Grilled oysters with pancetta
For this dish, use medium-sized oysters with plump flesh; if they're small to start with, they'll shrivel too much when cooked.
Take care when shucking oysters: use a good oyster knife, and hold the bivalve with a hand that's wrapped in a dish cloth, to protect it in case the blade slips. It's best to shuck the oysters just before cooking them. You can have the seafood vendor do it for you, but no more than two hours before making this dish.
12 medium-sized fresh oysters
45 grams unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
150 grams pancetta, rind removed
Freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a skillet set over a low flame.
Add the onion and pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent, but not brown. Cool until tepid.
While the onion-pancetta mixture is cooling, shuck the oysters and cut the muscle that attaches the meat to the shell. Discard the top shells but rinse the lower, cup-like shells with hot water and then dry them completely.
Carefully check the oysters to see that there's no shell or grit on them, then blot them with paper towels. Lay the oysters on the lower shells, then place them on a baking tray. If they wobble too much, spread a layer of coarse salt under the shells, to stabilise them.
Divide the onions and pancetta evenly among the oysters, then drizzle with the buttery pan juices.
Slide the baking sheet under the oven grill and set on a high flame. Cook until the pancetta is sizzling and starting to brown, watching carefully so it doesn't burn (about a minute).
Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and serve very hot, with warm, crusty bread to soak up the buttery sauce.