The beet tops add a lovely hint of colour and earthiness, and by using the oyster’s own juices, we avoid table salt altogether. They’re quite rich, so figure on four per person when served alongside other nibbles. If you are not a confident oyster shucker, your fish monger should be able to do it for you; just ask, but tell them to save the shells and juice for you, too! Also, when choosing oysters for this, look for a species with deep lower shells. The deeper the shell, the more yumminess it can hold!
Large rock salt or washed pea gravel
24 fresh, live P.E.I. oysters, shucked, oyster juice reserved (see Creamy Greens, below)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/8 to 1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter
2 shallots, finely diced
4 cups finely chopped beet tops, or beet greens; Swiss chard or other greens work well, too
1/4 tsp pepper
Juice from shucked and drained oysters; amount depends on oysters
1/4 cup medium-dry sherry
1/2 cup 35% cream
Arrange rock salt in deep layer on cookie sheet or in ovenproof serving tray. This will hold the oysters upright and prevent all the yummy filling from running out in the oven. Set aside.
Rinse oysters in running cold water before shucking. Shuck oysters into fine sieve set over bowl. Reserve oyster juice for use in the recipe. Keep the bottom, more bowl-shaped half of the oyster shells, and arrange in the prepared salt; set aside.
In small bowl, stir together melted butter, Panko crumbs, 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of the pepper and chives until crumbs are coated evenly with butter; set aside.
In large skillet over medium heat, add oil, butter and shallots; stir often and cook until shallots are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add beet tops, 1/4 tsp of the pepper, oyster juice and sherry; stir and allow alcohol to burn off and greens to wilt down, about 15 minutes. Add cream and stir to fully combine; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, to reduce until thick and almost dry, about 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Place the drained oysters back into the shells, top each with some of the creamed beet-top mixture, and a generous pinch of buttery panko crumbs. Basically, load them up with as much as they’ll hold.
Bake until panko is golden and creamy mixture is bubbly around edges, about 15 minutes. Serve hot or warm with little forks.
From Hudson, Quebec, now living in Port Hope, Ontario, Signe is a restaurant chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes for LCBO’s Food & Drink, Manna Pro Hearty Homestead, The Harvest Commission, and Today’s Parent; she published her first book – Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden with 100 Recipes – in 2015.