“Lets check out Barbeque Madness at Waterloo” Mysaucepan enthuse on this dreary Saturday afternoon.
“What’s that?” I ask. “BBQ sets going for crazy prices?”
“It’s BBQ stalls hosted by restaurants and it’s happening all over Sydney, it’s part of Crave Sydney’s International Food Festival in October” she explains.
“And I like the sound of the one in Waterloo, it has some of my favourite cafes and restaurants”, she adds.
“How’s that different from all the awesome BBQs that we cook at home?” I wonder.
“These ones showcase the food of many cafes and restaurants and you can sample different dishes at the same time, you may get a nice piece of steak too!” she tries to entice me.
The weather on this first Saturday of October 2012 is a little gloomy with intermittent drizzles and among about a dozen participating restaurants are East Ocean Restaurant with a selection of dim sims and deep fried squid and Dank Street Depot with their cafe fare.
“It’s actually raining now” I say as I look around the crowd of people, kids and die-hards queuing up for a lamb shoulder roll and paella.
“Why don’t we swing by the fish markets and grab some seafood for a BBQ at home instead?” I suggest.
The Sydney Fish Market is a one-stop paradise for seafood lovers and after a wash-out at BBQ Madness, Mysaucepan is craving for some BBQ seafood.
“I’m getting a delicious home-cooked BBQ after all” I chuckle to myself.
“How about some scampi”, she asks.
“Whatever you like, sweet”, I say happily.
There are many different types of cooked prawns and one of my favourite ways is to dip them into some wasabi mixed with light soy sauce, pretty much how you would eat sushi and sashimi.
Since our dinner at 4 Fourteen where the freshly shucked oysters came without that briny seawater, I have been thinking of shucking my own oysters at home and at last, I get a chance to do so.
Most of the seafood retailers at the Sydney Fish Market will sell unshucked oysters at $1 off their retail price for a dozen.
My first thought is the guy that shucks the oysters – is that what he gets paid, $1 for every dozen oysters that he shucks? That’s only $20 for shucking 240 oysters!
All freshly shucked oysters are required by New South Wales Food Authority, the State’s food regulatory body, to be rinsed with fresh water. This is a food safety and health procedure in an attempt to remove and minimise the risks of contaminated seawater.
For tonight, I just want to slurp up all that briny, salty, seawater from my oyster shucking efforts at home (See instructions on How to shuck fresh oysters below).
I know these oysters are fresh from the super firm hold on the top lid when shucking them. It is so fresh that I can see each oyster wriggle when I add a few drops of Tabasco sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice. It is no wonder that the majority of fresh oysters in European cities like Paris are shucked to order and come with its natural brine unlike fresh oysters in Australia.
An aged 2000 Petaluma riesling which I have kept for 14 years is golden honey in colour. Rounded and subtle on the nose, it is a limey partner with the fresh oysters.
Scampi is actually the Italian plural for scampo but is used interchangeably English for this prawn-like seafood. It is sometimes called langoustine in restaurants.
We bought nine medium sized scampi which weighed 360gms in total and cost about $13. I think this same dish at a restaurant would easily set you back $40, whatever little cooking it requires.
Mysaucepan suggests cooking these scampi with pasta but I thought the best way to savour their freshness is to simple grill them. All they need is to be halved and drizzled with a herb and garlic butter sauce.
After only ten minutes under a pre-heated 200 degree Celscius grill, the herb and garlic butter is infused into the scampi and the aromas of fresh garlic, continental parsley, butter and grilled seafood is heavenly.
The scampi is succulent, juicy and the savoury garlic butter sauce is the perfect complement to this delicate seafood. The only other way I might cook these super fresh scampi is to just steam and eat as they are.
Toast or sourdough is best to mop up this delicious sauce
The leftover herb and garlic butter sauce is too good to go to waste. We run some toasted sourdough over the sauce and in no time, that sheet of baking paper is wiped clean.
A simple and delicious meal at home that requires little cooking although a little elbow grease for opening the oysters but it is all worth the effort.
Try shucking your own oysters at home and I guarantee after the third, the top lid will come off like second nature.
How to shuck fresh oysters
If you love fresh oysters, it is nothing like shucking your own. Living in a seafood mecca like Sydney, you can buy the oysters unshucked (usually $1 off the per/dozen price) and keep it refrigerated for a few hours prior to shucking.
Invest in a sharp and sturdy oyster shucker (between $5 – $20) and all you need to remember is to be cautious and not injure yourself.
Rinse fresh unshucked oysters under fresh running tap water to rid grit and dirt.
Pry the top lip of the oyster at its heel. Once you get the knife under the lid, run it along the edge to pry off the lid, be cautious to not injure your hand.
Sever the connective muscle under the oyster and for better presentation, you might choose to flip the oyster to show its sack. Be cautious not to spill the brine as this is what you are really after if you go through the trouble to shuck your own oysters at home, apart from guaranteeing its freshness of course.
Pry open shell from the heel of the oyster and sever the connective muscle
There is countless types of dressing for fresh oysters such as lemon vinaigrette, mirin, pink grapefruit juice but when oysters are so fresh, the best way is to eat them raw with minimal dressing to savour their natural state.
My favourite with fresh oysters is just a squeeze of lemon juice and a few drops of Tabasco sauce.
Grilled scampi with herb and garlic butter
- 8 – 10 medium sized fresh scampi or langoustines, washed, dried and halved lengthwise
- 50gm unsalted butter
- 3 stalks of continental parsley, very finely diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, diced finely
- pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Black pepper for seasoning
- Heat EVOO and butter in saucepan until gently bubbling then add diced garlic.
- Add continental parsley and stir for about 1 minute until mixture is fragrant.
- Remove from heat immediately and let cool.
- Place halved scampi on baking paper and drizzle the herb and garlic butter sauce generously over the scampi and grill under a pre-heated 200 degree oven for 10 minutes.
- When scampi are sizzling and the meat turns white under the grill, remove and serve immediately.
Scampi can also be substituted with other seafood such as king prawns, whole white fish such as Dover sole, John Dory, blue swimmer and mud crabs.
So dear reader, what is your favourite seafood and how do you like to cook it?