The Law of Unintended Consequences!

We arrived in our Mountain Retreat as 2018 was drawing to a close, but we still had time to drive down 7 hairpin bends, get to the grocery store before the French finished their lunch break and descended upon the store to fill up for Reveillon ( French New Years Eve).

My Swiss neighbours pulled a face saying ” il y aura du Monde! ( very busy) but we know better, nothing will deter our French from taking their 2-3 hour lunch break and as a consequence, the store was almost half empty. Even the shelf fillers were no where to be seen. At 13.55 they appeared lugging or pushing the shelf filler equivalent of a Pantechnicon , just the right size to block the aisles, but Hey they have a job to do, forget the shoppers, it is Reveillon!

We arrived at the fish counter, it was looking a bit sad, not a lot to choose from, but we did not want fish, we wanted Oysters, as Himself declared that he would do Oysters Rockefeller on New Year’s Day . Perfect, only a small problem, not an oyster in sight. Oysters on New Years Eve are de rigour, so where were they? Stuck in Calais or in Normandy or in Brittany. There was hand written note, saying, Maybe at 2 pm, which then became 3.30! So we decided to go further down the mountain to the next grocery store, I was dropped off to go in search of the fast becoming Forbidden Fruit. NO Oysters to be seen ! ( a large box of really large Shrimp ) I timidly asked the fish man ” il y a des Huitres? S’il vous plâit? He looked at me and scurried out the back door and returned bearing a small wooden crate ( an oyster box)! Normally the shops are stacked with oyster boxes and it is perfectly normal to buy the box, no self respecting Oyster lover would buy just a few. But he said” it’s the last one, how many do you want? The box held 36 so not wishing to be greedy I took 24; only, without asking even the price!

So what is my point here? Les Gilets Jaunes is the point! What started out as a protest about fuel prices has morphed into a protest agains all and sundry ( the French Love to protest). Consequently the Oyster men on the West Coast have had their Christmas and New Year ruined by these actions and probably have stocks which they now have to destroy!

Quell Domage, is all I can say !

New Years Eve was spent across the road at our lovely neighbours, occasional Expats like us, and other friends who live here permanently. Carolyn cooked a really interesting starter. A whole baked celeriac, courtesy of Ottolenghi. I love celeriac but always serve it as a purée, so this was like a giant baked potato served with sour cream and lemon juice, Yummy! Something I need to try for myself. Have already reported on this new found delight to #1 son ! So watch this space for more.

So onto New Year’s Day, no shops open, no parade to go and watch, but a walk was in order.

A drive to the top of the mountain, donned snow shoes and set off! The sun was shining, the ski tourers were coming down from the top of another mountain, children were sledging and Mont Blanc glistened in the distance.

Back, at Chez Nous, Himself set to with the oysters. If you like oysters but find the idea of shucking them too daunting, then explore a fish shop and you might find a device which’ makes shucking a ‘Piece of Cake”!

Traditional oyster knife in front and the easy version.

so whilst Himself was busy with oysters I made a seafood sauce for the shrimp. I very much winged it by what I had in the cupboard.

I sautéed a chopped onion and 3 cloves of garlic until soft, then I added a can of tomatoes a small can of tomato sauce, half a tube of tomato purée and a small can of Chipotle chillies, let them amalgamate and then using a stick blende gave it a quick wiz to really blend and then added half a jar of horseradish sauce and a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce. ( no ketchup, no Mayo, no sour cream) A final tasting, done covered and put outside to chill ( it was below freezing outside)

Meanwhile he was making the filling for the oysters. It is also a bit of This and That. He chopped 2 shallots and sautéed them in some oil along with several cloves of garlic and some chopped rashers of bacon, ( bacon, pancetta or lardons will suffice, but make sure they are crisp) then he added a whole bag ( about 500 grams) of frozen creamed spinach along with about 4 Oz butter and a cup of breadcrumbs AND a good swing of Pernod a quick taste, added some chilli flakes and fennel seeds, and done ! Filled the shells with the oysters and spinach mixture topped with grated Parmesan and baked at 450/230/8 for about 10 minutes until the tops are golden and crisp.

Also on this topic, I have found some alternative recipes for oysters. Oysters, crawfish and shrimp abound in Louisiana ( could be one reason to live there, or maybe not). Oysters Bienville, an egg rich shrimp topping, Oysters Rousseau similar to Rockefeller but slightly different , no spinach. Oyster Loaf, Oysters en brochettes Cajun Oyster Pie, oyster and Artichoke Bisque, Creole Oyster Stuffing and Oyster Patties ( Vol au Vent), this one I have made, using canned oysters and easy nibble to have at a drinks party. And not forgetting one of my favourites, Oyster PO Boys ( pronounced Poor Boys) Freida oysters in a French bread sandwich!

On a final note, once again I am amazed at the choice of cereals in the supermarket, all very sweet and almost all with chocolate. Himself occasionally has cereal, muesli , but I make the mix myself, so even that does not have added sugar let alone chocolate!

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