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Shuck ’em: Oyster Recipe Roundup

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Living on the Gulf Coast has its perks including access to some of the freshest seafood. It’s easy to forget about the humidity and elephant sized mosquitos when you are eating oysters. Bug spray and margaritas don’t hurt either.

I can eat a million oysters on the half shell with just a squeeze of lemon, but getting a little fancy every now and then is fun too. Even oysters like to play dress-up in the kitchen.


1.Fried Oyster with a Chipotle Lime Dipping Sauce – Although I will never be able to comprehend how some people don’t like raw oysters, fried isn’t a bad call either. This Homesick Texan fried oyster recipe includes a killer creamy and flavorful sauce.

2,Oyster-Swiss Chard Gratin with Country Bacon– The perfect side dish for any occasion. The Rushings are the chefs behind MiLA in New Orleans and trust me, they know their stuff.

3,Barbecued Oysters  – This recipe encompasses the spirit of Texas to me. You can’t go wrong with these suckers served up at a backyard gathering.

4. Oyster Po’ Boy– Enough said. When you bring the oyster and the po’ boy together they can speaks for themselves. Spoon Fork Bacon includes a tangy coleslaw and spicy aioli to pull it all together.

5. Chili, Lime and Gin Marinated Oysters – For the tipsy oyster lovers, try the Chef’s Pencil recipe. This one is for the rambunctious crowd who is up for a fair bit of kick.

6. Oyster Nachos – A tip of the hat to Tex-Mex. Hilah Cooking has got you covered and even has a video to boot. While we are in the Tex-Mex spirit try oysters on the half shell with a little pico de gallo spooned on top.

7.Oysters with Japanese pickled vegetables – If you are looking for beautiful presentation on the half shell, look no further. The delicate pickled vegetables add an elegant pop of color.

8.Oyster and Artichoke Soup – Decadent, creamy, and something you don’t see everyday. Yum.

9.Acme Chargrilled Oysters – It feels wrong not to include this classic. You can never go wrong with Acme Oyster House chargrilled oysters.


For great local oyster try Whole Foods Market at the Domain, Quality Seafood and Central Market. Get Shucking!




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Grilled Artichokes

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I love artichokes, but was always a little intimidated by them.  I wasn’t sure if I was cleaning them correctly and the only way I knew to prepare them was the traditional boiling method – not very exciting and messy to eat.  I was thrilled when I found this article recently by Dorie Greenspan in the Wall Street Journal on The Art of the Artichoke.

She not only explains in detail how to properly clean the choke, she also provides several terrific recipes.  I was inspired to grill artichokes for family dinner one Sunday night.  They were a big hit with my sis and brother-in-law – so tender and juicy that we didn’t need any aioli or dip.  We’ll definitely be making them again.

This week I made the baby artichokes marinated in olive oil and they were another great surprise – easy to prepare and packed with flavor.  These will work well in salads or pasta.  They also made a terrific spread for our Easter dinner appetizers when I used the suggested variation of putting them in the food processor.

I’m so happy that I’ve conquered my fear of the artichoke and am looking forward to making the Grilled Fish with Artichoke Caponata recipe next.

What food(s) are you intimated by?  Maybe we can conquer that fear together.

 Grilled Artichokes

serves 3, 1 artichoke per person

3 artichokes
olive oil
1 lemon, cut in 1/2

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Heat up the grill.

Clean the artichoke by pulling the tough outer leaves off the artichoke, usually a couple of rows. If the artichoke is very fresh you may not need to this.

Using a very sharp knife, cut off  about the top 1/3 of the artichoke – so that you get most of the pointy tips.  You can trim any remaining points with scissors.

Cut the artichokes in 1/2 and trim out the hairy part of the choke.  I ran the blade of a pairing knife in the fleshy part just under the hair then used a spoon to scoop out the hairy part.

If the artichokes are large, you might cut them in 1/2 again so that they grill more uniformly and are easy for your guests to handle.

Toss the cleaned chokes into the boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes until the inside of the artichoke is just tender to the touch of a fork.

Drain the artichokes and place on a baking sheet.  Brush olive oil on both sides of the artichoke then squeeze the lemon over the inside part of the choke.

Place the artichokes on the grill, outer leaf side down first.  Cook about 5 minutes to allow the leaves to get a nice char then flip the artichokes.  Cook another 5 minutes to char the inside of the choke.  You should be able to easily pierce the inside of the choke with a fork.

You can serve with an aioli or squeeze a little more lemon over the top after grilling.

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Caprese Salad

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I love fresh tomatoes. I have tried many different recipes for Caprese salad – a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad – and have adapted to this one. Only serve this when tomatoes are fresh and in season. It is not going to taste the same in the winter. And don’t skimp on the mozzarella; get the good stuff.

Serves 4

2 to 3 fresh tomatoes, depending on their size. I like to get a couple of different kinds of tomatoes if they are available because they have different acidity and sweetness.

6 oz of fresh mozzarella

8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, you can use any type of basil, but I enjoy the lemon basil if it is available

1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste, I use ground sea salt and fresh ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Slice the tomatoes to the desired thickness, usually about ¼ inch. You need a good sharp knife to do this without mutilating the tomatoes.   Slice the mozzarella to desired thickness, again about ¼ inch.

There are a number of ways you can plate this. One is to place a slice of tomato on a plate, then slightly overlap it with a slice of cheese, and then a piece of torn basil. Repeat until the plate has a single cascading layer of tomato, cheese and basil. You can also chiffonade the basil rather than tear it and sprinkle the cut basil leaves between layers. If you would like to dress up the presentation, you can make Caprese stacks. Start with a tomato on bottom, then stack cheese, basil, tomato, cheese, basil and tomato.

Whatever presentation you select, finish the dish by squeezing fresh lemon over it, drizzling a bit of olive oil (don’t drown it!) and adding salt and pepper to taste. Let the dish stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

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The Joys of Slow Food and Rillettes

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“What are you going to do with the spine?”
Jesse, looks up after casually tossing the pig spine in a bucket, cocks his head and says, “It would be good for stock.  Want to bid on it?”  
I’m in a small hall in East Austin at the Slow Food Austin annual fundraiser and I’m watching Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due butcher a hog to auction off the pieces.  Of course, it’s not just any old hog.  This beautiful specimen is from Richardson Farms where Jim and Kay Richardson raise some of the most delicious pork around.
I’ve been outbid on all the prime cuts – the belly, the chops, the ham, the loin.  I managed to squeak by with the high bid on the bottom of the belly and am now also the proud winner of a pork spine.  
As soon as the auction is over, I beeline for Jesse to find out what I should do with this bottom of the belly cut that I’ve never cooked with before.  Jesse recommended using it for rillettes, a pork spread less refined than pate, and shared a surprisingly short recipe.  
Never having made these delicacies before, I mistakenly assumed the preparation would be complicated.  Jesse’s recipe requires a long cooking time for the pork,  but the assembly was simple and manageable even for a novice like me. 

The rillettes make a rich, lovely spread on bread or crackers, particularly when paired with a spicy mustard, chutney or pickled treat like Confituras Apple & Hatch Chutney or Pickled Blueberries.  They were also pretty tasty with pickled green beans made by my friend Marshall from Eat This Lens.
Pork Rillettes with Confituras Pickled Blueberries

The rillettes were the perfect celebration of the spirit of Slow Food.  I bought a gorgeous piece of locally raised meat that I’d never worked with before to make a dish from scratch that I’d never cooked before to share with people I love.  I’d say that embodies “pleasures of the table” pretty well.

If you aren’t familiar with Slow Food Austin, I highly recommend participating in one of their programs. Each month they offer educational Slow Sessions, farm tours, workshops and happy hours all in support of reconnecting us with our food.  You can join Slow Food USA for $25 now through October 22nd and automatically become a member of Slow Food Austin.  Based on my experience from this last year, my membership was worth every penny and then some.  Won’t you join me for this next year?
Pork Rillettes
from Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due
2 lbs pork belly, cubed
fresh thyme
bay leaves
pinch of pate spice (see below)
salt and pepper
olive oil* (I added this, see note in recipe)
Place the belly, fat, thyme and bay in a large pot and cover with cold water. (Note: Tie the thyme together with twine to make it easier to fish out the stems.)  Bring to a boil, skim and lower to a simmer.  Cook until completely tender, about 3-4 hours.

Cooking down the pork belly & fat
Not pretty, but the pork smells terrific while it cooks down.
Strain and discard the water (or save for stock), thyme and bay. 
In a bowl, begin stirring the meat with a wood spoon, breaking up the meat and fat into fine shreds.  Beat with the spoon until the mixture starts to become homogenous.  (Note: My rillettes were too dry – more flaky like tamale meat than a spread.  I don’t know if I drained them too well or if there wasn’t enough fat on my cut, but I adjusted the consistency by adding olive oil about a tablespoon at a time until I got the consistency I wanted.)

Pork Rillettes - first processing
Still the wrong consistency, I started adding olive oil until
the rillettes became smooth.
Season aggressively with salt, pepper and pate spice.  (Note: Jesse says to use a pinch of spice.  His pinch must be much larger than mine because I had to add 5-6 “pinches” and still thought it wasn’t seasoned enough.    I would start with 1/2 tablespoon and adjust from there.  You want to mix it well, then taste. Prepare to use every tasting fork/spoon in the house.)
Pack the rillettes into a terrine mold, loaf pan or ceramic bowl, cover and refrigerate.  
Serve with bread, cornichons, mustard or other pickled items.  If storing for some time, pour rendered lard over the top of the chilled rillettes to seal – this will keep for a couple of weeks under the fat.
Pork Rillettes
Pork Rillettes
Note: Bring the rillettes up to room temperature before serving.  You lose the richness of the spices when the pork is cold. 
Pate Spice

This recipe makes enough for several uses.  
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground white pepper
Combine all spices.
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