A winter favorite : Warm Oysters with Cider Cream
This morning was one those bright and cold days that you get from time to time in winter here in Brittany. Usually our winters are quite mild compared to other northern climes. So, when it does dip below freezing on a Saturday morning, you might think that people would stay home and cozy.
However, it’s on days like these that you really get to know Les Lices. The frenetic holiday crowds are weeks behind us, and prices are descending to normal after the heights of Christmas family celebrations. Today everybody was in hats, gloves and scarves. The crowd certainly wasn’t deterred! There seemed to be loads of kids munching on steaming hot galettes saucisses (a buckwheat crepe filled with thick grilled sausage), Rennes' great answer to the hot dog. Despite the weather, musicians played Breton harps and Irish fiddles, and the warmth of the place on a chilly was morning was everything that I have come to love about this market.
I keep coming back to the word convivial, which really means, in its Latin origin, to live together. And – a convivium in Latin (the Romans were here 2000 years ago) actually meant a feast! So, it is totally normal in this city that has made living together its motto, would have at its heart the Marché des Lices, Rennes’ convivium.
After the hard days that started this year and the 125,000 people (half of the city’s population) who turned out two weeks ago in support of both free speech and tolerance, I felt the warmth and friendliness of the crowd waiting in long lines for their favorite producers. The shoulder to shoulder jostling kept the body heat going. The merchants were as earnest as ever, selling us the best of what they had to offer, with explanations and tips.
Back to life, on a freezing Saturday in January. With the mimosas bringing the promise of spring.
Warm Oysters with Cider Cream
Sometimes, you just gotta eat things warm, even oysters. It's high oyster season right now, and this is a very good year.
So we got some big ones (Number 1’s) from the Frehel area on Brittany’s north coast to cook up. These guys are a bit briny and plump, perfect for all sorts of warm preparations. Most cooked oyster recipes are pretty involved and I wanted something quick and easy. This one is done in 20 minutes, if you are quick with an oyster knife!
Add cider from Finistère, good fresh cream from the countryside near Rennes, a tiny bit of bacon and you have a true Breton warm oyster!
- 12 large oysters
- One large leek
- One thick slice (1/4 inch) of bacon
- 1,5 Tbsp grams of butter
- 1 /2 cup of of hard cider (brut or extra brut)
- Two heaping Tbsp of crème fraiche ( or sour cream)
- A pinch of black pepper
- Two pounds of kosher salt, to keep your oysters flat on your cooking sheet
- Open your oysters and reserve the liquor, you'll need about 1/2 cup.
- Cut the oysters from the shells, to make them easier to eat.
- Chop the leeks, rinse them well
- Cut the bacon into small cubes
- Sweat the leeks and the bacon together in the butter. When the leeks are soft, add the cider and the oyster liquor. When the mixture comes to a slight boil, lower the heat add the cream and reduce until thick. Stirring occasionally, so it doesn’t stick.
- Pre-heat your grill, put a layer of salt on your cooking sheet. Place oysters on the salt. They should easily stay up right.
- By now the filling should have thickened. Put two spoonfuls cider cream in each oyster. Make sure to get the leeks and some bacon on each one.
- Grill for 5 to 6 minutes until the oysters begin to brown and bubble. Serve piping hot.