Best Bites Of 201910:14
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Chef Kathy Gunst’s Oysters Rockefeller. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Chef Kathy Gunst’s Oysters Rockefeller. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

You might expect me to talk about amazing meals at expensive, fancy, sought-after restaurants, but that’s not really my thing. For me, the food memories that linger are all about a single, extraordinary ingredient, or discovering a new dish at a restaurant that I can translate to the home kitchen.

Here’s to another year of great, healthy eating.

Glidden Point Jumbo Oysters: Oysters Rockefeller

Glidden Point Oysters sells a variety of briny, fresh Maine oysters. Their Glidden Point Jumbos are extraordinarily large but tender and delicious. They are the ideal choice for my version of Oysters Rockefeller. Use the freshest oysters you can find in your area or mail order some of these Maine beauties.

Oysters Rockefeller

This is my simple adaptation of this classic dish. Find the best, largest oysters around and get ready for a major treat. This is an ideal first course or appetizer for holiday events, served with iced cold Prosecco or Champagne.

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces baby spinach
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 12 oysters, large if possible
  • About ¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • About 2 tablespoons butter, cut into 12 cubes
  • About 2 to 3 cups Kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Instructions

  1. Make the spinach: in a large skillet heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the spinach, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until softened and fully wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and cook, again stirring, until thickened, another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. The spinach can be made a full day ahead of time; cover and refrigerate. Reheat just before making the oysters.
  2. Open the oysters (or ask your fishmonger to open them for you and make sure to save the oyster juices).
  3. Preheat the broiler.
  4. Place about 2 cups Kosher salt on a baking dish. Nestle the oysters into the salt, using the salt as a resting place. Divide the creamed spinach between the 12 oysters, spooning a bit on top of the oysters and their juices. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of Panko and a tiny dot of butter. Place under the broiler for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the spinach is hot and bubbling. You don’t want to “cook” the oysters much at all. Serve hot with the lemon wedges.

Dry Fried Chicken Inspired by San Tung Restaurant In San Francisco

Dry Fried Chicken from Chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Dry Fried Chicken from Chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

San Francisco’s San Tung Restaurant is famous for their fried chicken. People often wait in line for up to an hour, but few complain because they are all there for these amazing chicken wings. The wings are sweet, salty, spicy, and irresistible. I won’t claim that these are exactly the same as San Tung’s, but I will tell you they are pretty terrific.

Serves 2 to 4. Or 1.

Ingredients

The Chicken

  • 1 pound chicken wings, cut in half to separate the “drumettes” from the wing; remove the wing tip
  • About ¾ cup cornstarch
  • Ground white pepper
  • Salt
  • About 5 cups canola or vegetable oil

The Sauce

  • 1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 fresh red chile pepper, thinly sliced, with or without seeds depending on how spicy you like it
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh peeled ginger
  • 1 dried red chile pepper, ends cut off and seeds shaken out and then sliced
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon Chinese chile paste
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 scallions, very finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Place the cornstarch in a bowl and season liberally with the white pepper and salt. Dredge the chicken wings in the seasoned cornstarch and place on a sheet of wax paper to dry while you make the sauce.
  2. Make the sauce: In a medium saucepan heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add the fresh chile pepper and cook 2 minutes, stirring it. Remove half of the chile slices with a slotted spoon, keeping the remaining half in the saucepan. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute. Add dried chile pepper and cook another 2 minutes. Add the sugar and the honey and don’t stir but cook over medium heat until the sugar looks liquidy. Remove from the heat and add the water; the caramel will seize up. Don’t worry. Place the pan back on over low heat and cook, stirring until the mixture turns to liquid again. Add the chile paste, soy sauce, vinegar, and the corn syrup and raise the heat to moderately high. Bring to a boil and simmer about 12 to 15 minutes or until about 220 to 225 degrees on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer the sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.
  3. Fry the chicken: In a wok or a large skillet heat enough oil to come about 1 ½ inches up the sides of the wok or skillet. Heat over high heat until hot; test the oil by adding a speck of cornstarch or a sliver of ginger. The cornstarch or ginger should immediately sizzle up but not burn. Raise or lower the heat if needed. Add the seasoned chicken wings in batches making sure not to crowd the wok or skillet. Cook about 5 to 6 minutes, flipping the wings over half way through cooking, or until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels or a clean brown paper bag.
  4. Place chicken on serving plate and spoon the sauce over and gently toss. Sprinkle on the reserved fried chile peppers, the cilantro and scallions and serve.

Other Favorites

  • Thanh Long Restaurant: Vietnamese roast Dungeness crab and Vietnamese garlic noodles in San Francisco
  • Uchiko in Austin, Texas: Amazing sushi made with “sustainable and responsibly fished fish.”
  • The Purple House in North Yarmouth, Maine: The sweetest, most delicious tiny restaurant with outstanding wood-fired bagels, pizza, pastries and fabulous salads. One communal table and the coziest feeling around.
  • Eat Your Books: Best organizational tool around. Eat Your Books has indexed over 1.5 million recipes so you can easily find the recipes you’re looking for in your own cookbook collection, magazines and blogs. You log on, add your cookbooks and a recipe index is created specifically for you. So next time you have an eggplant, garlic and chicken broth in the frig you can type the ingredients in and the site will tell you where to look in your cookbook collection. You can search by ingredient, recipe type, ethnicity, etc. A great way to get your recipes and kitchen organized for the new year.

A Few Of Jeremy Hobson's Favorite Bites

White clam pizza. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
White clam pizza. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

This segment aired on December 25, 2019.

Related:

Kathy Gunst Twitter Here & Now Resident Chef
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.

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