Oyster, ginger, steelhead roe, beer
There are two items in the heading of of this post that I don't really love and that made me nervous about this dish: oysters and beer. Wait. Let me amend that by saying: cooked oysters in one certain preparation, I love Love LOVE! Raw oysters? Snot wads. Chewy, disgusting snot wads. It's like when you have a sinus infection and you're at work, and you start coughing in the middle of a meeting and all of a sudden, you cough up a chunk of lung, and there it sits on your tongue. You can't spit it out (because EVERYONE'S LOOKING). You can't wedge it between your cheek and gum and deal with it later. You have to swallow it and pretend it never happened. You just have to. And yes, I know it's disgusting (but we've ALL been there, let's not pretend otherwise), and that is what oysters feel like for me. They make my shoulder blades twitch, my stomach churn, my salivary glands go into pre-vomit overdrive, and I just don't like them. I've tried and I've tried, and I think it's darn skippy I have leaned to love them cooked. A+ and +10 points for me. But raw? No freakin' thank you.
However, I went into this dish thinking, "If Thomas Keller can get me to change my mind about and fully love (and sometimes even dream about) cooked oysters, perhaps there is a sliver of hope that Grant Achatz can change my mind about raw oysters."
I feel less animosity, apprehension, and grossitude toward beer. I think I just drank too much of it in college that I overdid it and simply don't enjoy it now. Even before being diagnosed with celiac, I can't tell you the last time I had a beer. It's been 5 or 6 years, at least. It's not offensive and I don't hate it. I just don't savor the taste of it or crave it.
But let's not dwell on the negative. There are two ingredients in the post title that send me to the moon in full swoon: ginger and steelhead roe -- waahooooooo!!!! I'd just had the most splendiferous experience with the Croquette. I was on a high. Nothing could go wrong, right? There was the smoky, salty BLiS steelhead roe and ginger -- fresh, fragrant, bitey, deep-sighing aaaahhhh-inducing ginger. I could eat anything -- even raw oysters -- as long as the magical roe and ginger were involved.
So, off I went, mentally skipping and zippadeedoodahing into the kitchen to get started.
You know how for the past few weeks, I've been all about "hey, look at me and my awesome food weight guessing skillz!!!" Sadly, I am Rain Man no more. I needed 125g of ginger, and this is what I chose:
The book says 125 of ginger, peeled. Maybe after I peel it, it'll be 125g.... right?
Oh well, can't win 'em all, can I?
I sliced the ginger thinly and added it to a pot of boiling water, sugar, and salt.
Just like the steeping pot of lemon thyme, I wish I'd made a second batch of this steeping ginger to use to steam my face. A little spa time in the kitchen is something every girl needs from time to time, right? I covered the pot, turned off the flame and let it steep for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I soaked 4 gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water:
I love that shot.
I strained the ginger liquid through a strainer and into a clean, empty bowl. I discarded the ginger slices, and added the gelatin sheets (after squeezing out the water from them) to the ginger liquid, stirring until they had dissolved. I poured the liquid into an 8x8" glass baking dish and put it in the refrigerator to set.
It took nearly three hours to set, and when it did, I used a spoon to "draw" swirly lines through it to agitate it into chunks that were supposed to be walnut-sized. I put the dish of chunked-up ginger gelée back into the refrigerator until it was time to plate.
Next step was trimming and cleaning the oysters. The dreaded oysters. Bllleeaarrrggghhh....
(nothing antibiotics can't clear up, right?)
I trimmed each one so that the flap and other assorted grossness was gone. Here's what the assorted grossness parts looked like:
And here are the beautiful (*hack*cough*gag*) oysters all cleaned up and ready for plating:
The only other thing I had to do was make beer froth. Not foam, which you see in the photo below because I poured the beer straight into the saucepan, not at an angle (doy):
I used Redbridge gluten-free beer, and it took only 2 bottles of it to give me 706g (I needed 700g). And you know what I learned about gluten-free beer? Unlike regular beer, you can't make the bubbles go down by sticking your finger onto the foam.
SCIENCE! (side note re: this link -- Being an astronaut = coolest job ever. But picking the music for their daily wake-up call? Second best job EVER.)
Where were we.... ah yes, the beer froth.
I put the beer in the saucepan over medium heat, added sugar, and brought it to a simmer, skimming off the foam once the original foamy head had settled and dissipated. This smelled really lovely as it warmed -- made me think I might someday enjoy beer again.
I added the soy lecithin (which got a little clumpy), and stirred it as best I could to remove the chunks and get them to dissolve into the liquid.
That strategy really didn't work, so I just turned off the burner and used the immersion blender to break up the bits (which worked) and got the froth part started.
I sliced a few scallions and took the roe out of the refrigerator and started plating (here's a shot of the roe when it was just opened to use in the Croquette dish... just to remind you how gorgeous this stuff is):
Then, I began plating, or glassing in this case, using my little juice glasses. First in -- the ginger gelée:
Next, a spoonful or two of smoked steelhead roe:
Then, two oysters into each glass (they blorped when they landed on the gelée and roe -- ew):
A few rings of scallion:
Then, topped them all with beer froth:
I called the neighbors to come over for a taste -- and decided to do this tasting outside on the new table my awesome, fantastic, super-talented brother made for me out of reclaimed barn wood. This table has made me an incredibly happy camper this summer, and I figured it could only elevate the flavor and experience of tasting this particular dish.
Because this course has beer in it, I couldn't serve it to the kids, so I did roe and crème fraîche atop cucumber slices, because I wanted them to enjoy the roe again since they loved it so much the the Croquette.
Let's look at a full shot of the table and benches (home and garden porn) so you can see my new favorite place to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between:
If I could, I would distract you with even more photos from different angles of my lovely table, because it will delay the delivery of what I feel like is really bad, deflating news.
I didn't like this dish.
I made sure I had some ginger gelée, an oyster, some scallion, roe and beer foam on the spoon for my first bite, and I was really hopeful.... really, really hopeful about how it would taste.
And it was odd. Not awful, or spit-in-the-sink bad. Just not good. Actually, it's probably more appropriate to say that it wasn't to my liking. The ginger and roe together, as predicted, were really fun and flavorful -- I liked the brightness and the salty smokiness together. I loved how the ginger gelée opened up and amplified the roe. The beer taste was neither here nor there. It was fine, but didn't really move me in any particular flavor direction. I didn't really notice the scallion, come to think of it. However, the texture and taste of the oyster just threw everything off. I loved the feel of the roe crunching and popping as I chewed, but the oyster texture and taste just skeeved me out... and I know the oysters were very good oysters (everyone else seemed to enjoy them, and no one got sick, and Scott has never given me bad shellfish).
I went back and looked at the book to see if maybe there was a different way I could've done this. Should I have prepared a smaller serving with a little bit of everything and just one oyster in a shot glass? No, because if you do this as a shot (or oyster shooter) then all you're doing is letting stuff dash across your palate and down your gullet without ever really tasting it -- and that would've been a huge waste of ginger and roe.
Could I have cooked and then cooled the oysters? Not sure how that would've helped. Maybe finely diced them so they were the same size as the roe (or at least in a quarter-inch dice)? Maybe that would've made a difference. I can't be sure. Would love to know your thoughts on oysters and how ya like 'em, if you do.
I'm kinda bummed because I really did think I might enjoy this dish... that it might be the thing to get me to like raw oysters. Or maybe I just need to give it time or realize I may never like them, no matter how good the rest of the ingredients are.
Up Next: Veal Stock, the Alinea way
Music to Cook By: Fauré: Requiem; Andre Cluytens, conductor. Okay, confession time: I was a choir geek. I have been singing since before kindergarten, and did a lot of solo study in the classical form throughout high school and college, but I also spent a lot of time in chamber groups, concert choirs, and had the nerdtastic honor of being the number-one ranked mezzo soprano in Pennsylvania's state chorus in 1986. I know. Isn't that totally hot? I sang all throughout college, and sang Fauré's Requiem (which I'd also done in two different groups in high school) in GW's university choir, sitting right next to my amazing friend, Marisa. Still, to this day, we can sing it start to finish. And we know all four voice parts from having done it so many times. And now that you all have deleted me from your bookmarks and removed my dorktastic self from your RSS feed, please, at least, go listen to this piece. It's gorgeous. Yes, it's a funeral mass (perhaps for the death of my taste buds after once again attempting to eat raw oysters), but it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever to be composed.
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