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A GOOD DINNER > Celebrating Local Oysters and Seafood

Celebrating Local Oysters and Seafood

One of the things I love about living on the edge of cold northern waters in Massachusetts is succelent, salty, lovely, always ready-to-eat oysters.

And here on the final day of the “months with R” run we’ve had since September, I’m celebrating the arrival of a weekend guest with local varieties:  Duxbury, Wellfleet, Wianno. 

These cold water northern oysters are perfect for eating raw.  (As opposed to, say, Gulf oysters which really shine when deep fried and mounded in a Po’ Boy or left in the shell and topped with the anything your heart desires before a quick toast under the broiler.) 

Because we can get really gorgeous ones at a grocery store like Whole Foods for 99 cents a piece, we bring them home and shuck them ourselves instead of paying double or triple at a raw bar.  And it also means we can get just as many as we want for 2 or 4 or 6 rather than having to do a whole platter. Best, we’re learning a lot about DIY oysters as well as really getting to taste and understand regional and seasonal flavors at our own pace. No, actually, “best” is just picking up a few when we don’t intend to, bringing them right home and having them for a lunch appetizer before the groceries are even unpacked. We just aren’t that fancy about them. Nor should you be.

I’m a squeeze of lemon person but my husband goes either way with lemon or malt vinegar. Even our daughter likes to lick the shells.  Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a foodie’s child.

Today we have the rather unorthodox pairing of gin and tonics with our oysters.  Just because we have excellent organic gin burning a hole in our curious cabinet of cocktails. Traditionally stout is a great companion to oysters, which we tend to abide in colder months.  And on other days, we either just grab whatever sparkly bubbly thing is on sale or use Natalie Maclean’s Food and Wine Matcher when we want to be really by-the-book. 

If you want to learn a bit more about oysters in your area, check out one of my favorite online oyster resources the Oyster Guide or a previous In Season podcast on oysters.

Coincidentally, as I type this, I just received word from the Harvard Farmers’ Market, where I did a cooking demo last fall, on a CSA for fish: Cape Ann Fresh Catch.  This is my favorite part of the email: “In traditional markets, fishermen are forced to chase whatever species is fetching the highest price that week. By taking a mix of these species at the same price week-to-week (about $3/lb), fishermen are able to fish areas that are not stressed by the rest of the fleet and give species and ecosystems time to recover.”  So while I’m excited about the idea of fresh, local fish that has never been frozen and comes from right around the corner, I think it’s this bit that appeals to me most.

Book Giveaway Winners – So Far

I’m very bad at choosing, even randomly, so instead I’m giving away a free copy of Eat Feed Autumn Winter to each person who has been generous enough to leave a comment on the blog so far.  If that’s you, drop me a line with your postal address and I’ll get a signed copy of the book in the post to you.

There’s still time to win a copy, so keep the comments coming before Easter Monday and the final night of Passover have brought us over the seasonal divide into spring.  

Or sign up for our new newsletter.  No surprises that with the greater ease, there has been a much bigger response, so we still have to draw names over on that list.

Many thanks to everyone who has been providing us with feedback as part of the book giveaway.  We see the patterns emerging and we’ll do what we can to deliver.

And a quick note as the books start to arrive in mailboxes.  Don’t tuck it away until next September.  Many recipes work equally well as we cycle through spring and summer.  Of course, it depends on where you live when red peppers, turnips, and sweet potatoes will start to show up at the farmers’ market, and you may think a little timely tweaking in order to bring Cinnamon Cream Puffs into line with warmer weather and serve them with strawberries on the side.  Every few posts, I’ll reveal a few more recipes from the book that translate easily from November to June, with links to recipes where I can.  For now, here’s a taste of a few


  • Triple Chocolate Stuffed Mocha Cupcakes - photo and recipe at Design Sponge
  • Wild Mushroom Toasts – perfect for the spring foraging season
  • Watercress Salad with Honey Vinaigrette – omit the apples until late summer
  • Green Tea Gelatins – reconfiguring a winter greenery theme into a fresh spring dessert
  • Parsnip Fries – another idea for sweet spring roots

Gelatin Revolution

Longtime listeners may remember a show I did a few summers ago on The Secret Life of Gelatin, in which I revealed my dastardly plans to start a Jell-o Revolution and reclaim this great ingredient for people with good taste, a smart sense of food history, and a whimsical nature.

How excited I was to catch this in the New York Times today: Their T-square is the Jelly Mold!  Seems it’s catching on.  

Anyone else a fan of this oft-overlooked ingredient?  Here’s one of my favorite gelatin recipes while you think about it: Molded Vanilla Cream with Berry Compote (okay, a bit out of season just yet, but make the cream now and invent your own sauce while you wait for a summer day to make the Berry Compote).

Parsnip Souffles

Another recipe from Eat Feed Autumn Winter: 30 Ways to Celebrate When the Mercury Drops – as mentioned on the latest In Season show Parsnips. Enter to win a free copy of the book by leaving a comment anytime between now and the end of the Easter/Passover season.

Dry bread crumbs
1 pound parsnips
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter 
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons flour
6 large eggs, separated
6 ounces Wensleydale cheese, grated
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
¾ teaspoon salt

Butter 6 to 8 small ramekins or ovenproof coffee cups.  Dust each with bread crumbs. (This helps the soufflé to have something to “grab” onto as it rises.)  Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel the parsnips and cut into 2-inch lengths.  Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.  Drain thoroughly.

Transfer the parsnips to a food processor and cool slightly, about 15 minutes, with the lid of the processor removed.  Add the butter, milk, and flour. Puree until smooth.  Add the egg yolks, cheese, rosemary, and salt. Process to thoroughly combine.  Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff.  Carefully fold the whites into the parsnip mixture in 3 batches.  

Divide the mixture among the prepared ramekins.  Place the ramekins on a baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes until puffed and slightly golden.  Serve immediately.