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July 26, 2009

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:



But wait.

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

Resources:  Oysters from BlackSalt; ginger and scallions from HMart; sheet gelatin from L'Epicerie; soy lecithin from WillPowder; Redbridge gluten-free beer; Domino sugar; and BLiS roe.

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.

Read My Previous Post:  Croquette, smoked steelhead roe, endive, radish


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Awww man. Shame you put in all that work for something you knew you probably wouldn't like. It would be like me making something with licorice in it. Blechhhh... Props to you for trying it anyway!
Looks incredible to me. But then again, I love oysters, raw, maybe with a little mignonette sauce. It's like a salty, briny explosion of the sea.
Have you tried fried oysters with tartar sauce? Pearl Oyster Bar makes some to die for. Keep them in mind next time you visit NYC.
Great post as always.

Never feel a need to be apologetic for loving Fauré's Requiem! It's okay to soak up pure unadulterated beauty. Life is short and all that. I have four recordings of it and love 'em all.

I can't thank you enough for making me feel less guilty and whole as a person for not caring for oysters. I've had 'em in good restaurants in San Francisco and Paris and still didn't get it. Why are we not rapturously transported to higher realms by a good oyster like a food-lover is supposed to be?

Anyway, fascinating entry, and as always your presentation is fantastic.

C'est la vie...best to get this one out of your system so that the loveliness that is veal stock can permeate your pores.

Choir geek? An Eric Whitacre fan as well, i hope?

I love oysters in almost any preparation! When I eat them raw I'm a purist. I like them served very cold on a bed of crushed ice, with nothing more than a squeeze of lemon. They are the pure essence of the sea when served this way. I also love them fried southern style with a spicy cornmeal crust, barbecued with just a bit of lemon-shallot compound butter and a tiny bit of reduced chardonnay (but no barbecue sauce,) and even the smoked ones right out of the can with a little Pico-Pica (or not) on a saltine. Oysters are wonderful!

I love Fauré's Requiem! We sang it in choir in high school, though I haven't heard it in a long time -- thank you for reminding me about it!

Afraid I cannot help you on the oyster front -- I love them raw with just some lemon juice on top (although good mignonette sauce is delicious too). If you ever want to give them another try, start with Kumamotos -- they are the smallest, sweetest, and best (in my opinion).

Maybe you should get the Purple Whisk for bravery on this one. What do you think?

Ah. Alinea veal stock. I am interested.........

I was introduced to raw oysters the same way I had been introduced to sushi, by a young lady I wanted to impress.

Turns out I liked all of them, and married one of the young ladies to boot.

Personally, my wife and I can devour our way through piles of raw oysters. With a squeeze of lemon (and a drop of hot sauce for me, sometimes) it's heaven on a plate. We've been eating more of the local NJ Cape May Salt variety. My wife once felt the same way you did, until she sampled one of mine on fateful day a few years ago.

I agree with whoever mentioned fried oysters. Cornmeal-breaded and pan-fried, then tossed on a baguette with lettuce, tomato, butter and tartar sauce...it's a guilty pleasure I haven't had in a while. I suggest you give it a whirl.

Choir geek? Oh, Carol, no! Everyone knows the band geeks ruled. Choir was for musical posers who can't play an instrument. *shakes head sadly*

Your description of eating raw snot wads, er, oysters, is exactly the way I feel about them. The way I would make the dish edible is to fry those babies in a cornmeal crust!

I've been a long-time reader of your blog (including the French Laundry version) and I LOVE it. It is the most entertaining blog I read. You even inspired me to start a pastry blog of my own. I noticed that when you have photos of the steps required to make a complicated dish, you take some of the intimidation out of cooking or baking. I utilized this system and did step-by-step photos of each baked item. Thanks for the inspiration!

Too bad you didn't enjoy this dish. It looks beautiful, all out in the sun on the new outdoor table.

I love raw oysters, but not if they are too large.

My favorite ways to eat cooked oysters are Fried and Grilled with a butter and Tabasco sauce with parmesan.

Faure's Requiem=love. That and Mendelssohn's Elijah are my favorite choir works to sing.

I like my raw oysters either plain or with a bit of wasabi. I'm sorry you didn't like them! I feel about okra the way you feel about raw oysters.

Blorped - I'm so ROFLMFAO

You are not alone in not caring for snotty raw oysters.

The best thing I have ever made was Keller's Oysters and Pearls. It was truly great. As good as at TFL.

Sorry you didn't like the oysters. I've always liked raw oysters, and I'm looking forward to my vacation to Cape Cod in a couple of weeks to enjoy some famous Wellfleet oysters ... or at least I was until I read your hack-up-a-lung-in-a-meeting-and-then-swallow-it-because-you-have-no-choice image.

As for the Faure: Choir geeks unite! I performed the Requiem with my college chorus, and'd I've loved it ever since.

This entry reminds me of how I had bbq'd oysters with a ton of garlic butter at the Gilroy Garlic Festival yesterday. As it turns out garlic butter makes everything magical.

Who knew?

Ok, first- I so want that gorgeous table and benches. Love, Love, LOVE!

Second- How you described the feeling of oysters? Yeah, my thoughts exactly.

Yuck. Blech. Urgh.

The table is pretty cool.

What I don't understand about oysters is the love/hate thing. I feel like I am one of the few people that kinda likes them, but not loves them. I've grown to like them more once I got over the snotty element. I still have little love for big chunks of roe - too gooey and salty. But, good for you for giving the oysters a shot again.

I am with Sharon on this one. I think that it would be pretty much impossible for you to enjoy a dish with raw oysters in it, just like I cannot CONCEIVE of anything licorice (although I do like fennel... go figure)

I love love LOVE raw oysters and wish I could have tried this recipe. I can eat cook oysters, but don't find them nearly as tasty. Sorry... :-)

I'm more of a fan of raw oysters than cooked, but this dish looked like maybe it had too many squishy components. I'd probably like it just as much with a little grated ginger instead of the gel. Nice plating on your part though - really good pics.
As far as the beer is concerned, did the book specify a type of beer? I'm a bit of a beer geek and I am always annoyed when beer is used generically in recipes. There are lots of flavor profiles that may work better or worse with the given ingredients. For gluten-free beers, I've found that the best, by a long shot, are made by Green's (http://www.glutenfreebeers.co.uk/). If you are ever in the mood to attempt enjoying beer without getting college flashbacks, I recommend the Green's Endeavour.

Since you didn't like the dish anyway I will let you in on "a little known fact" the Food Science Professor I work with told us. Raw Oysters (in his opinion) are the single most dangerous food you could eat. They co-exist in environments that have a naturally occuring (meaning just happens to be there, not because the oysters are bad or prepared wrong just luck of the draw)bacteria that produce a toxin so strong that if your oyster was exposed, it could kill you within hours of eating it. This lovely little story does not occur often, but is serious enough that restaurants have to log their oyster batches in case one of their customers dies after dinner, but you still don't like them... so you're safe.

Love sushi, hate oysters. I thought your description of them was quite apt.

Your blog rocks!

Domine Fili Uni Genite Jeeeeeeeee........su Christe.

Still love it. Still hear YOU singing it with me.

I hate Oysters. And foamy things. This is not for me. Veal stock appeals even though I won't admit to liking veal.

Nice Jonny bench!

I like raw oysters , but I think this particular dish needs some texture in the form of crunch! given by frying the oyster with some rice flour or even corn flour?
i just think it needs texture .


I LOVE oysters and Roe (separately). Beer, not so much. However, I am not interested in eating any of these items together.

Even I could not eat those oysters raw. Those are HUGE Atlantic Oysters. Too big for me even and yes they have the texture of phlem after a lung infection.

Roe on top of that, ????

I respect your oyster hate but there is a variety of oyster found here in BC called Royal Miyagi. Small, delicate, the size of a mussel. Rick Bayless loves them.

If you find yourself in these parts, I will procure some for you. I cannot swallow an Atlantic Oyster and I had trouble with the Tasmanian oysters in Aus. Royal Miyagi's are doable.

NO roe, beer or foam would be included. I promise.

I know that you didn't want everything to dash across your palette, but never munch raw oysters!
For lack of a better explanation, they go all weird and you lose the lovely. You can give them a very soft bite, but I'd never do anything but. It's all about the taste of the ocean (and they're superb with shallot vinegarette). I think the munching ruined this one.

Carol, as a newby to celiac sprue, are you familiar with the blog Gluten Free Girl? Beautiful writing, beautiful pictures, and now and again, excellent gluten free receipes. The most recent entry is for gluten-free cornbread. Check it out. Here's the link:


Hi Carol-
I just discovered your blog, what a hoot! I can TOTALLY relate to the whole raw oyster thing. I once had to do a raw oyster tasting in front of a room of people (I was in culinary school...there was no way out). I choked the loogie down and had to supress the gag reflex as the mass blebbed its way down. Gross. Anyway, just wanted to let you know you have a new fan.

If you want the oyster flavor without the texture, you could have run them through a meat grinder or mini-chopper. (Alton Brown's recipe for oyster soup is puréed in a blender.) Should you choose to do that for some hypothetical future experiment, maybe a square of crispy bacon would be a nice addition. That would provide additional crunch, and the bacon flavor seems like it ought to go well with everything else in the dish.

I love your table! Fan freaking tastic.

Re the oysters, I would not recommend chopping or pureeing them - I'm afriad you either like them or you don't. I will say that I prefer the smaller, sweeter Pacific or PEI ones to the larger varieties, so if you do decide to try them again, maybe start there!

I'm all for combining kitchen and spa time.

You know, oysters are really my cup of tea either, however, I think I could eat "Oysters and Pearls" all damn day. It is ah-ma-zing.

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