I remember exactly where I was standing when I saw my book mentioned in the New York Times. We were just heading out of Ferry Building after enjoying one of the best breakfast sandwiches of my life. I’ll never forget that moment and that sandwich. Heading across the street to the park to appease the three children traveling with us on book tour, I stopped on the side walk as the kids and Gabe continued on. I called out to Gabe, handed him my phone then ran back into the Ferry Building to buy several copies of the paper. It was momentous, surreal and the kids thought nothing of it. Which is honestly one of my favorite parts of parenting; their ability (without knowing they are doing it) to put everything into a beautiful perspective.
The one criticism in the NY Times review of Date Night In was that I didn’t include enough seafood recipes. Of course seafood, oysters in particular, are an obvious inclusion in a book about dating and romance around food as they are thought to be a natural aphrodisiac but the thing is – I don’t like it.
More accurately I should say, I didn’t like it. Even just a few short years ago while writing the book I was merely tolerating seafood. Now, finally, I’ve begun to crave it. I understand the allure of the soft pink flesh of fresh caught salmon. Mussels cooked in a white wine spiked cream sauce are now a go-to dish and oysters, oh oysters, I can’t get enough.
Fresh oysters, just shucked with nothing but the sea water held perfectly in its shell, served alongside a bubbling glass of Rosé is my ideal meal.
My journey into enjoying seafood was fueled by my determination. I felt like I was missing out on something. As someone who loved food I too wanted to wax poetic about eating sea creatures and of course living in the Pacific Northwest it felt practically sinful to stay away from the stuff. So I ate it until I tolerated it, then I started to enjoy it and now I’ll walk up to our local fish market scouting the case looking for what is fresh and eagerly turn that into dinner.
For our second episode of Kitchen Unnecessary we visited Shina Wysocki of Chelsea Farms to get our fill of oysters, clams and geoduck. We filmed the episode back in late February when the cold waters and natural reproduction cycles of the oysters leave them at their peak. Shellfish are often harvested at low tide and in the winter that meant we had to head out in the middle of the night. A small sacrifice to make for a fresh seafood feast on the beach.
Chelsea Farms also runs a stunning oyster bar in Olympia, Washington so preparing shellfish recipes for them was, as you can imagine, quite intimidating. For this show I don’t like to plan my recipes exactly before we start shooting. I bring plenty of ingredients and wait for the fire to light before I make my final menu. This fresh oyster dish was an experiment in flavors and while being filmed and preparing oysters for Shina, who has been eating shellfish since she was a toddler, I began to question my sanity. My relief came the moment that briny oyster punctuated with lemon and a bright dill scented oil hit my mouth. The peppery shower of Pecorino added a richness that delighted.
Fresh Oysters with Dill Vinaigrette and Pecorino
It’s a bit intimidating preparing shellfish dishes for the people who have dedicated their lives to raising some of the best shellfish around. But I could not have been more pleased (and perhaps even a bit surprised) with how delicious this combination is.
The stunning emerald oil pools in the oyster shell creating a sea of green along with the salty brine. A flurry of Pecorino adds a creamy richness that cuts through the acidity and brineyness beautifully.
Serves 4 to 6
1 small bunch Dill, stemmed removed, torn
1 small garlic clove
Zest of one lemon
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pecorino, finely grated
1 dozen oysters, raw, on the half shell.
Add dill, garlic and lemon zest to a mortar and pestle or small food processor. Crush or process until finely chopped. Stir in the lemon juice then stream in olive oil.
This oil can be made ahead and brought to the fire.
Top each oyster with a teaspoon of the dill oil and grate pecorino over.