Gong hay fat choy! Happy Chinese New Year! And happy Valentine’s Day to you as well! I’ve got a special treat for you today as a present from me to you, with help from Valerie and Beavie over at A Canadian Foodie. When Valerie found out that I got a copy of the Momofuku cookbook by David Chang and Peter Meehan for Christmas, she had a great idea for us to pick out recipes and do them at the same time in order to compare our experiences.
A quick flip through the cookbook told me one thing – David Chang doesn’t do simple recipes. At first glance they may seem simple but this initial impression is deceptive as most of his main recipes comprise of 2+ recipes combined together. Some of them can take days.
I had first choice, and I wanted to start with something simple, so I picked fresh oysters with a pickled Asian pear and black pepper mignonette.
The book has a fairly detailed section on how to choose, clean and open fresh oysters (pages 131-133). I was already familiar with most of these rules, but I thought one rule was a great reminder for myself: smell the oyster before you serve it and see if it smells clean and fresh and sweet – of the sea but not fishy.
I chose some lovely (but small) Malpeque oysters from Prince Edward Island. I gave them a good scrub under cold water, and kept them in the fridge until I was ready to shuck them.
Next I pulled out two Asian pears (also known as Ya pears), and gave them a quick wash. I also pulled out my rice wine vinegar, as I’d be needing that soon.
For the pickling liquid (page 66), I mixed 1 cup of piping hot tap water, 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 6 tbsp sugar, and 2 1/4 tsp kosher salt. I stirred everything in a mixing bowl until the sugar and salt dissolved. Then, I peeled and cored the pears (thank goodness I bought a corer a while back). I sliced them up into pieces that were just under 1/4 inch thick and placed them in a container, and then filled the rest of the container with the pickling mixture.
The cookbook notes that the pears should be refridgerated, will be ready to eat after just an hour, and should be eaten the day you prepare them. My pear slices kept floating to the top of the container, so I placed a small plate on top of the pears to keep the fruit submerged, popped on the lid and put the whole thing in the fridge.
Next, I pulled out my tools for the oyster shucking. Yes, I own an oyster knife. Actually, I own two. One is a wooden one that I bought a long, long time ago from Catch in Calgary (one of the chefs made them himself), and the one in the photo below is one that I bought at the Le Gnome closing sale. It was labelled a clam knife but they’re basically the same thing. A thick towel is also a must for protecting your hands and preventing the oyster from moving around.
I scattered a bunch of kosher salt onto a plate in order to anchor my shucked oysters. Once I shucked the oysters (and managed to avoid injury to myself or the oysters in the process), I took out the pickled pears and diced some of them into teeny pieces. And… was left with many, many pieces of pickled Asian pears left over. The oysters I had only really required two, maybe three, slices of pear.
Next I spooned some pear onto each oyster, and also added a little bit of the pickling liquid. The cookbook recommends putting an equal amount of liquid and solid so that it looks like a mignonette. Then, you add lots and lots of freshly ground black pepper on top of each oyster, depending on your personal taste. The book says that you should keep adding pepper until you can taste the heat.
And voilà! The finished product.
So how’d it taste? The pickled Asian pears were relatively mild and gave the oysters a clean, slightly vinegary crunch. The black pepper, on the other hand, probably overwhelmed the oysters. The taste was actually a nice change from the traditional Tabasco and lemon topping, but I think next time I would either cut down on the amount of black pepper or use larger oysters as the ones I used may have been too delicate for this kind of garnish.
Valerie’s entry can be found over on this web page, so please do pop over to her blog and have a look at how her oysters turned out!