december 26, 2014
Cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton of Rappahannock Oyster Company are putting Virginia oysters on the map, and on the plates of discerning diners across this great nation. The right kind of media attention has made heroes of these fellows, who were once derided for starting oyster aquaculture from seeds planted carefully in and around the Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay, giving particular taste characteristics of “neighborhood ” oysters.
Wild oyster harvesting had just about fizzled due to overfishing and disease, and earlier attempts to plant oyster seed beds met with disaster, predator species wiping out plantings in the blink of an eye. Success has come to these patient oyster farmers and if you live in the Richmond area, their wares may be sampled at the flagship restaurant Rappahannock, and at the tiny seafood shack Merroir on the creek at Topping, Virginia.
For a concise history and mouthwatering read, do look up Food and Wine‘s recent online post about the Croxtons’ venture. Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster : History on the Half Shell is a fascinating story of New York Harbor’s oyster beds from pre-colonial America to the early years of the twentieth century.
If you are an oyster lover, (folks either love them or hate them) you will enjoy entertaining others of the same tribe with this first course of lightly poached oysters in a chardonnay leek cream over toast points with a scattered garnish of frizzled prosciutto. Looks complicated, but some ingredients may be made ahead – the toast triangles, the leek cream and the roasted prosciutto. A quick poaching of fresh oysters, with a brief reheat of the sauce (lightened with a little poaching liquid) and artful plating, and you have a company-worthy masterpiece, to be enjoyed with your fellow oyster-philes.
recipe by Michele Humlan ,The Good Eats Company
serves four as a first course
these components may be made ahead
- toast points
- chardonnay leek cream
- frizzled prosciutto
six slices regular or gluten free sandwich bread, cut into triangle halves*
cooking spray, olive oil or melted butter for brushing bread
thin slices prosciutto – two for this recipe, plus more for other uses
one tablespoon unsalted butter
one large leek, white and light green parts, cleaned and thinly sliced
chardonnay or other white wine
1 ⅓ cup heavy cream
12 fresh oysters
fine sea salt and finely ground white pepper
optional garnish : thinly sliced scallion, green part
* Pepperidge Farm or Udi’s gluten free are preferred brands
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On one side of each triangle, spray or coat with oil/butter.
- Bake until golden at edges, about 15 minutes; when cool, store in airtight container.
- May be made up to one day ahead.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees; place prosciutto slices on heavy baking sheet lined with foil or silicone mat and bake until dry and lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.
- Cool to room temperature, then crumble ; store in airtight container until ready to use.
- May be made 1-2 days ahead; two will be for this recipe and if you choose, you can make more for another use (great on scrambled eggs, as garnish for salads, etc).
chardonnay leek cream
- In heavy saute pan, melt butter over medium heat, add leeks and stir occasionally until butter is melted and mixture sizzles; add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until leeks are softened and barely golden.
- Add 2 tablespoons chardonnay and reduce to nearly dry over medium heat.
- Add cream, bring to boil and simmer gently over medium heat until reduced to a thick and creamy sauce, about 6 minutes (if you over thicken, you can always add a little oyster liquid later).
- May be made a day ahead and thinned with a little oyster liquid; if made close to serving time, keep warm over lowest heat while oysters poach.
oysters and assembly
- Add oysters and their liqueur plus a couple tablespoons chardonnay to a heavy small saucepan.
- Bring to simmer and cook just until edges of oysters begin to curl, 45-60 seconds.
- Bring leek cream to gentle simmer and add a little oyster poaching liquid to thin if needed; season leek cream with salt and pepper lightly, since oysters and the prosciutto are already salty tasting.
- To plate, place one oyster atop each triangle (three per serving), top with warmed leek cream and then top with frizzled prosciutto.
- If desired, garnish with thinly sliced scallion.
- Serve immediately.