St. Patrick’s Day may have passed, but in its honor, I have packed four Irish ingredients into one tasty little appetizer: oysters, cabbage, Guinness stout and Colman’s Mustard.
What’s that? The skeptics among you are claiming that fully half of those ingredients — the oysters and Colman’s — are ringers? Not so. And here’s why.
In search of inspiration for this recipe, I dove into a shelf’s worth of Irish cookbooks. Much to my surprise, oysters kept bobbing to the surface. So I concluded that the Irish love oysters. Unfortunately, they tend to love them most when they’re swimming in cream, a fate to which I would never consign them.
Here in America we like our oysters fried. But I no more intended to fry these guys than to bathe them in cream. Not only is deep-frying unhealthy, it’s also messy and far too much trouble.
As I continued to pore over my Irish cookbooks, I noticed that Guinness stout appeared as an ingredient nearly as often as oysters and suddenly inspiration hit. When it comes to frying, my favorite batter is made with beer. Why not batter my oysters with Guinness (and a bit of flour, of course), then sauté them rather than fry them?
Beer brings two wonderful qualities to a batter — bubbles (which make the batter light) and alcohol (which amplifies flavor even if you don’t taste the alcohol itself).
As for the sautéing, a couple of years ago I learned how well it works as a frying substitute when I used the technique on beer-battered shrimp. Turns out it works just as well on oysters. As a result, this recipe requires only a single tablespoon of oil, instead of the 4 cups usually called for in deep-fat frying. And the oysters turn out with a nice (albeit not so stiff) crust. That said, a nonstick pan is a must for this recipe.
Now I just needed to sauce them up a bit, which brings us to Colman’s Mustard. I know it’s made in England, not Ireland, but that’s close enough for me. Colman’s has been crossing the border to the Emerald Isle for ages and it’s widely available in our own supermarkets.
What I love about Colman’s is that it’s seriously hot, very reminiscent in its tear-inducing, nasal-cleansing potency of the equally scorching Chinese mustard many of us love. I added a generous dollop of the stuff to a combo of mayo and Greek yogurt, along with some chopped pickles.
The only thing missing now was a nod to one of Ireland’s favorite vegetables after the potato, namely cabbage. So I topped this appetizer with a tidy little mix of shredded cabbage and carrots, tossed simply with cider vinegar, sugar and salt. The acid in this topping provides a tangy counterbalance to the breaded oyster with its creamy sauce. The whole concoction came together very nicely. A true ode to Ireland.