I love food memoirs; a life’s tale told through a central theme of taste, smell, and touch resonates to my core. Thankfully with the ever-increasing popularity of our Food Culture we are not deprived. Those of us who wake each day with visions of culinary nirvana are treated to an amazing array of chefs, writers, journalists, and bloggers who passionately weave salivating narratives.
In At the Kitchen Table: The Craft of Cooking at Home, Greg Atkinson writes a mouthwatering chapter on the Pacific Northwest oyster bounty. Delving into the merrior (regional salinity, minerals, and flora), which is responsible for each varietal’s unique flavor, he entices the reader to dream of a life harvesting gems of the sea.
If you find yourself swooning over bivalves, I’d encourage you to make Chef Atkinson’s easy and over-the-top-decadent oyster bisque as soon as possible.
Next time you are at the book store treat yourself; whether it be one of the culinary giants like Julia Childs or M.F.K. Fisher, or the brilliant contemporaries like Ruth Reichl, Greg Atkinson, and Molly Weizenberg, you are sure to be delighted by tales of family, love, life, and food.
Adapted from At the Kitchen Table: The Craft of Cooking at Home, by Greg Atkinson
Serves Six as an Appetizer
2 Dozen Medium Oysters, live in their shell
¼ Cup Butter, unsalted
1 Large Shallot, finely chopped
¼ Cup Dry Sherry, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
2 Cups Heavy Cream
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Remove any dirt or sand from the oyster shells with a vegetable brush. Place the oysters in a large pot with 1 cup of water and steam over high heat until the shells start to open, about 5 to 6 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the oysters to a plate and let stand until cool enough to touch. Strain the liquid from the pot through a paper towel lined sieve and reserve.
Rinse the pot. On medium, melt the butter and sauté the shallots until translucent. Add the sherry and cream, increase heat to high and bring to a rolling boil. Add the reserved liquid and reduce heat to low. Remove the oysters from their shells and add to the soup (strain and add any residual liquid). Purée soup with an immersion blender. Ladle soup into warmed bowls, top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of sherry and garnish with fresh cracked pepper and fresh chives.