See those? Yeah, those. Oysters.
I have a confession. I don’t like them raw. There is something about the briny, oceanic, slippy-slidy-ness (which Brett loves) that makes me pass. Now, cook me up an oyster and I am there. So when we began crafting a menu for an upcoming event (supper club – extreme birthday edition!) and decided to do oysters, I only had one rule… it can’t be raw! How do you create a recipe for something you can’t (don’t want to) taste?!
This amuse bouche is original and part of a larger menu. There are certain elements that carry through the rest of the dishes we will prepare for this special evening, but I won’t bore you with that yet.
Cooked oysters are, according to Brett, lowbrow. Especially fried oysters. Absolutely no fried oysters, he said. I happen to love fried oysters and think that the crunch of the breading plus the tender oyster is a wonderful combination. Others (ahem) think that the briny, oceanic flavors with an acidic tang (from the traditional mignonette made from red wine vinegar, minced shallots, and cracked pepper) is what makes eating oysters delightful. Seeing that these two views are in no way incompatible, in this dish we attempted combine them.
A light, crispy fried wonton cracker, salty, briny, and bright caper cream, nutty sweet cipollini onion, a drizzle of tangy balsamic, oyster quick-poached in a dark stout, and just a hint of aromatic rosemary combine to make one fine amuse, if I must say so myself.
It is complex, balanced, and in no way lowbrow.
In this dish, you want to have just about everything prepared beforehand. Timing is essential as overcooked oysters are tough and fried wontons left sitting more than a few minutes get gummy and unappetizing.
¼ lbs. cipollini onion
First, roast the cipollini onions.
Go ahead and clean them, removing the outer layer of tough onion skin, the top and the bottom. Toss them in an oven safe baking pan (I used a foil pouch but you could use anything really), douse with a bit of olive oil and pop in a preheated 400F oven for about 40 minutes. I know you must hate me for even suggesting the oven during the summer. I’m sorry. Because the onions are so small, maybe you could use your toaster oven? We did and they turned out great. While those are baking away…
Prepare the wonton wrappers:
We used the recipe we found here:
It worked itself out perfectly, though we did use our pasta machine to roll out very thin sheets, a square stainless cutter to get uniform shapes and sizes, and we did dust with cornstarch to prevent the skins from sticking to one another and our hands as we worked with them.
By now you should be able to take your onions out of the oven. They should be very soft, probably a bit charred on the top, and golden. Put them in a bowl and smash them up with the back of a spoon until you have a soft mash. They should still have a little body, but you want to end up with something spoonable.
1 oz capers with brine (1/3 of a jar this size and the brine that goes with it)
½ cup heavy cream
½ tbs cornstarch
Grab your capers and brine, buzz them in a food processor until they are as finely chopped as you can get them and place the caper puree in a small bowl.
Put half a cup of heavy cream in a bowl and beat, slowly at first, and then with increasing speed, until the cream is holding soft peaks. Drop in half a tablespoon of cornstarch (this will help the whipped cream stabilize a bit), and beat until incorporated and holding stiff peaks. Don’t overbeat or you’ll be on your way to separating the solids from the whey and making butter. This is a good thing, sometimes, but not today. Grab a spatula and slowly fold in the caper puree a bit at a time, using maybe a quarter of the liquid each time. Squeeze in a quarter of a lemon and fold until well incorporated. Be advised: this mixture will fall a fair bit, and lose its ability to hold stiff peaks but don’t worry—you should have a fairly smooth, creamy, salty, and just a bit tangy cream that is just short of holding soft peaks when you finish.
Ok, here is where it gets hairy:
Bring two inches of oil to 350F. We used corn, but if you have a favorite frying oil, don’t be shy.
Bring a stout of your choice (we used Guinness) to just under simmering.
Quickly fry your wonton wrappers one by one unless you can fit more into your pot. They will puff up and turn brown very quickly. You’ll get maybe 2 minutes in the oil before you start burning them so this is a pretty intense process. You’ll want to put the fried wontons on some paper towels to drain.
Now bring your stout to a simmer and add the oysters. You’ll need maybe 2 minutes here, so this is quick as well. Remove the oysters from the pot with a slotted spoon when finished and place in a bowl.
Assemble. Take a wonton and spoon a dollop of cream over it. Place a bit of the onion over the cream along with a few drops (really, drops!) of balsamic. Crown it with an oyster and rosemary leaf.
Devour! I mean, serve.