From the land of majestic Northwest totem poles come super-size Totem Bay oysters, most measuring almost 9 inches long.
"The gigantic oysters are farm-raised in Washington State's Hood Canal, the only true saltwater fjord in the lower United States," says Tim Reynolds, head fishmonger at Penn Avenue Fish Co. in the Strip District. "The meaty Totem oyster is the larger version of the Whitney Point oyster. The excellent shell hardness makes for easy shucking, but we recommend either grilling or steaming them open and serving with Mignonette Sauce. I think Totems have a good balance of salty and sweet."
Daring souls will eat this in one long swallow. The rest of us will manage three or four bites.
"It was impossible to eat -- or swallow -- in one take," says Dave DeSimone, oyster lover, wine maven and owner of Bridge Ten Brasserie on the South Side. "The Totem is one of the tastiest oysters that I've ever eaten. Not slimy at all, but fresh, plump and briny. It would be great with a fresh and crisp Muscadet white wine."
The oysters will be available until mid-October. They are $21.99 per pound with about 12 per pound.
-- Marlene Parrish
Mignonette Sauce for Oysters
Make the mignonette at least 4 hours ahead of time, preferably a day or 2 ahead, which allows for the flavors to blend, and the shallots to mellow. If using seasoned rice vinegar, omit the sugar and salt.
- 1/2 cup minced shallots (about 2 1/2 ounces)
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup clear, unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon of salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoon of finely crushed white peppercorns (do not use pre-ground or powdered white pepper)
Peel and coarsely chop the shallots. Put them into a food processor and pulse a few times, until the shallots are finely minced, but not mush, with pieces no smaller than the tip of a match. You can also finely mince by hand if you wish. The advantage of using a food processor is that the food processor bowl captures all of the liquid released by the shallots as they are minced, which will enhance the flavor of the mignonette.
Place the minced shallots and any liquid released from them in a glass bowl. Add the white vinegar, rice vinegar, and sugar and salt. Stir with a fork. Add the freshly crushed white pepper. Stir with a fork.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours. The mignonette flavor will be better blended the longer it sits. To serve, shuck the oysters. Scoop a small amount of the mignonette (1/8 of a teaspoon or so) onto each oyster before eating. Makes 11/2 cups sauce. Any extra mignonette sauce will last up to a month in the fridge.
-- Marlene Parrish
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