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I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Oysters: The Foie Gras of the Sea

Three random thoughts about oysters:

No.1 We’ve all heard the expression, “It was a brave man who ate the first oyster.” Of course it was a man, because women have a hell of a lot more sense!. 

No. 2 Oysters are a lot like wine. They draw their flavors from their environment.  (There are 300 different oyster appellations.) They are sometimes sweet; sometimes briny; sometimes salty.

No. 3 Today, most oysters are farmed. They are affixed to tiles and raised out in the ocean. Later, after they have reached a certain size, they are transferred to what is deliciously called the “fattening beds.” These are always near the mouth of a river where the mixture of fresh and sea water induces the overgrowth of the oyster’s liver. Hence, you have “foie gras of the sea!”


I came to oysters rather late in life, or at least raw oysters. I would occasionally have fried oysters with cocktail sauce and fries during summer trips to the beach. My mom loved fried oysters, and my dad would eat them raw occasionally. But frankly I’m not sure how crazy he really was about them. 

About five years ago, I had dinner at Highlands Bar & Grill with some friends. Kyle suggested we get some raw oysters. Maybe it was the martini talking, but I said “sure, what the hell.” (One of my favorite scenes in Mad Men was the martini and oyster lunch between Don Draper and Roger Sterling.)

The oysters arrived in a large silver metal platter on a stand, the oysters nestled comfortably on a bed of crushed ice. There was also the obligatory cocktail sauce, lemons, and saltines. The fork was, of course, optional. After all, one of the joys of eating raw oysters is the slurping. If my memory serves me correctly, we had a selection of PEI (Prince Edward Island), Beau Soleil, Apalachicola, and Chesapeake. 

Ever sense, I’ve been a raw oyster fan, especially when I’m at Highlands Bar & Grill.

They say that the convert is the biggest zealot. I am when it comes to oysters, but my proselytizing has failed miserably.  Laura, half-heartedly tried one the other night at Highlands. She was gracious in response to my enthusiasm but, at the end of the day, not sold. This was my most recent failure at conversion. The first came during one weekend with my son Hampton, the pickiest eater next to Mikey. 

Hamp and I were at a soccer tournament near Mobile, Alabama. On the way home that Sunday, we stopped by Blue Gill for an early lunch. I ordered some raw oysters—fat juicy Gulf babies—and casually asked Hamp if he wanted to try one. I was shocked when he said yes! He put the whole thing in his mouth. I sat there, rapt attention and hoping that he may like them; a partner in crime!. And then his face contorted into a grimace. Crap!  

Hampton, then asked: “How are these cooked?” “They’re raw.” “What does that mean?” And my response—I should have known better—was: “not cooked.” 

I really thought the kid was going to toss his cookies right there in front of that nice family just in from church.

Damn! I thought I had a convert!

Friday, January 8, 2016

It's That Time of Year...Again

Well, 2015 is in the bag. A new year has begun. 

I’ve never been much on New Year’s resolutions. But this year may be different. I really need to get back to my running routine.  From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, it seemed that every thirty minutes someone put food in my left hand and a drink in my right.

But this is a food blog. No one wants to read about diets, cleansing, and exercise, even in January. So my Ten New Year’s resolutions will this year will by about food. Here we go.

Resolution No. 1: Make homemade bread. I’ve always been intimidated by bread and impressed by those who make it. But dammit, it can’t be that hard. I recently bought a copy of the Bread Bible, and this year I plan to put it to good use. Amen!

Resolution No. 2: Dust off my slow cooker. OK, I admit I’ve never been much of a slow cooker fan, which we called a “crock pot” when I was a kid. But that may change because I’ve noticed more and more foodie magazines have “gourmet” slow cooker recipes. Maybe this is worth a shot. As a single parent, this could be of value. So, one day in 2016, I will throw some chicken and oregano in the slow cooker, a/k/a crock pot, one morning at 7:00AM and see what I get at 7:00PM.

Resolution No. 3: Cook at least one vegan meal. Last week, we took the kids to New York and made a stop at Candle 79. My boys were skeptical—after all these are my kids who are as meat-centric as I.  But they were at least moderately impressed. I have the cookbook, and this year I plan on doing something with it.

Resolution No. 4.: Clean out my pantry. More accurately, cook a meal from the oils, sauces, rubs, pastes, mixes, and specialty salts and spices that I’ve accumulated from my and others’ various travels.

Resolution No. 5: Teach my kids how to cook because they need to know that the fridge is not a magic box that produces home-cooked meals by itself. Besides, I could use some help in the kitchen from time to time.

Resolution No. 6: Use a kitchen gadget that I’ve never used before. I’m a nut for kitchen gadgets. The problem is that I buy them and they quickly collect dust in a forgotten drawer. Somewhere I have a blow torch that, one day in 2016, will be used to make creme brûlée.

Resolution No. 7: Drink more Champagne. It goes with everything, especially hot dogs. I may re-think SEC football this fall by serving Champagne instead of the “Champagne of Beers.”

Resolution No. 8: Cook more Indian and Asian food. I’ve got the basics of French cooking down, which are really not that difficult. But have you read the average recipe for an Indian dish? It reads like the re-entry sequence for the space shuttle! I’ve got to master that!

Resolution No. 9: Outdoor parties. This one is tied in with a real new year’s resolution. Buy a house where I can have a grill and an outdoor patio. Yeah, I’m giving up the downtown hipster vive for the quasi-burbs.

Resolution No.10: Be more creative. This year I want to create a dish that I can really call my own—maybe combine Asian or Tex-American flavors with classic French cooking techniques.  

Well, there you have it. My 2016 Foodie New Year’s Resolutions. Tune in around December, and I’ll let you know how they turned out. I promise I will be more successful than those New-Year’s newbies at your local gym.