Local Chefs Dish On Their Favorite Recipes

Inspired chefs share Winning recipes for oysters, birds, veggies, sides, and cakes, so you can impress your own friends and family.


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Baked Oysters With Absinthe and Bread Crumbs

Photo by Lori Eanes

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This time of year, is all about sharing in good cheer with friends and family. To make the occasion doubly special, five renowned East Bay chefs and culinary experts offer up their best recipes from their cookbooks for entertaining. Whether you’re hosting—or attending—a cocktail party, potluck, or full-on celebratory feast, you’re sure to find something irresistible here.

 

Baked Oysters With Absinthe and Bread Crumbs

Chef: Russell Moore

Restaurant: Camino and The Kebabery, both in Oakland

Cookbook: This Is Camino

Favorite holiday tradition: “We like to grill crab. We will make stock with the shells to make a soup. That way, you get two dishes out of it.’’

 

(Serves 4 to 6)

½ large fennel bulb with fronds

1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 scallion

6 mint leaves

Splash of absinthe

¾ cup bread crumbs (see note)

Salt

24 oysters

Preheat oven to 500 degrees (or as hot as your oven will go without burning your house down).

Trim the fennel, reserving a handful of the fronds for the filling and saving the rest of the fronds and the stems to line the baking dish. Finely dice the trimmed fennel bulb, then sauté it in 1 tablespoon of the butter for about a minute. Add a splash of water and cook until tender, about 2 more minutes.

 

Split the scallions lengthwise, then cut it into fine slices. Finely chop the mint and the handful of fennel fronds. Work them together with the scallion, cooked fennel, absinthe, bread crumbs, a pinch of salt, and the remaining butter. If the butter is not well incorporated, you will end up with pools of melted butter in the oyster shells.

Shucking oysters is more a matter of finesse, not strength, so approach it gently and with a little caution. Fold a dish towel and set it in the palm of your non-dominant hand. Place the oyster, cup side down, on top of the dish towel with the narrow, hinged end pointed toward you. Without using much force (because you are pointing the knife directly at your hand), finesse the tip of your oyster knife into the hinge. It helps if you wiggle both the knife and the oyster slightly to help the knife find its way in. Once the tip is in, give it a twist—the shell will release with a pop. Often, a little piece of the shell will break off; wipe your knife clean before going back in. Pry open the top shell and run the knife across the inside of the upper shell to cut the abductor muscle, located on the right side of the round end. Discard the top shell. Hold the oyster steady from this point on so you don’t spill the liquor—you want it to keep the oyster moist while you bake it. Run your knife across the inside of the bottom shell to cut the other side of the abductor muscle. If the oyster isn’t loose, you may need to run your knife around the edge. Remove any bits of shell or detritus that fell in.

Set the shells carefully on a baking dish lined with the rest of the fennel stems and fronds to hold them upright. Put about a tablespoon of the bread crumb mixture on top of each oyster and bake until the bread crumbs are brown, approximately 6 minutes.

Note: To make bread crumbs, cut up whatever ends or slices of bread you have, put them on a baking sheet, and dry them out in your oven heated just by the pilot light. Depending upon the ferocity of your pilot light, the bread should be rock hard after a day or two. Grind it in a food processor and store the crumbs in one of the many empty yogurt containers you have laying around. Don’t refrigerate. If somehow you don’t use them, and the crumbs begin to get moldy, throw them out—you gave it a good shot!

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