There is a aquaculturalist well known throughout Southern BC to sea-foodies, and in particular to us shell-fishies as the Oyster Man. His passion for bivalves is intoxicating, and isn’t that just what you want from your aquaculturalist?
Oyster Man is pretty much everything you’d expect from a man of the sea. Solid stature, sparkling sky blue eyes, sea-salt grey and pepper black full beard crowned with the requisite maritime chapeau. Very satisfying. Everyone loves the Oyster Man.
During the Cortes Island shellfish season Oyster Man can been seen from shore hand harvesting his wonderful bounty at low tide. In Oyster Man’s world “when the tide is out, the table is set.”
We lucky few who live in the Similkameen have access to Oyster Man as he meanders from the Gulf Islands through Manning Park up the Crowsnest Highway to the Kootenays loaded to the gills with fresh mollusks.
It will be 9:00am when Oyster Man temporarily sets up shop at our neighbours organic poultry farm in Cawston. In attendance will be local farmers, foodies and vintners lucky enough to be included at this semi-secret rendezvous.
Imagine sampling and discussing beautiful ocean fresh oysters at 9:00 in the morning. An impromptu tailgate party ensues with Riesling and Chardonnay graciously shared by Little Farm Winery lacated down the street. Orofino Vineyards from up the street will be along in a moment. Talk about bookends. Oyster Man shuck another!
Our standing order from Oyster Man is ten pound mussels, five pound clams and a couple dozen small oysters. Upon my return farmersdotter gets right to work debearding the mussels, scraping the clams and shucking the oysters.
The oysters are consumed raw in accordance with Oyster Man’s recommendation: Unadulterated, swimming only in their own nectar. But seeing how Oyster Man is probably past Osoyoos by now farmersdotter can not resist adding finely chopped shallots, from yet another neighbour and fellow shell-fishie, plus fresh squeezed lemon. No honey and, for this one time only, no hot sauce. Thou shalt let the Oyster be.
The plan is always the same. Feast on fresh steamed mussels tonight and with the leftovers farmersdotter makes the best, and we mean without a doubt the best chowder anywhere. Ever. Period.
The secret to good chowder is simple and begins with the preparation of your mussels and/or clams for steaming. Going forward, and bless you for making it this far, we’ll defer de facto to mussels but the same could be said for clams or combination thereof.
Preparation for Steamed Mussels:
5 lb – Mussels
2 – medium red onion, finely chopped
2 – shallot, finely chopped
4 – 6 garlic cloves, minced
4 – roma tomato, seeded and chopped
2 oz – butter, salted
2-3 tablespoon – olive oil
1 cup – dry vermouth or half-decent white wine
Handfull – chopped parsley
To taste – salt and pepper
Lots – lemon/Lime wedge. Hey, Vodka/Gin/Tequila optional
In a huge pot melt butter and olive oil together over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallot and red onion and saute until translucent.
Now you are going to add the mussels but just before you do tip in the vermouth or half-decent white wine. Or both, what the hell.
Okay, quickly add the mussels, stir and cover to let steam for about five minutes.
Immediately prior to serving add and stir in the tomato and parsley.
Empty everything from the steam pot into a nice crockery serving bowl and crush citrus over the top. Keep some citrus on the side and use liberally for brightening things like your drinks or the mussels at the bottom of the bowl.
It goes without saying that viable mussels will open during the steaming process. Mussels who choose to remain closed should be avoided for being antisocial and potentially toxic.
Enjoy with fresh focaccia or naturally leavened bread for dipping.
It is vital to retain the liquid from the serving bowl in order to make farmersdotter chowder. Next time. Cheers!