In This Issue
 Italian curried oysters Not traditional but modern Italian with an international touch, a fine New Year's Eve repast.
 Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives Links to previous articles.
 Let us hear from you! You're invited to talk back.
 Administrivia Change E-mail address, frequency, format or unsubscribe.
Italian curried oysters

"It was a brave man that first et an oyster," the 18th Century author Jonathan Swift allegedly said, and it's true: Upon casual examination, neither the stony, hard-to-open shell nor the slimy, gooey-looking creature inside looks much like something that the uninitiated would want to chomp down upon.

But as anyone who's acquired a taste for the appetizing bivalve is well aware, oysters are among the most appealing of shellfish, tender and delicate, with subtle aromas that evoke the ocean, not yesterday's fish.

When you're shopping for seafood, be a skeptical consumer. Buy oysters (and seafood and fish in general) only from vendors you consider absolutely trustworthy, and if possible, smell before you buy. This goes double for those of us who don't live near saltwater, where getting truly fresh seafood can be a challenge ... unless you have a good, quality fishmonger with an honest spirit.

Luckily, we're blessed with some excellent fish shops in this seafood-loving inland town, and we enjoy oysters year-round, or at least in months with "R" in them. I served a batch of plump, sweet beauties from the Pacific Northwest on Christmas Eve, truncating the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes to the Feast Of A Single Shellfish. I found this modern Italian concept - oysters on a bed of spinach blanketed with a rich sabayon egg-and-cream sauce laced with a whiff of curry - in the recently reviewed Silver Spoon cookbook, and converted it from a starter into a light meal by serving it on a bed of steaming orzo pasta.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 bunch spinach
Black pepper
4 ounces (120g) orzo pasta
Eight large fresh shucked oysters with their liquor
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg yolk


1. Start with the spinach, the one step that can be done in advance and kept warm. Rinse it very well, then put the leaves in a pot with only the water clinging to them, add a little salt, and cook over high heat for just a few moments, only until the spinach wilts. Drain and chop fine, then stir in 1 tablespoon of the cream and blend into a smooth puree with stand or stick blender. Set aside and keep warm.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and put in the pasta, stirring once or twice.

3. While the pasta is cooking, put the oysters and their liquor into another pot; bring to a very gentle simmer and heat just until the oysters are cooked through, no more than 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, make a simple sabayon with the remaining ingredients: Melt the butter in a small skillet, stir in the curry powder and set aside. Put a metal bowl into a pot containing a small amount of water to make a double boiler, and put in the remaining 4 ounces of heavy cream and the egg yolk. Heat this assembly gently over a medium flame, whisking constantly until the egg and cream emulsify into a thick sauce ("sabayon"). You're not looking for whipped cream, just a rich sauce. Stir in the curry butter and whisk until it's smooth. This won't hold for long without "breaking" into a curdled mess, so try to make it at the last minute before serving. However, if it does curdle, whisking in a little more butter should put it right.

5. Assemble the dish by putting the cooked orzo into warm pasta bowls. Put half of the warm spinach puree over each, then lift out and drain the oysters and position them atop the spinach. Ladle the thick sabayon over all and serve at once.

WINE MATCH: Normally oysters call for a crisp, acidic white, and Sancerre or other Loire white is usually my go-to choice, with a bold New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as another contender. The richness of this dish, though, and the subtle but exotic hint of curry suggest a white that's more robust. For our Christmas Eve dinner, the Chateau Musar 1996 Bekaa Valley white made a super match. I'd also consider one of the more full-bodied Southern Italian whites along the lines of a Fiano or Greco di Tufo.

As I mentioned in a brief "preview" in the Dec. 1 FoodLetter, The Silver Spoon is a recent English translation of Italy's most popular cookbook, an oversize volume with more than 2,000 recipes that focus more on simple home cookery (with modern, international touches) than traditional or restaurant fare. It's currently available from for $26.37, 34 percent off the $39.95 list price; and using this link to buy will return a small commission to us at

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this article or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by the Food & Drink section of our online WineLovers Community, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Italian curried oysters,"

Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it all back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at

Want a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of this recipe, suitable for printing, online at

Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor FoodLetter: A foodie in Portugal (Dec. 22, 2005)

Wine Advisor FoodLetter archive:

30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

Let us hear from you!

If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note at I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can.

Of course you also have a standing invitation to participate in our interactive FoodLovers' Discussion Group. To participate in this friendly online community, simply click to

Be sure to check the "Food & Drink" folder for our food-related conversations, and feel free to reply to any topic or start a new one.

SUBSCRIBE: RSS Feed (free)
 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions,
click here


For information, E-mail


This is The 30 Second Wine Advisor's weekly FoodLetter. To subscribe or unsubscribe, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.

Thursday, Dec. 29, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to the 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter

FoodLetter archives

Subscribe to the 30 Second Wine Advisor