Oysters and Ale

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New England tastes for the Southern table

Nashville-based food writer and journalist Erin Byers Murray is not exaggerating when she’s says she’s oyster-obsessed. While living in Boston, she talked her way into an 18-month job on an oyster farm, an experience she details in her memoir with recipes, Shucked.  During that time, too, she befriended Jeremy Sewall, esteemed chef of Boston-area restaurants, Lineage, Eastern Standard, and Island Creek Oyster Bar.

Together, they wrote the James Beard nominated cookbook, The New England Kitchen. Through vivid words and photographs, it explores the cuisine of region and how Sewall has enlivened the recipes that define it. Consider: Maple-brined rack of pork. Lentil-Lobster bisque. Sugar Pumpkin Salad. Updated Yankee Pot Roast.

And, of course, Oysters.

The favored mollusks appear throughout the book in delectable combinations: raw in a spicy mignonette, simmered in a rich creamy stew, baked with leeks, bacon and paprika, and these gems, breaded-and-fried to golden, and bursting with sweet briny taste.

Boosted by green tomato relish and a dab of smoked paprika aioli, Sewall’s crispy fried oysters would find their way easily onto a Southern plate, and enjoyed with pint. For pairing, we say, try a New England IPA. We found a luscious one crafted by Kirby Garrison, head brewer and co-owner of Monkey Town Brewing Company in Dayton, Tennessee.

When Garrison was 14 years old, the Dayton native moved with his family to the North Fork of Long Island, a place that shares New England sensibilities. It was there that many of his preferences for food and drink got shaped. Now brewing full-time in his hometown, he’s tapped into those tastes.

Evolution IPA #17 is his double dry-hopped New England IPA. One of the “haze-craze,” it’s a cloudy, golden brew with silken mouthfeel and imparts notes of pineapple, melon, citrus and pine. The name is a nod to Dayton’s history, which was the home of the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 and the number refers the batch, this one using a combination of Mosaic and El Dorado hops. For Garrison, the art of brewing is ever an evolution. Now we’re curious about the possibilities of batch #18.

RECIPES: FRIED OYSTERS WITH GREEN TOMATO RELISH

From The New England Kitchen by Jeremy Sewall and Erin Byers Murray

FRIED OYSTERS serves 8

Double breading the oysters makes them super-crispy, while encasing their creamy succulence.

32 medium to large oysters, carefully shucked, bottom shells reserved

1-cup all-purpose flour

8 large eggs, whisked with 4 tablespoons water

6 cups panko breadcrumbs

2 cups kosher salt, plus more to taste

3 cups canola oil

Green Tomato Relish (recipe follows)

½ cup Smoked Paprika Aioli (recipe follows)

Wash the bottom shells of the oysters, scraping off any remaining oyster meat. Set aside.

Drain any liquid from the oysters.

Pour the flour into a medium bowl. Divide the eggs and breadcrumbs in half, placing each half into separate bowls. (Once half the oysters are breaded, use the remaining eggs and breadcrumbs. This technique will cut own on cross-contamination.)

Carefully roll each oyster in the flour so that it is completely covered; shake off excess.

Dip the oysters into the eggs, then in the breadcrumbs, making sure they are completely coated. Dip the oysters a second time into the eggs, and then coat with breadcrumbs. Cover the oysters with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. (Pack extra breadcrumbs around them to absorb any moisture.)

Just before frying the oysters, in a small bowl, mix the salt and ¼ cup water to create a thick paste. And set aside. The paste will be shaped into mounds and used as a pedestal to hold the oysters for presentation.

In a wide heavy-bottom pan, heat the oil over medium heat to 350 degrees. Fry the oysters, a few at a time, until golden brown, turning them halfway through as needed—about 45 seconds per oyster. Transfer to paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

On a large platter, place nickel-sized dollops of the salt paste around the platter, placing a reserved shell on each dollop. Place one warm oyster in each shell and top with a small amount of aioli and then a little relish. Serve immediately.

GREEN TOMATO RELISH   makes 4 cups

This makes a bright, tart complement to the oyster’s brininess. It’s a marvelous use for those end-of-the-season green tomatoes, available until the first frost.

6 medium green tomatoes

1 large Spanish onion

2 red bell peppers

2 cups white wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1-teaspoon celery seeds

1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick

½ cup sugar

Finely chop the tomatoes, onion, and peppers. Placein a fine-meshed sieve (or colander lined with cheesecloth) and drain for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan, heat the remaining ingredients over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the tomato mixture to a heatproof container and pour the pickling liquid over it. Refrigerate in an airtight container for at least 2 hours or overnight. The relish will last, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

SMOKED PAPRIKA AIOLI makes 2 cups

Silken in texture, smoky sweet heat in taste

¼ cup white wine

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

2 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon cayenne

1 garlic clove

1-cup canola oil

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small saucepan, simmer the wine with the smoked paprika for about a minute. Allow to cool.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the yolks, wine mixture, lemon juice, mustard, cayenne, and garlic. Process on the lowest setting for 30 seconds, until smooth. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the canola oil followed by the olive oil. Thin with water if necessary.

The aioli will be shiny and the consistency of thin mayonnaise. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use, or for up to 2 days.

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