The Crooked Billet

Baked Oysters, Shallot, Leek & Cream

Serves 2
Baked Oysters, Shallot, Leek & Cream 

We are supposed to eat oysters when there is an ‘r’ in the month – which is another way of saying you don’t eat them in summer, September-April. However, thanks to different varieties available all year round, native oysters bred naturally in British waters are the most expensive but also considered the best: sweet, dense & clean. The old adage about not eating oysters unless there’s an ‘r’ in the month is based upon the native oysters breeding season between May-Aug.

While it’s spawning, its flesh has a creamy texture which can be off-putting. However, with the advent of rock oysters, introduced to Britain in the 19th century requiring human intervention to farm them, rocks are available all year round.

Here’s a baked rock oyster recipe which has proved hugely popular at the Crooked Billet. Of course there is nothing more sublime than a dozen oysters eaten au naturel, shared with the right companion hopefully making for a sensual experience. Eaten raw, naked, frilled, fleshy, wet rawness.

12 rock oysters

2 medium leeks, cleaned

Small knobs of butter

Splash olive oil

100ml champagne

100ml double cream

Freshly ground white pepper

Preheat the grill to its hottest temperature.

Open the oysters, reserve the juice. Carefully remove the oysters from their shell. Reserve the oyster meat in a glass, keep them in the fridge. Clean the deeper base shells, paying particular attention to the hinge, scrub out any muddy silt that is housed in the hinge.

Cut the green from the white of the leek. With the remaining white bulb end of the leek, cut it into 3cm cylinder lengths, cut each piece in half, cut the pieces into fine strips – “julienne”.

In a large non-stick frying pan over a moderate heat melt the butter, add a drizzle of olive oil, when it foams add the leek. Sweat the leek for 2 minutes without colouring. Add the champagne & allow it to reduce by two thirds.

Now add a tablespoon of the reserved oyster juice, when it simmers add the cream, allow the cream to simmer & reduce a little.

Find a roasting tin or grill sheet sufficiently large to slip under your grill & accommodate the 12 reserved oyster shells. At the Crooked Billet, I fill this tray with uncooked lentils or split peas, which hold the oyster shells in place & stop them tipping over. We’re going to use them as little cups/dishes to hold the creamy leek mixture in – we don’t want them rocking over, spilling their contents.

Remove the creamy leek mixture from the hob. Using a fork, fish out the leek julienne & divide it between the 12 empty shells. Place an oyster over each leek pillow. Divide the creamy champagne reduction between the shells.

Put the tray under the grill & cook the oysters for 3-4 minutes, until the creamy sauce achieves a golden brown crust.

Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before tucking in. Crusty bread makes a good accompaniment.