Oysters, fresh and fried

A photo of a plate of fresh oysters.
I have to make a confession: it’s been 2 weeks since my last post. You’ve noticed? Today is my birthday and I was born in the year of the monkey (I think), but I should have been born in the year of the dog as I seem always to be chasing my tail! Sorry about that, but all that running about in circles chasing my tail put me way behind with everything, but I am back with a vengeance and so let me get back to our holiday (before I completely forget that such a thing exists as not working and having fun!). As always, your oyster recipes will be at the end of the post.

A photo of the beach at Sete.

Just in case you have forgotten, Joerg and I went on a two week camping holiday to the south of France. In the last post I told you about Lake Salagou and now we head south to the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Sete. Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls say this about Sete in my trusty “South of France” guidebook:

Sete is France’s biggest Mediterranean fishing port…You can stroll along the Canal Maritime and watch businesslike freighters carrying French sunflower and rapeseed oil to every corner of the globe, along with dusty cement boats, gigantic tankers of Algerian natural gas (if one ever goes off, it will take the whole town with it) and Algerian wine (only marginally less dangerous), and rusty trawlers jammed full of woebegone sardines or some of the other 138 other fish caught by Setois fishermen. After that, perhaps a leisurely tour of the city’s historic monuments? Go ahead and try; in this infant city, younger even than Boston and New York, there isn’t a single one.”

Well, thank goodness is all I can say, as one tires of all the history and “you just MUST see this cathedral (seen hundreds) or that door(seen…need I say more?)”. It was declared a Free Port in 1673 so it is a few days old and it does have the biggest cast-bronze octopus in the world, so there. And it is a beautiful city, sitting there on the waters edge with the Basin de Thau (that’s where they farm the oysters) on one side and the Sea on the other. It can’t get any bigger than it is as there is no room for development so you have 15km of lovely non-crowded beaches – a luxury in the Mediterranean.

A photo of the camping cars on the beach road.

And so therefore, we were able to park with our “camping car” (as the French call motor homes – but even they probably wouldn’t go so far as to call our converted mini-van this!) directly on the beach and lay on our bed and look at the ocean and hear the waves. Aah, a little slice of heaven. We collected driftwood off the beach, made a fire in our Rocket Stove and cooked spicy pork chops, sliced potatoes and (you should have guessed if you read my last post…) tomato salad. Add the Rose we had to go with it and I will have to change that to a big slice of heaven.

A photo of me at the fire in Sete.

I even went for a swim at 8am in the morning before anyone else even woke up (didn’t want to have the other motor home people coming out with wet towels trying to roll me back in again). Cold for the first couple of minutes till the body numbed up and then I was making Flipper look like an amateur.

The next day we cycled to the village of Marseilhan (27km there and back I would have you know) and bought some hand made pottery from a lovely little place in the center of the village. Having momentarily forgotten that I am blonde, I purchased 4 beautiful bowls and then realized that I was on a bicycle with no basket…the joys of being blonde know no boundaries, I tell you. However, a visit to the Noilly Prat* factory did uplift our spirits (did you see the pun??). Then we had a coffee pier side before cycling back along the canal.
*Noilly Prat is a French aperitif – a quote from their brochure: “…(has) a distinct rounted taste and an elegant bouquet, which make(s) it the distinctive aperitif of connoisseurs all over the world.” NOTE: the spelling mistake is from them!

A photo of the bike path along the canal.

As I sit here reminiscing, I can hear Joerg and Leon repairing the roof outside the house, the washing just beeped that it is done and hours of office work are calling my name. The holiday seems a long way off, but I can still taste the oysters we had sitting at the waters edge – damn I’m good; bet you thought I’d never get back to them oysters, but I got the curve and it’s down to business. I could try and explain how to open them, but I found another blog that does it extremely well so I'll just link you to it as I could do it no better than he does!
http://gourmetfood.about.com/od/cookingtechniques/ss/openoyster.htm

A photo of Joerg opening an oyster.

OYSTERS FRESH AND FRIED

Seeing as we were at the source and you can’t get them any fresher (or cheaper!) than that, we had oysters a couple of times. We had 6 each fresh and then 6 each cooked – depending on their size (size 1 is the biggest) 24 oysters cost between Euro6 and Euro16.

Joerg never used to be an oyster fan, but he has acquired the taste after a couple of tries and we now both enjoy them whenever they are freshly available. We think they give you a lovely feeling in your tummy once you’ve eaten them.

FRESH OYSTERS

6 oysters per person

TOPPINGS:
Lemon wedges
Tabasco
Shallot vinegar (either bought or finely chopped shallots mixed with good-quality vinegar)

1. Place the opened oysters on to crushed ice cubes if you have them – this keeps them fresh and stable so that you don’t lose all the good “juices” inside.

2. Use your topping of choice, but use sparingly as you don’t want to overpower the wonderful oyster flavour. Slide them into your mouth straight from the shell and ENJOY!

FRIED OYSTERS

A photo of the raw oysters and coatings.

A couple of years ago we had them in a restaurant topped with garlic, butter and crumbs and then quickly broiled so that they were still raw, but slightly warm and the top nice and crispy. I have made these at home as well and we love them like that too. Go easy on the topping if you do make them this way as once again you don’t want to overpower the oysters. In the fried oyster recipe today, I do them slightly differently as I didn’t have a broiler on hand, but they were so good we will definitely have them like this again.

I crushed fresh garlic and added it to the flour the first time, but this was not successful as it is too moist and made floured garlic balls! Garlic powder or granules works well though (go easy again), but it can also be left out depending on your taste.

As you can see in the photograph, I served mine with Rice which had chopped pepper/capsicum in it and Celery salad (with a mayonnaise dressing), but you could serve it with potatoes and green salad if you prefer.

12 oysters
2 – 4 tbsp flour
½ tsp garlic powder (optional)
1 egg
2 – 4 tbsp fine crumbs
2 – 4 tbsp butter or oil to fry

1. Remove the oysters from their shells and pat dry. Mix the flour and garlic together, if using. Heat the butter or oil.

2. Roll the oysters in the flour and shake off excess flour. Then roll in the egg and then in the crumbs, shaking again to avoid having to much coating.

3. Fry the oysters in the butter or oil quickly (a minute or two should do the trick) as you want them browned on the outside but still soft in the middle. Deelicious!

A photo of the crumbed oysters.

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What fun, what an incredible trip, and at least you did not have to write about bear canisters. I have to say the oysters look amazing. The entire trip just looks wonderful relaxing and special.

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