Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14th and it is a religious feast day honouring an early Christian martyr Saint Valentine of Rome. Valentine’s Day first became associated with a medieval ideal of romance, armour clad knights, perilous quests, beautiful maidens, the Arthur and Guinevere ‘ please honour me with a token of thy affection sweet lady and I shall boldly go forth and slay the curmudgeonly dragon ’ in the fourteenth century but fortunately by the eighteenth century it had become a much more civilised and lets face it safer occasion marked by people in love sending cards know as ‘valentines’. Obviously, we would all go kill a murderous mythical creature for our loved ones it’s just sometimes popping to Paperchase for a card is easier. Other gifts for the romantically inclined included flowers, confectionary, and St. Valentine’s Keys to unlock the recipient’s heart. The Victorians as ever over-egged the pudding and are responsible for the surfeit of hearts, doves, lacy frills ( on the cards at least ) and flocks of winged Cupids.
Undoubtedly one of the worlds great romantics was the Italian Giacomo Girolamo Casanova who when he wasn’t gambling, fighting, spying, studying the occult and generally hanging around with Voltaire, Mozart, Goethe, Madame de Pompadour, Rousseau and innumerable aristocrats was something of a lady’s man. The stories, many told it has to be said by himself, recount numerous amorous adventures and this probably explains why it is said he would consume up to fifty oysters for breakfast as an aphrodisiac. *
The reason oysters were considered an aphrodisiac had been put down to the zinc levels which handily for you lusty feeling folk are highest in early spring. Then in March 2005, a group of American and Italian researchers presented a paper to the American Chemical Society following a study into molluscs such as clams and mussels that were rich in a series of rare amino acids that triggered increased levels of hormones in mice. There was a huge interest in the research but really no proof of the effect from eating oysters directly, in fact, Nancy Amy, a nutritionist, and toxicologist at the University of California provided another theory “There’s an amazing placebo effect with aphrodisiacs,” she said. “It’s very culturally specific and there’s no scientific evidence, but if you think it’s going to work, then there’s already a 50 percent chance that it will.” Enough said.
*Casanova retired from adventuring and took up the position of librarian to a Bohemian Count, perhaps he relished a quieter life but it somewhat dispels the image we have of shy, retiring bookworms.
Oysters are eaten raw traditionally with lemon, Tabasco or a spoon of Migonette, a mix of very finely diced shallots, cracked black pepper and wine vinegar or they can be lightly baked or grilled. There are a number of classic grilled oyster recipes such as with garlic butter, oysters Rockefeller with spinach and pastis, oysters Kilpatrick with Worcestershire sauce and crisp bacon or glazed with buttery, tangy Bearnaise sauce. Alternatively, oysters can be deep-fried in in tempura batter or covered in breadcrumbs for the Southern favourite oyster Po’boy.
So, while I cannot guarantee that this recipe will have you swinging from the lampshade in leopard skin briefs it’s really rather nice and tasty and uses some really nice Jersey ingredients ( you kind use your own local alternatives ). The oysters are gratinated with a crisp mix of fresh herbs, savoury biscuit crumbs, and Jersey Blue soft cheese which creamy and slightly tangy taste accentuates the salty ozone flavour of the Jersey oysters. The very light continental style beer, Liberation Blonde provides the base for a refreshing dressing to the baked oysters and chilled is an ideal accompaniment. You can substitute these with a local cheese and beer of your choice and you won’t be disappointed.
Grilled Jersey Oysters ‘Blonde and Blue’ serves 2 or 3
Classic Herd organic Jersey Blue cheese or similar such as organic blue veined Brie
50 ml Liberation Blonde Ale
25 ml quality White Wine Vinegar
80 gr crushed Water Biscuits or plain Cheese Crackers
2 medium Shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 generous pinches of Cayenne Pepper
If you have a friendly fishmonger you can ask him to shuck or open your oysters for you before taking them home to cook and serve. If not, you first need to open your oysters and loosen them from their shells. Set each opened oyster down on a small mound of rock salt, on a baking tray. Remove the rind from your cheese and finely dice, divide evenly onto the oysters. Mix the herbs with the finely crushed biscuit crumbs and sprinkle over the cheese-topped oysters.
For the dressing simmer the chopped shallots with the white wine vinegar, cayenne, and a little water until the shallots start to soften but retain a little bite. Evaporate almost all of the liquid. Chill. When cold add the Blonde beer. Grill the oysters for 3 to 4 minutes under a medium grill until the cheese starts to bubble and the crumb mix browns. Serve topped with a little dressing, extra chopped herbs and the remaining dressing as a side.
What to Drink? Oysters are classically matched with flinty, Chablis or dry Champagne but why not try a Fino Sherry or hoppy Continental-style lagers and light fruity beers.
Allergens in this recipe are;
Traces of sulphites in the beer