February. The Super Bowl is over (to the massive disappointment of us Broncos supporters). Spring might as well be three years away (so says the groundhogs). Shops are decorated with red and pink hearts, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. It may be a gimmicky holiday for businesses to persuade you to pay for overpriced flowers, chocolates, and dinners, but I have a generally positive stance towards Valentine’s Day mainly because it is a food lover’s dream! Just look at the plethora of menus out there with temptations like filet mignon, oysters, chocolate, and champagne. How can one not get excited?
Oyster is one of James’ favorite seafood (he’s allergic to fish, which eliminates a huge selection of seafood). One time, while waiting for a table at a burger restaurant, we actually went to another restaurant nearby and ate a dozen of raw oysters before they called us back. We could have eaten another dozen if we didn’t have to go back for our table.
There are so many tasty ways to serve up this ocean delight. They are delicious when served raw on the half shell, perhaps with a dousing of mignonette. For those who like a little heat, serving them with a splash of hot sauce or horseradish is the recipe for you. When we have hot pot (Chinese-style fondue) at home with my family, we like to throw some oysters into the mix.
This method of preparation is not exactly traditional but it’s extremely delicious. Simply shuck the oysters (or ask the fishmonger to shuck them for you), dip in tempura batter, and deep fry until golden and crispy. One thing to keep in mind: there are many varieties of oysters out there, and you want to use one that is not too briny. You should sample one raw before making the batter, and if you feel that that the salt level is good as is, then don’t add any salt to your tempura batter. If the oysters are not safe for raw consumption (say they’re sold in pints), you can prepare the batter without salt, fry one up and taste to see if you need to add salt.
For a special touch, I made a yuzu honey Dijon mustard sauce and topped it all with minced cornichon. The inspiration came from the sweet pickled relish in tartar sauce; I like the crunch but the relish would not work in this case since the sauce is already sweetened with honey. Cornichon is the perfect choice (I used Maille’s Cornichons).
This oyster tempura is an explosion of flavors and textures: light, crispy tempura coating, tender and briny oyster, sweet and tangy mustard sauce, and crunchy bits of cornichon. Make this for Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year!
Oyster Tempura with Yuzu Honey Mustard Sauce
2 tbsps yuzu juice
2 tbsps honey
2 tbsps Dijon mustard
1 tsp whole grain mustard
½ cup rice or tapioca flour
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup ice cold sparkling water
12 fresh oysters, shucked
Oil, for frying
4 cornichons, minced
To prepare the sauce, whisk together yuzu juice, honey, mustard, and whole grain mustard until well blended. Set aside.
Fill a wide thick-bottomed pan with about 2 inches of oil and heat the oil to 400°F.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Add water and mix until the batter is smooth. Dip the oysters in the tempura batter, letting the excess drip off, and then lower them into the hot oil. Fry oysters until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove the oysters from the oil and drain on a paper towel.
Serve with sauce and minced cornichons.
*If you have honey mustard, you can use 4 tbsps of that instead of 2 tbsps each of the honey and mustard.