In my new role at my ‘day job’, I spend fair amounts of time researching trends, restaurant concepts, cuisines and what is new and happening around the country. In this role, my menus are no longer fine dining, nor am I looking to be ahead of the next trend. I’m creating food that is comfortable and accessible yet it must have an air of originality (I’m over the phrases ‘give it a new twist’ & ‘put my own spin on it’). Trends are still important, as are the various buzzwords that have taken over restaurant speak like seasonal, hyper-local, sustainable and organic. But in the end, it’s still all about the food and how well that food is thought out, sourced and prepared.
As I’ve gone about my research, I’ve noticed lately I’ve been thinking about Southern food, constantly. Inevitably, every research topic seems to lead me back to the South, specifically the Carolinas and Georgia. The food movement, as it currently exists, seems to have taken up residence in places like Husk, Empire State South and Table and Main, simple, straightforward food, and all southern.
“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”
One of the staple ingredients of the south, though not exclusive to it, is oysters. In the south and all along the gulf coast, oysters are prepared in most every way you can imagine. You’ll find them grilled, fried, sautéed, in soups, in sauces, in sandwiches, and of course, raw. Traditionalist will eat oysters raw or with a squeeze of lemon, some insist a little Tabasco is acceptable. Purists scoff at cocktail sauce, pungent enough to cover up the mild, briny flavors. Condiments for oysters should accent the flavor of the oyster, something the French do really well.
Mignonette is a French condiment made for shellfish, specifically oyster, simply enough, it is comprised of minced shallots, vinegar and black pepper. The vinegars are interchangeable, as are the shallots, but fresh cracked black pepper is what gives the mignonette its punch.
I’ve played with many different combinations but this recipe is far and away my favorite, I come back to it time and again, it is just pungent enough so as not to overpower the oyster and provides just enough sweetness to accent the salty brine of the oyster. Try this with a dozen of the Olde Salts from Virginia.
Ginger Jalapeno Mignonette
1 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
3 oz fresh ginger, brunoise
3 oz jalapeno, brunoise
1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
2. Mix well.
3. Refrigerate for 6 hours
4. A half tsp per oyster should be enough.
Aside: We’re all familiar with the concept of eating oysters in the months that end in ‘r’. While this notion is based on the fact that crops were subject to the warmer ocean waters in the summer, most oysters are now farmed under relatively controlled environments, making it easier to find quality oysters throughout the year.