Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The World is Your Oyster.....

My Daughter Maggie

It’s that time of year when costal water temperatures drop and the Gulf of Mexico yields one of its finest resources, oysters. In this article we’ll explore the nuances of these delicious creatures, some more fun facts and a recipe that has been a family tradition for many, many years.

And now……….Gulf Oysters 101

Oysters require a subtle flow of fresh water for their development and maturity.  This fact makes the Gulf of Mexico a prime breeding ground for oysters.  With the many tributaries that flow into this vast body of water, oyster reefs are constantly bathed with fresh water.

 The Gulf of Mexico is the largest producer of oysters in the world.  In fact, 42% of the oysters harvest in the United States comes from the coastal shores of Louisiana, approximately 250 million pounds (in shell) each year.  Other states that largely contribute to the Gulf harvest are Texas and Florida.

Gulf oysters (crassostrea virginica) are intersexual. This means, the start their life as males. After one season (approx. 10 months) they change sex and become females. The female lays eggs over the oyster reef and the male then inseminates the eggs. Within fourteen days, they eggs become “spat” and attach to a shell and life begins. It takes approximately 12 months for the oysters to reach the legal harvest size of 3” in length.

The location of the oyster bed determines the flavor of the oyster. This is due to the water quality of that area. In the Gulf there are many prominent harvesting areas. These include Breton Sound (Louisiana), Apalachicola (Florida) and Pepper Grove (Galveston Bay, TX). Each has a wonderful, but distinctly different flavor. In general, these oysters are sweeter with a softer texture to their Northern counterparts.

 Born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland, I began eating oysters at a very early age. At that time I was partial to Chincoteague oysters from the Chesapeake Bay. Now I find my favorite to be Gulf oysters, especially those from Apalachicola Bay in Florida. 

Every Thanksgiving, we celebrate with one of my favorite family traditions.  My stepfather, Jim, would start off the feast with his broiled oysters.  We call the “Oysters Jim” and even after his passing, the tradition still continues.  When you try them, you’ll understand why.  Enjoy the Oysters Jim; it could be a nice start to your holiday.

 Oysters Jim

12 ea.             Apalachicola Bay Oysters, 
                       freshly shucked on the half shell
¾ cup          Unsalted Butter, melted
 1 tbsp           Old Bay Seafood Seasoning
2 slices         Hickory Smoked Bacon
12 pieces      Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 1/8” thick and 1” by 1”

Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees

Place the bacon on a metal baking tray and par cook in the oven until 75% done, approx. 4-5 minutes. Remove, cool slightly and cut into 3/4” pieces.

Next, arrange your oven rack so as it’s in the top third of the oven. Set the oven to broil.

Place the oyster on the half shell on a metal baking tray. Drizzle the melted butter over the oysters and sprinkle with Old Bay Seafood Seasoning.

Top each oyster with a piece of cheddar cheese. Place a piece of par-cooked bacon on top of the cheese.

Place the tray on the oven shelf near the top broiler. Cook until the cheese has melted and the bacon becomes crisp.  Serve immediately.


Chef Joe

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Gandy Dancer Ann Arbor, MI - facebook.com/GandyDancer

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