Looking to impress your holiday guests? Greater Hartford-area restaurants show you how to make professional-quality appetizers and cocktails in your own kitchen. This pairing comes from the pros at Firebox in Hartford.
See the entire series, with video instruction, at courant.com/holidayhelp.
Firebox chef Ed Jones III first made this innovative grilled oyster recipe as part of the restaurant's Frog Hollow Social Club special dinner series. The "fried fish sauce" adds crunch to the finished product (not to mention, it looks really cool) but if home cooks are reluctant to work with hot oil, Jones says to just add a drop or two of fish sauce on the oyster for the same flavor. Jones says to multiply the recipe in accordance with the amount of oysters served, and suggests making the horseradish a day before.
Sommelier and assistant general manager Matt Blumenfeld suggests serving the oyster appetizer with a dry cava (Spanish sparkling wine) as a palate cleanser. "You have the really strong flavors of the oyster and the horseradish and the fish sauce…a lot of salinity, salt," he said. He recommends Mercat Brut Nature as a specific pairing, as it has no dosage (added sugar.)
Bar manager Robert Juall suggests Italian Garden, an elegant cocktail with warm notes from bourbon and honey.
>>6 Atlantic oysters
>>3 tbsp bacon fat, rendered and strained
>>3 tbsp prepared horseradish
>>1/2 cup rice flour
>>3 tbsp fish sauce
>>3 tbsp soda water
>>Wet salt (for serving the oyster)
Bacon Fat Horseradish: In a small sauce pot, add the prepared horseradish and rendered bacon fat. Simmer over a medium-low heat for approximately 15 minutes. Let the mixture cool overnight.
Fried Fish Sauce: In a small mixing bowl, combine the rice flour, fish sauce and soda water. Whisk until smooth. On the stove top, bring a pot of canola oil to 300 degrees. Drizzle the rice flour mixture into the oil by using a spoon, held above the pot, moving in a circular motion. When the mixture turns light brown (approximately 1 minute) remove the fried mixture with a slotted spoon, and place on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
When ready to serve, using an oyster knife, shuck the oyster and lay the removed half of the shell back on top of it. Place the oyster directly on the grill surface over a high flame. When the oyster belly plumps up and the brine begins to simmer, remove the oyster from the grill and place on a steady surface so as not to lose any of the oyster brine. (In the kitchen, Jones uses either wet salt or an egg crate to balance the oyster).
Add a teaspoon of the bacon fat horseradish and two drops of lemon juice, and place the fried fish sauce on top. Serve the oyster warm when the shell has cooled enough to safely handle.
An Italian Garden
>>2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
>>3/4 oz honey syrup (2 parts honey to 1 part water)
>>1/2 oz lemon juice
>>3 dashes of Pernod Pastis
>>1 egg white
Assemble all ingredients in a shaker of your choosing and shake for 15 seconds without ice. Add ice and shake vigorously for another 15 seconds. Double strain into a coupe glass or other cocktail glass. Garnish with one tarragon leaf.