Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Slipping Out of Winter

Dare I consider the oyster, bold yet finessed bivalve partial to a bed of ice and a bracing splash of mignonette sauce? I travel on the long bushy tale of winter, weary and still numbed by the cold. The thought of something so ephemeral flitting upon my tongue, splay of a thousand colors, while interesting is ultimately too brilliant for my blunted turned in senses. My favorite briny sweetmeat which quivers in tandem with my own pulse, cradled in concave shell one part porcelain and ‘nother part nature’s fossilized gnarl, captures life’s interplay between humble fragility and arching strength. This pale body loosely formed somehow manages to capture the quickening of senses where taste, impulse, and movement coalesce to form a single diaphanous shape which rises, settles then dissolves into the next lingering moment. Raw unmediated potency.

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster” -Jonathan Swift

But I’m simply not prepared for such aliveness, for so much personal involvement. I have been in temperature induced torpor and am more in need of gentle ministration. While I listen to the siren song of bony mollusk holding onto tide’s brackish edge, I’ve got my eye fixed upon a restorative elixir which will melt the remaining corners of winter and cast a spell for pleasurable things to come. The formula is simple. A soup with enough body to provide sustenance without overdo, the temperature comfortably hot without scalding tongues, served straight from a teacup- spoons be damned, and flavors whittled down to bare components, uncomplicated, clear, perhaps even the basis of taste.

Barely there onions cooked to a sweet buttery note represent the earth and thereby require the smallest amount of toil. Pre-shucked oysters gently heated turn edgy raw cores into creamy tender pillows-of-the-sea where the focus shifts from the bracing explosion of life to the matrix behind which sustains. Finally, the amalgamation of saline liquors is the primordial milk which binds the entire creation. The entirety puréed and then effortlessly gulped--relief. This slip of a soup, this mineral sweet bisque of faraway place is really the final thing for coming out of winter.

Oyster Bisque
2 tsp. of butter
½ onion finely chopped
8 oz. of oysters shucked, liquor separated
1 bottle clam juice
1 cup half and half, plus a dribble or so more to taste
Cayenne pepper
Ground pepper and salt
Oyster crackers, buttered toast points

Directions: Melt pat of butter in a pan on medium heat and add the chopped onions with a pinch of salt. Cook until onions are translucent and sweaty. Next add the oysters and continue cooking until their skirts gather and bellies turn opaque. Put into a blender. In a saucepan heat up the clam juice, half and half, and oyster liquor to a simmer. Add some of the hot liquid to the blender until just covered and blitz until smooth. Pour puréed mixture back into the hot cream and heat through adding a pinch of seasonings. Taste and tinker, perhaps even drop in another swoop of butter before promptly ladling into a thin lipped teacup. Oyster crackers and toast optional.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Such an elegant recipe! Perfect for the last days of winter... or the first days of Spring.

Anh said...

Just so luxurious. I am saving this recipe for my winter days! :)

Callipygia said...

lydia- exactly right, especially out of a teacup!

anh- I don't usually make cream soups, but the half and half with pureed oyster made this rich enough.

Lucy said...

A gloriously, sexy, elegant post.

Gosh, I do find myself coming back a few times to read your beautiful essays.

The recipe itself is a joy to behold.


sher said...

Oh! That post radiates sensuality. :) I used to make this all the time when I was growing up in the South. I don't like the oysters they sell out here in the West. They're too big and bland. Oh to have the salty, tangy oysters of my youth. Sigh.

Callipygia said...

lucy- your enjoyment is so sweet and 'tis a delight the things that make us sigh!

sher- oysters are beautiful...I've wanted to write about raw tiny things I've eaten, but all I can (easily) get are the jarred kind. Does anything ever taste as good when measured against the memories of our youth (yearn)?

HipWriterMama said...

This sounds so delicious and rich. Thanks for sharing this recipe, your beautiful picture and lovely post. This is such a treat.