Any oyster lovers out there? My favorite way to enjoy these lovely bivalves is freshly shucked, no additional condiments or mignonette necessary; just slurp it down in one fell swoop, savoring all its briny goodness — simply divine! If you live in or are visiting the DC area, stop by the Dupont Farmers’ Market on Sunday mornings and visit these women for some incredibly juicy, briny oysters. You can sample an oyster or two, and grab some for the road. Not a bad way to start the day. Come to think of it, can’t think of a better way to start any day.
Recently discovered an intriguing root vegetable called salsify, which is also referred to as the oyster plant given its oyster-like flavor profile. Last week I did a simple braise of salsify, but I just had to try this bisque (it kept calling out to me). And what better way to celebrate the season than with local Virginia-raised oysters and Pennsylvania-grown salsify — a perfect pair. While this bisque may not garner many points for appearance, its taste more than compensates for any aesthetic shortcomings. The oyster flavor shines through. This is one fantastic bowl of bisque that satisfies my never ending craving for something just a bit out of the ordinary.
Salsify can be hard to come by; accordingly, I suggest sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes (although, not technically in the artichoke family), as a substitute. Suspect that potatoes would also work.
Salsify turns brown quickly after peeling. To prevent it from browning, soak the peeled and chopped roots in a bowl of water with lemon juice until they are ready to be used.
Am no expert when it comes to oyster shucking. However, I have managed to open a few oysters without losing a finger or winding up in the emergency room. The most difficult (and dangerous) part is slipping the tip of the oyster knife blade between the top and bottom shells, right at the hinge; from there, it is pretty much smooth sailing. The effort is definitely worth the tasty treat that awaits inside. There are numerous sites/instructional videos out there to guide your oyster shucking.
Like anything else, it just takes a little patience and practice. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it…
If you don’t feel comfortable shucking your own oysters, you can always buy them pre-shucked…perfectly acceptable.
So there you have it, oyster salsify bisque; not something you’ll encounter everyday, but something you can now readily prepare and enjoy.
Salsify Oyster Bisque
Adapted from Chef Michael McDonald (former chef at One Sixty Blue, Chicago, IL)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups salsify (about 6 roots), peeled, chopped, soaked in *water and lemon juice
1 cup half and half
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce
16 shucked oysters, liquid reserved (*plus extra for garnish)
Chopped parsley (garnish)
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Saute the shallots and garlic in the oil until soft. Add the salsify, half and half, and vegetable stock to the pot, and simmer until the salsify is tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and hot sauce. Add the shucked oysters and their reserved liquid.
Remove the pot from the heat, puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. Serve soup in bowls, sprinkled with chopped parsley.
*Note: soak the chopped salsify in a lemon-water mixture — juice of 1 1/2 to 2 lemons plus enough water to cover the salsify — to prevent browning.
*Note: you can garnish with one whole oyster in each bowl, if you so desire.