Friday, January 2, 2009

Oysters, Oysters, Oysters!

It is a national tradition of sorts in France to eat oysters on the first day of the new year. I happen to love oysters so it was an exciting morning for me. Oysters are a bit tough to put down however after a long night of drinking everything from champagne to red wine, vodka to armagnac. I woke up rather late and the kitchen was already rife with movement as a small group furiously shucked the sixteen dozen oysters purchased for the occasion. We were all feeling a bit exhausted from the heavy night of eating and decided to have a “light” lunch of oysters, salad, and cheese. The French eat their oysters in a fundamentally different fashion than Americans; they serve them alive in their opaque alabaster shells. The taste is best when they are at the pinnacle of freshness and wiggle a bit when you apply a splash of lemon or vinegar. It may be an idea that is difficult to swallow for some but I find oysters alive or bien vivant absolutely delicious. It was quite a sight to see them all working with blue plastic mittens and oyster knives in hand, filling platter after platter with the small sea creatures.

Cheese is one of my favorite things in the world and I love it all from the moldiest and stinkiest to the young and creamy. Mimolette and Roquefort are currently my favorites though I am a fickle gourmet and often change the subject of my favoritism. Mimolette is a dark orange cheese from northern France that is soaked in beer then aged for six months in large wheels. The color and flavor of this hard cheese is wonderful, not too salty with tons of tanginess resembling sharp cheddar. Roquefort is pretty well known and readily available in certain gourmet cheese shops in the States though the reserve Roquefort from Mary-Anne Cantin in Paris is far and away the best. Our cheese board consisted of the two aforementioned cheeses, Comte, Appenzeller, four types of chevre, Brebis, Fourme D’Ambert, and two other cow’s milk cheeses whose names escape me. A simple no-fuss lunch of oysters and cheese is exactly what we needed after the intricacies of New Years Eve. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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