Careful readers of this blog might remember that last year my birthday gift to Pam was a cookbook by Vincent Price, with whom she shares a birthday (decades apart, of course). He traveled the world as a celebrity, and made a habit of going into the kitchen in many of the world's finest restaurants. So we have a new birthday tradition: something from A Treasury of Great Recipes.
As I noted in last year's birthday post, Price was succinct to the point of being cryptic. His recipe for Oysters à la Gino is a perfect example. Parsimonious with the ink, this is more a puzzle than a recipe. I believe this has to do with the sources of the recipes: note cards from some of the world's most accomplished chefs.
It includes numbered steps, but it absolutely cannot be completed by following these steps in the order presented. Rather, one must read each step and do some preparation work for it before actually executing them.
The first step I took is in the "Presentation" portion of the recipe. Shuck the oysters and place them in a bed of salt on a platter. I filled the platter with about 1/8 inch of salt -- just enough that the oyster halves could be set in without tipping too much. This was my first-time-ever oyster recipe, and I knew I was underprepared. But I did not know by how much! I consulted YouTube, where a pleasant fellow makes it look easy. It is not, but fortunately the first couple went well, so I knew it was possible. I had gotten through about six when my secret weapon arrived -- our friend Rob who grew up in coastal Connecticut, where these things are taught in kindergarten. He managed to shuck the rest, despite our lack of equipment.
Note to self: no more oysters until Tuesday's Amazon Prime delivery.
Similarly, Béchamel sauce is mentioned in the preamble and in the ingredient list, though it is called for in step #3 of the recipe. I made mine at that stage, which was a mistake. It caused me to rush the rest of the steps, combining everything in one pan when the ghost of Vincent would probably still want me to have 3 or 4 pans on the stove.
Another note: the recipe is for 6 oysters. I made 15, applying very loose math to the rest of the ingredient list. The end result, was fantastic: pleasing to the eye and to the sophisticated palates of the entire birthday party. It paired well with our home-brewed IPA as well as Malbec.
The aforementioned loose math resulted in a lot of extra filling, which I put in a tiny casserole dish with plenty of Old Bay seasoning on top. Stay tuned for Pam's brilliant idea for a use of these leftovers in tomorrow's seaside brunch.