After a harrowing offshore adventure Captain Alex wanted nothing more than the quiet comfort of his Sabre, his Espar heater and a beer. Delivering a J120 in 16 foot seas with ripped sails and a failing engine, he returned home to encounter… and yet graciously welcome… pirates on board for a galley occupation. A captain of unmatched character.
It’s an “R” month so oysters are plentiful (relatively) here on the Chesapeake. We’ve taken over Captain Alex’s galley shucking oysters and preparing Oyster Bisque. Of course we’ll reserve a few to eat on the half shell with horse radish and hot sauce.
First, a little oyster shucking lesson if you’re new to this. There are many varieties of oyster knives out there so choose your weapon wisely. From the decorative authentic traditional cast iron oyster knife to the sturdy but plain plastic handled knife. I’ve found the ones with the strongest, sharpest point wins. Yup, the ugly white one on top. (Now if I could get my hands on a Coastal Oyster Knife… yeah…if someone would get one for me. Now that would be awesome.)
Place the oyster on an old towel* in your left hand, hinge facing toward you. (Flip this if you’re left handed) With your right hand, poke the pointed edge of your knife into the hinge between the top and bottom shell. Grind it into the hinge until you feel you have it well wedged between the two shells. Turn and wedge your knife until it “pops.” They’re hard to open because they’re still alive and keeping their shell closed for dear life with all the muscle they have. But don’t ponder that too much.
*they make these wonderful bright orange rubberized gloves just for oyster shucking so you don’t have to ruin a towel. We actually happen to own a pair. Somewhere. In our lazarette. You know…
There were a number of different oysters to choose from at Annapolis Seafood. We chose the Blue Point over the Chincoteague because they were a little smaller and evenly sized. A new discovery was that a few of the oysters had baby crabs in them. Apparently that’s normal and the sign of a healthy oyster. Hmm. It all looked a little creepy to us.
Oyster Bisque, or Oyster Stew as many people know it, traditionally takes a minimal amount of ingredients…butter, cream, oysters and some garlic and shallots. This delicate combination enhances the oyster flavor. Although we did get some live oysters today, the easiest way to make Oyster Stew is with a pint jar of shucked oysters.
Oyster Bisque (Stew)
1 pint shucked oysters in their liquid
4 tablespoons butter
2 medium shallots, minced
1 small garlic clove pressed
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 to 3 drops Tabasco sauce, or to taste
Light your galley stove and melt the butter in your favorite soup pot. Sauté the minced shallots and pressed garlic in the butter. Add the jar of oysters and warm through. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the oysters are plump and have firmed up. Don’t let it come to a full boil.
Serve in bowls, topped with a little sherry. Garnish with fresh chives and parsley.
And being proper pirates with impeccable manners, we left Alex with leftovers and a spotless galley. Join us for more “Adventures in Alex’s Galley” in the next few weeks.