Even if your foodie Valentine’s Day didn’t go exactly as expected (corazon skewers misinterpreted, passion fruit sauce too spicy), you can return to a state of grace and love with baked Oysters Valentine. I made these last night, and my husband and I were stunned by how good, how incredibly, off-the-charts, food-high-of-food-high good they were. They went right to a pleasure center in the brain.
There are a lot of steps to Oysters Valentine, as I’ve dubbed them, and it’s worth it. I worked from James Peterson’s comprehensive and excellent “Fish and Shellfish” The model was hot oysters with leeks and white wine sauce. Of course I veered off-course, for the good…and the comical.
The oysters came from the Westport Winters Farmer market, which is the best place to go on a Saturday afternnoon. The oysters were exquisitely fresh. The fish monger drove them down from Rhode Island that morning. When I opened them, the juices were pristine clear and the oysters were plump and glistening.
Strain juice through super fine sieve. I used a coffee filter. It took a while for it to drip through, but the juice was grit-free. Gently place oysters on a dishtowel and cover w/ another dishtowel (this removes grit). Place clean oysters and strained liquid in small saucepan. Put in fridge or hold over a bowl of ice.
I didn’t have leeks, so I started with shallots.
Sauté minced shallots in butter. THEN, I remembered the gorgeous, hearty baby spinach I’d bought from the winter farmers market. I stemmed a small pile of leaves and sautéed them in the butter and shallots. Place in the cup of each (scrubbed) oyster shell. Those beautiful oysters had deep cups. Which needed to filled with buttery spinach and shallots.
Now, put the saucepan of oysters and juice on the stove over medium heat, and set the timer for 3 minutes. Watch carefully as the liquid warms to make sure that only the edges of the oysters start to curl, but the oyster does not cook more than that. I added an extra minute because it took the pan longer to heat (it had been sitting over ice).
Remove the plump, barely poached oysters w/ a slotted spoon and place over spinach mixture.
Bake at 250 for ten minutes. Having come this far without a mishap, I worried that my precious oysters might over-cook. Needless worry. The temperature is low, and this step is really about bringing everything up to temperature. Little did I know, my mishap was to come on the stove, not in it.
Meanwhile, reduce the oyster broth with white wine. Here’s where my dish got funny. There was an open bottle of rose in the fridge, so I used that instead of opening up a bottle of white wine. Yup, my sauce turned pink. OK. Well, it’s thematic.
With cream and the addition, off-heat, of a little butter, here’s how pink it was.
After the oysters have warmed in the oven for 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven, spoon two teaspoons of sauce over the oysters. Put pan under broiler for 2 minutes.
I’m not going to show you what Oysters Valentine looked like. Pink sauce. Green spinach. The colors in plaid pants worn by some guy at a country club. But our laughter stopped when we scooped the buttery, briney oyster into our mouths, and tasted a soft, buttery, winey, shalloty, sea, mingled with tender spinach.