I adore eating caviar straight from the tin with nothing added.  No egg, no onions, no blini… just plain caviar. At the same time, I’m always looking for caviar recipes that highlight the caviar, and ideally actually add to and improve the experience of eating caviar.

Caviar poached oysters

I have finally found such a recipe. The basis of the recipe came from “Alfred Portale’s 12 Seasons Cookbook”. The slightly poached Bluepoint oysters served in their shell with a leek, shallot and heavy cream sauce, and topped with a generous dollop of Caviar was perhaps the most delicious caviar recipe I have ever had.  The combination of ingredients was absolutely perfect.

The leeks and first stages of the cream sauce can be prepared ahead of time, leaving only the oyster shucking and poaching and final assembly for the last minute.  This caviar recipe would be perfect as a first course for any holiday or special occasion meal.

Poached Oysters with Leeks, Cream and Caviar

Ingredients:

  • 2 leeks, white parts only, sliced into 1/6 inch rounds
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Fleur de sel
  • 24 BluePoint oysters, or use Wellfleet, Kumamoto or Malpeque oysters
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced chives
  • 2 ounces Black River Caviar (or use another high quality osetra caviar)
  • Fresh tarragon or chervil sprigs for garnish
  • Coarse salt such as ice cream salt, for serving

Instructions:

Cook the leeks for 6 – 8 minutes or until tender, in a saucepan of boiling salted water. Drain and plunge the leeks into ice water. Drain again and set aside.

In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the shallots until softened, about 4 – 6 minutes. Add the wine and cook until nearly evaporated (about 1 tablespoon of liquid remaining). Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Cook until the cream reduces slightly, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the butter one piece at a time, until the sauce is rich and slightly thickened. Season with cayenne and fleur de sel. Cover and set aside to keep warm.

Working over a bowl to catch the oyster juices, hold oyster firmly in the palm of your hand using a towel to protect your palm. Insert an oyster knife into the hinge at the pointed end of the oyster. Work it in, using steady, even pressure. Pop open the shell, then run the blade around until you cut the muscle that attaches the top of the shell to the oyster. Remove the top shell. Slide knife under the oyster, finding where it is attached to the bottom shell, and cut through. Continue this with all 24 oysters. Add the oysters to the escaped oyster liquor in the bowl. Reserve the deep bottom shell and discard the top, flat shell. Wash and dry the reserved shells.

Add the reserved leeks to the cream sauce and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add the oysters and reserved liquor (which might need to be strained if any shell particles fell into the bowl).  Cook for about 1 minute, until just heated through.  The oysters will swell just slightly.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chives.

Arrange the clean, dry shells on a bed of seaweed or rock salt. Spoon some leeks and sauce onto the shells, and set one oyster on top of the leeks.  Spoon a small amount of sauce over the tops of the oysters.  Garnish each oyster with a dollop of Caviar and a sprig of tarragon or chervil.

Serve immediately.

by Laurel Pine, President of www.mirepoixusa.com