff brush under cold running water. To shuck them, wrap your left hand in a kitchen towel. Place the oyster shell in the towel and firmly cup the bottom shell. Be careful to not tip the oyster when shucking, as you will lose some of the delicious, oyster liquor. Insert the tip of the oyster knife into the hinged end of the shell and work it gently back and forth until you feel the shell release. Once opened, gently probe against the upper shell with the tip of the knife, cutting through the sinewy umbilical cord that holds the muscle to the shell. Remove the top shell. Discard any bits of shell in the liquor. Work the knife gently underneath the meat to free it from the bottom shell.

Inspect the meat. The oyster should be plump with a grayish colour and a mild, fresh water scent. If pink, discard the oyster. This can be an indication of the presence of yeast. Dried out oysters should also be thrown out, as well.

Place the shucked oysters on a bed of lettuce leaves set on ice in a bowl while you prepare your shooters. The lettuce will keep the shells from over-chilling.

To make a Japanese shooter, place a raw oyster and its liquor in the bottom of a shooter glass. Add a half teaspoon of ponzu. Ponzu is a citrus-based, thin sauce used in Japanese cuisine. Top the oyster with a quarter teaspoon of tobiko. Tobiko is the Japanese word for fish roe, used in various sushi, including California rolls. The eggs are usually orange with a crunchy texture and salty flavour. Sprinke a few small pieces of green onion on top. Both ponzu and tobiko are available at Asian supermarkets. Add an ounce of vodka to the shooter glass.

The Japanese oyster shooter pairs nicely with Aveleda Vinho Verde (CSPC 5322), $7.95, from Portugal. This is a crisp, dry white wine with lemon flavour and delicious sourness that offsets the salty flavour of fresh oysters and tobiko. The wine also has a hint of effervesce, giving it an interesting mouth feel.

If you’re going ‘all out’ this Valentine’s Day to impress a loved one, then forgo the quaffer and invest in a bottle Champagne! Veuve Clicquot Brut (CSPC 563338), $64.95, offers sophisticated, exceptional taste and characteristics that harmonize with oysters. The wine’s brut quality (steely acidity) nicely offsets the saltiness of oysters and tobiko.

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