We’re officially out of oyster season. Actually, we’ve been out for a while, but it’s taken me quite some time to make this dish as it calls for a last-minute trip to the fish market to pick up oysters. Which is completely out of the way, making this a less-than practical dish.
To make matters worse, it was expensive and not that delicious. So really, I don’t know why I’m posting this recipe other than the fact that it’s a window into my efforts as opposed to something that I’d really like you to cook for your family.
But I’ve been craving oysters lately. Hopefully because they’re contraband right now and not because I’m pregnant.
You know that handy little mnemonic about only eating oysters in the months that have an “R”? Well it’s true. Do not eat oysters outside of those months. Unless they’ve been cooked to a sad, rubberized version of themselves, which is exactly the task I took upon myself this week.
A little backstory: last July, I went out to dinner with Rodney and friends and got horribly sick from eating a half dozen Long Island oysters. At the time of our dinner, I was blissfully unaware of a developing outbreak of something called Vibrio Parahaemolyticus.
I’ll get to that in a minute.
But an actual outbreak. A little bit like this, but without the biohazard suits. So technically, just a few people from the Health Department standing around, not all that worried, but investigating what might have caused the high number (9) of oyster-related bacterial infections that came through the Tri-state hospitals that week.
I love that word “outbreak” and over-indexed in it last summer, because it’s not every day that you’re in the news. Even if the news isn’t anything exciting like the Times or the Wall Street Journal. But we were a hot topic in all the industry rags, like The Food Illness Outbreak Database, and Food Safety News.
I only wish there had been a picture of me somewhere for the sake of posterity, parched and in the fetal position, getting rushed into the ER in a wheelchair. My taxi driver had dumped me at the curb of NYU hospital, fearful that I’d make a mess in the back seat of his car. Once in the ER, the moaning was so loud that the nurses silenced me with a morphine drip. It was like labor and delivery all over again but delivering poop, not babies.
So back to the name of the bacteria. Who names these bacterial infections, and why isn’t there a simple shorthand for it like “the mumps”? I mean the mumps has a scientific name too (it’s epidemic parotitis for those of you who watch Jeopardy), so why on Earth isn’t there a cute name for Vibrio Parahaemolyticus?
It certainly didn’t put my mind at ease when my nurse had to scrunch up her face and read it from her report like an elementary school kid, sounding out each syllable as she went.
You know the old saying: the longer the name of the medical diagnosis, the greater the panic? Well, that isn’t an old saying, but it should be, because when you’ve been told you have something that takes a full minute to pronounce, you start to hyperventilate.
And a helpful tip – don’t start Googling WebMD to reassure yourself that it’s only a little stomach bug, because when you read that it’s the same microorganism that causes CHOLERA you’ll prematurely start making your goodbye calls to friends and family. And we don’t want to scare them like that.
So after a three-week recovery (a week for the bacteria, two weeks to feel normal after the heavy duty antibiotics), I swore I’d never eat an oyster again.
But here we find ourselves in July. And all of the attractive young couples and empty nesters are out for cocktails on outdoor patios, clinking champagne and slurping raw oysters from their tiered seafood platters. And I miss it dammit. I miss it all. I miss the oysters. The mignonette. The champagne. The freedom.
So I’ve been watching them from the sidelines, pushing my double stroller saddled with grocery bags, feeling a mounting sense of disdain. And the teensiest bit of Schadenfreuede knowing that with these July temps, they could end up just like me last summer, at their local ER, pumped full of fluids and begging for mercy and a few extra blankets.
So to satisfy my craving for some oysters, I dug around online to find a cooked version that seemed somewhat appealing. I was inspired by the recipes that called for bacon and breadcrumbs and a quick broil in the oven. I won’t go into detail about the fabulous little accoutrements that I added for fun- the garlic scape, the lemon zest. All of it delicious, but not worth it on chewy little oysters that cost me $20 and a sweaty sprint home from Chelsea Market.
But until September, unfortunately, it’s as good as I’m going to get. So enjoy, or don’t enjoy. Do whatever you want, I won’t hold it against you. Just do me a favor, and stay away from the raw ones. At least for now.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4-oz package pancetta
- 1 garlic scape, diced
- 1 cup of day old breadcrumbs from a baguette, pulsed in the food processor until they form rough crumbs
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
- Half cup parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 10 oysters, shucked
- Preheat the broiler (I used the broiler on my smaller toaster oven as the oysters don’t take up much space)
- Heat a medium-sized sautee pan on medium heat and add the olive oil.
- Add the pancetta, and sautee until the fat starts to render and begins to brown, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the garlic scape, and continue to cook until the scape has softened, another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the breadcrumbs, and toss, coating the breadcrumbs in the oil, and cooking until the bread begins to crisp, another 1-2 minutes. You don’t want the bread to get too dark as it will cook more under the broiler.
- Off the heat, add the parsley and lemon zest, salt & pepper and toss it all together.
- On the broiler pan, spread out the half shell of each oyster that contains the oyster itself.
- Spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly amongst the oysters, and pop the pan into the oven.
- Broil for 4-5 minutes, and serve.
- I served mine with a big green salad. Although rubbery, it was still pretty tasty with all of the bacon and breadcrumbs, and made for a light weeknight meal.
Photo credit: Mubi.com