Monday, January 26, 2009

Culinary Infidelity


I have been cheating on my wife.

It's true. I've been sneaking around behind her back, and lately my rendezvous' have been getting more frequent. I feel guilty and believe it’s time to air out my dirty laundry. This might seem like an odd forum to address marital infidelity, but I am not Catholic so this medium will have to serve as my confession.

Maybe I should clarify that another woman has nothing to do with my unfaithfulness. No. I have cheated on my wife with food.

Raw oysters are my mistress. My wife believes strongly that no one should eat raw oysters. She's read alarmist-authored articles and half-cocked studies that speak to the dangers of consuming raw oysters. I, on the other hand, grew up eating raw oysters. I love them.

One of the biggest disputes in our 20-year relationship was over raw oysters. After that I figured that it would be easier to stop eating them than to deal with the conflict— a man has to pick his battles.

Enter the paramour.

My Hattiesburg bar concept, The Mahogany Bar, began serving oysters on the half shell last year. Originally we were purchasing our oysters from P&J Oysters out of New Orleans. They are the gold standard for oysters. All of the great restaurants and oyster bars throughout New Orleans use P&J. They're great, but I was able to resist them and keep my marriage pure.

Then we changed our oyster supplier.

When we brought in the new company, I had to taste-test the new oysters. After all, I am the executive chef . I never thought we’d be able to best our original supplier. My marriage would be safe. I was wrong. The oysters were amazing. They were— by far— the best I had ever eaten. Plump, clean, salty, cold, and just the right size. I succumbed to the moment, gave in to temptation, and ate two dozen on the spot.

Remorse set in. I felt guilty, but I held on to the hope that this might have been a fluke, and that my time away from oysters had made my taste buds grow fonder. A few weeks later, walking through the bar, I noticed a bartender shucking a dozen. They looked so pretty. As I walked past they seemed to be giving me a siren call. I gave in to temptation again and ate another two dozen oysters to make sure that the first time wasn’t a fluke and that these oysters were, in fact, the most unbelievably tasty oysters on the planet. They were.

I put my staff on full alert. Be on the lookout for my wife. Give me the signal if she comes anywhere close to the building. I did whatever it took not to get caught with an oyster fork in my hand. I made sure not to come home with horseradish on my breath or the smell of cocktail sauce on my collar.

Before long my culinary infidelity intensified and I began having weekly oyster trysts in the afternoon. Then the trysts became more frequent. Now I am riddled with guilt and I have made half of my staff accomplices to my gastronomic adultery.

Recently, it’s gotten worse. I have been two-timing my wife AND my mollusky mistress. The courtesan: Mashed potatoes.

Over a month ago, my wife and I started a diet together. Potatoes and bread are not on the "allowed" food list. Unfortunately the beginning of the diet coincided with one of my restaurants— The Crescent City Grill— offering a great new side-dish: home-style mashed potatoes.

I love mashed potatoes. My grandmother made the best. They were light, and buttery with little lumps in them, hearty, wholesome, filling, real, comfort food. Our new home-style like-your-grandmother-used-to-make mashed potatoes replaced a roasted-garlic potato offering that I never liked. They are delicious. Whenever I eat our mashed potatoes, I post two servers at each door. “Tell me if you see her coming”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about keeping a secret apartment across town— a place to eat oysters on the half shell and mashed potatoes and sweet rolls and maybe even oyster-flavored sweet rolls on a bed of mashed potatoes. Is there a 12-step program for this? “Hi, my name is Robert, and I am a food philanderer.”


Fried Oyster Salad

4 Cups Iceberg Lettuce, cut into 2” squares
2 Cups Green Leaf Lettuce, cut into 2” squares
1/3 cup Roasted Red Bell Pepper, small dice
1 cup Shaved Red Cabbage
1/2 cup Bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated into large shreds, divided
3/4 cup Red Onion, thinly shaved
4 Hard Boiled Eggs, chopped

Fried Oysters

32 Oysters, freshly shucked
2 cups Corn meal
1/4 cup Corn flour
2 tsp Salt
2 Tbl + 1 tsp Creole Seasoning (recipe page xx)
Peanut Oil for frying

Heat oil in cast iron skillet to 350 degrees.

Combine cornmeal, corn flour, salt and Creole seasoning. Drop oysters into cornmeal mixture and drop one at a time into hot oil. Fry until golden and crispy (approximately five minutes). Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Hold in a 200 degree oven for 3-5 minutes while completing the assembly of the Salad


Comeback Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
1/ 2 cup ketchup
1/ 2 cup chili sauce
1/ 2 cup cottonseed oil
1/ 2 cup yellow onion, grated
3 Tbl lemon juice
2 Tbl garlic, minced
1 Tbl paprika
1 Tbl water
1 Tbl Worcestershire
1 tsp pepper
1/ 2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix well.

Yield: 3 1/2 cups

To assemble the salad:

Place both lettuces, shredded cabbage, red bell peppers, chopped bacon and half of the parmesan cheese in a large mixing bowl. Toss the lettuce mixture with 1 1/2 cups of the comeback dressing. The lettuce should be lightly coated with the dressing (if you feel that the salad needs more dressing, add another 1/2 cup).

Divide the salad onto 8 serving plates/ Top each salad with a small amount of the remaining parmesan cheese, shaved red onion and chopped egg. Place four fried oysters on each salad and serve immediately.

Serve the remaining Comeback sauce in a side dish to be used as a dipping sauce for the oysters.

Yield 8 servings

1 comment:

E said...

Love your story. Good reading on a snowy night here in Alaska. I'll be sure to not let you near my oyster farm. We prefer a drop or two of wasabi.