The oysters smelled like the air on still, foggy mornings when the tide is low and kelp is heaped on the sand and the only footprints are from marauding nighttime snails – an ancient smell of brine and salty tears.
We’d purchased them fresh that morning from the oyster stand at the farmer’s market, pulled from their salt water beds in Tomales Bay the evening before, two dozen tiny sweet Kumamotos and another two dozen larger buttery Miyagis, heaped together in a stockpot in the fridge. By evening they were spread out on the table outside, ready to shuck and share with friends.
We had so many that we decided to go old-school and bake Oysters Rockefeller in the pizza oven. I’d seen them only once before on a menu, at an Italian chain restaurant in St. Louis where I worked for a couple of years. It was the only oyster on the menu and where we were instructed to warn interested customers that the dish would take 40 minutes to prepare. I didn’t fully trust the freshness of their ostrich so never partook – because sometimes a dish can go wrong even WITH bacon.
Kid One’s friend Skywalker helped . . . ok, ok, he did ALL the prep and cooking, pulling together the best from Tyler Florence’s and Allrecipes.com instructions. He’s the one who perfected his own guacamole before entering junior high and is in college now, recently completing an intensive culinary semester. The kid knows his way around a knife, making short but elegant work of an enormous bunch of parsley and several shallots.
Kid One hand-cracked the peppercorns.
LL and a friend sat outside shucking oysters, warmed by the heat of the pizza oven and garden fresh martinis. Pup waited patiently.
I held down the fort inside, simmering carrots, celery, marinated artichoke hearts, cubed red potatoes, prawns and assorted fish chunks to add to Phil’s Fishmarket frozen cioppino base.
It was dark by the time the oysters were all shucked. Skywalker finished the sauce outside and assembled the tray of briny bivalves to cook.
Then into the pizza oven to heat through.
And to the table to slurp down.
The fog rolled in as we began to heat, a wave of salty, crisp, briny air to accompany the meal. They oyster dish was surprisingly rich – hot, salt, smooth, a bit of crunch from the panko – perfect little bites of wonderful, and a fun new thing to share with Kids and friends.