I love Brittany. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of visiting yet and do not know where it is: it is the part of France that sticks out underneath England and has the appearance of a prehistoric dinosaur snarling at the Atlantic. A more tangible fact, it has more coastline than the rest of France put together.
My mum and Freddy, her partner, live in Brittany and I come over whenever I can. I'll cut to the chase here and write another post another time on their fantastic lifestyle converting an ancient farmhouse and living partly off of the land and partly off the other fine French produce. So, to the BBQ oysters and hot smoked trout....
Before I start, I will say that my favourite way to do oysters is freshly shucked with a squeeze of lemon. This cooked recipe is for when you fancy something a bit different.
Rosé at the ready, here's a two course Breton BBQ seafood feast fit for the last of the September sun.
Half a dozen oysters each.
Fire up the BBQ.
Shuck the oysters. Chuck the shell lids.
This is important! In an upward motion lightly stroke the edge of the oyster flesh where it hugs the top of the shell with the tip of your knife. It should recoil in response to your antagonising stimulus. This is a good thing, it means it is alive and therefore fine to eat. Discard any that do not respond to being poked. (You can also add a drop of lemon juice to the oyster to test it is alive).
Now chuck any shell pieces and the water inside the shell. Don't worry, the delicious water will not be lost, the oysters will give out more water over the coming 10 minutes. Detach the oyster from the shell.
Add the garlic butter. Homemade or bought. Do not be stingy with the butter or garlic. This is French cooking.
After leaving the oysters to stand for 10 minutes they will have released more water to replace what you discarded. Now add the shells straight onto the BBQ on a medium-high heat. They'll be done in 5-10 mins. I normally eat oysters straight out of the shell so you do not need to overcook them here. Just melt the butter and get the juices bubbling. The shells act as great little containers for the juices. If you can resist whipping them off the BBQ and into your mouth after five minutes you are a stronger person than me.
Dunk some sliced french baguette in the buttery, garlicky oyster juices and savor the delicious flavour.
Hot Smoked Trout
I had never tried smoking any food before but it seems that hot smoking is going through a big resurgence. My mum and Freddy have been smoking food a lot over the last few months so it was only fitting that I'd get a go as soon as I got out to France. I can firmly say that it is a great experience. In this instance, the trout takes on a wonderful colour, the meat stays succulent and the light smokey flavour is so much more subtle than any bought pre-smoked fish I've tried. Get involved, you get to play with coal BBQs and smoke. What's not to like?
So once you have warned your neighbours, any nearby Indian cheiftans and turned off your fire alarm, it is time to prepare the smoking apparatus.
Prepare 1 whole trout per person, gutted, cleaned, patted down to dry with kitchen roll.
Fire up the charcoal BBQ. When the charcoal has turned white, get ready. You will need to move fast to not get smoked yourself! Have your trout at hand. Now throw a few handfuls of wood chip on the coals. This will instantly start the smoke to rise. Get the grill back on the barbie and put your trout on it. Get the lid down fast.
A fillet of fish can take 3-4 mins to cook. The whole fish will take about 10. The key indicator is if the skin can be pealed away from the fish it is done. After doing the pealing skin test, cut down to the bone of the largest fish. If that is looking cooked, you're done. It really is that simple.
Good luck not smoking yourself though. I'm off for a shower.
Smoked trout, new potatoes and salad is a perfect meal.