A few months ago, I was starting to hate pomegranates. They’re so overdone these days, sneaking their wiley way into every sauce and garnish, tinting every other mimosa and cosmo a garish shade of girl. Problem is, as much as I wanted to write them off, I also wanted to add that spunky, tart, berryish flavor to everything I ingested. So I gave in. I poured POM into my sparkling water, and bought some pomegranate molasses, which is very useful if you happen to stumble upon the four or five recipes that actually use it.
I resolved to start using it on my own. That was a month ago, and I didn’t crack the bottle open again until a few nights ago.
Seattle is blanketed with snow. And by blanketed, I mean that schools have been closed, streets are desolate, and the general vibe is that of an abandoned city. On Thursday some streets were closed, due to apparently heretofore unseen amounts of snowpack:
See? Like I was saying, Seattleites are wussy winter drivers and avoid learning how to drive in minute amounts the stuff by just closing the streets that are even remotely icy. (Disclaimer: it’s true that Seattle has virtually no snow removal equipment, so any snow that does accumulate gets packed into black ice and pretty much just sits there until the weather warms up.)
Anyway, this sudden onset of wintry conditions reminded me that it’s an “R,” month, which in the arcane rules of seafood consumption (you know, the ones that were made back before interstate commerce meant refrigerators with 18 wheels) means it’s the best time to buy shellfish. Like oysters. (Okay, there are also other biological reasons for buying shellfish in “R” months, but I’m no biologist.)
So I bought some Quilcene oysters (the guys at the market said “COOL-scene”), from Quilcene Bay, Washington, at Pike Place Market, and brought them home for my professional shucker to shuck. I stirred up a mignonette, the French oyster topping traditionally made with white wine or champagne vinegar, and added some of the pomegranate molasses, to lip-smackingly tart effect – it’s like taking what’s best about mignonette on oysters and what’s best about oysters with just plain lemon juice, and what’s best about plain Tabasco, if you choose to add it, and combining all those flavors into one perfect oyster condiment. For those of you who like ketchup on your bivalves – well, this recipe is not for you.
A friend of mine in New Orleans can eat oysters faster than I can count them. This is not my style – oysters are perhaps the only food that I eat delicately, and in small portions. This mignonette will probably top 4 to 5 dozen oysters, because you don’t need a lot. (We’re talking RAW oysters, by the way.) But if it’s just you and one other person, make the whole mignonette anyway. When you’re done using it for the oysters, simmer it down in a saucepan for a few minutes, whisk in some olive oil, and use it as a hot vinaigrette for a winter frisee salad, with poached egg and crispy pancetta or bacon. That’s what I’d have done, if my shucker hadn’t innocently dumped that precious mignonette down the drain.
Oh, and here’s some info on oysters, including a link to how to open them, if you’ve never done it. It really is easier and safer with a proper oyster knife, but I did watch a girl put an oyster knife clear through the palm of her hand in culinary school. You’re smarter than her, so don’t be put off, but still . . .be careful.