Pearls of wisdom

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 March, 2012, 12:00am


While it's hard to beat the deliciousness of pristinely fresh raw specimens on the half shell (as long as they come from cold waters), cooked oyster dishes can also be enjoyable, though in a different way. Cooking oysters makes them richer and more substantial. While it's not unusual to have at least half a dozen raw oysters as an appetiser (I once ate two dozen, but I wouldn't advise it), with these recipes, six will suffice as a main course.

For best results, use fresh oysters in the shell - which means you have to shuck them (unless you buy them from a vendor who does it for you, but then you must take them straight home and cook them immediately). The oysters that come in plastic containers tend to be far too large and flavourless.

Fried oysters with creamed corn (pictured)

Home-made creamed corn is deliciously decadent and a far cry from the overly sweet and mushy stuff that comes in cans.

12 fresh oysters

Plain (all-purpose) flour

1 or 2 large eggs, as needed

Fine cornmeal

Oil, for frying

For the creamed corn and garnish:

3 large ears of fresh corn

50 grams unsalted butter

Sliced red and green bird's-eye chillies, to taste

About 50ml cream

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rough-flaked sea salt

Parsley leaves

Lime wedges

Make the creamed corn first. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the corn and cook for two minutes. Remove the corn from the water and, when cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to remove the kernels from the cob. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the corn, then season to taste with salt and chillies. Stir constantly for about a minute then add the cream and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, for about a minute, then remove from the heat and set aside while prepar- ing the oysters.

Shuck the oysters, reserving the bottom shells. Check them carefully to make sure there are no small bits of shell on them, then dry them with paper towels. Dry the bottom shells (they'll be used to serve the oysters).

Whisk the egg in a bowl and put some flour and cornmeal into two separate bowls. Pour oil into a skillet to the depth of about 1cm and heat to 180 degrees Celsius over a medium flame. Dredge the oysters in the flour and shake off the excess. Coat them in beaten egg, then dredge them in cornmeal, shaking off the excess again. Fry the oysters in the hot oil until golden brown, then turn them over and fry the other side. Don't overcook the oysters; they should take about a minute or two to fry, depending on the size. Drain on paper towels then put the oysters into the oyster shells.

While the oysters are cooking, heat the creamed corn until bubbling. Season the corn with pepper and a little more salt, if needed, and stir in some cream if the mixture seems dry.

Spoon the corn onto plates and add the oysters. Sprinkle rough flaked sea salt over the corn and oysters, garnish with parsley leaves and serve with lime wedges.

Grilled oysters with leek, cream and breadcrumbs

This is a rich dish that can be served as a main course (six oysters each) or a starter (three or four oysters each). If it's a main, serve a salad with a tart vinaigrette and crusty bread, and end the meal with a lemony dessert.

12 fresh oysters

20 grams unsalted butter

1 leek, white and pale green part only

?tsp paprika

About 80ml cream

About 25 grams panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rock salt, for baking the oysters

Shuck the oysters, reserving the liquid. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve to remove any bits of shell. Lay the oysters on their bottom shells and place them on a bed of rock salt in a baking dish. Preheat the oven grill.

Remove and discard the root end of the leek. Quarter the remaining leek lengthwise then slice it about 3mm thick. Put the pieces in a colander and rinse thoroughly to remove any dirt hidden between the layers.

Heat the butter in a pan, add the leek and cook over a low flame until soft, stirring often. Add the paprika then season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour the ingredients through a fine sieve set over a bowl to collect the butter.

In a small pan, heat the cream with the oyster liquid until simmering.

Spoon some of the strained leek over each of the oysters (you might not need all of the leek) then pour some of the cream on top. Spread a thin layer of panko over the oysters, then drizzle lightly with the leek butter. Place under the grill, about 4cm away from the heating element, and cook until the oysters are hot and plump and the breadcrumbs are pale golden (if the breadcrumbs brown too fast, lower the heat). Serve immediately.

Styling Nellie Ming Lee