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Grilled Oysters with Spicy Tarragon Butter

serve

There’s a birthday in the house. A very special birthday. Our dog Bob is 2. We rescued him just about a year and a half ago. It was hard. He wasn’t very sure he wanted us and we weren’t sure we could handle all of the neurosis this rescue dog came with. We knew all about these difficulties when we decided to rescue him. He was born in Georgia. He and his siblings were immediately put into a shelter. They had to have been abused. He was adopted and returned (was this the abusive person?). He was then sent to another shelter – one of those horrific kill shelters. At 3 months he was rescued from that awful place, and then rescued from one rescue organization by the fabulous folks at Underhound Railroad. He spent 3 months under the care of Underhand Railroad living with a foster mom a few miles from here.

We talked about a dog. We talked about rescuing a dog. We scoured sites looking for the perfect dog. AND THERE HE WAS.

We met him. He wouldn’t look at us. He wouldn’t come near us. He hid behind his foster Mom (thank you, Jamie).

We glanced at each other across the lawn and knew. He needed a home. He needed love and support. He needed us. We wanted to be those people for him. We decided his name had to be Bob. Twofold – (1) Canned Heat from Woodstock – Woodstock Boogie “I’ve got a dog his name is Bob” and (2) the movie What About Bob – we say this an awful lot.

The first three days he spent under a table – shaking. Then we lost him, in the woods, for 3 days. Wet, scared puppy, rain, halter *poof* gone. When he came back we just weren’t sure anymore. Bob was just NOT happy with us. I talked the Dear One off the ledge. He talked me off the ledge. The folks at Underhound asked us to give it more than a week. So we did. Their support was incredible – phone, emails, texting.

Then Bob fell in love … with me. Not so much the Dear One at first, which was very difficult when WE wanted a dog and the dog didn’t want BOTH of us. Be patient, he will come around. Those words became our mantra.

We were patient. We were frustrated and sad. Our hearts were aching for this poor little dog who had to have been so badly treated that he had no faith in humans, even those who walked him and fed him and gave him treats – or our friends who fed him under the table when they thought we weren’t looking.

Suddenly, once day, without our realizing when or how it happened, OUR dog appeared. The one who jumps up and down when he hears my car. The one who wants only the Dear One to chase him around the yard. The one who knows if I say “time to brush your teeth” to come running to the kitchen. My secret service agent. The Dear One’s play mate. He is more of a puppy now than he was at 6 months old when he first entered our lives.

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Happy birthday, sweet dog. Thank you for letting us put a silly hat on your head. Thank you for trusting us. Thank you Dear One (as always) by indulging me with really wanting this insane dog. Perhaps this insane dog found the perfect insane home with two insane humans and all their insane friends.

So when Bob turned 2 and he was really and truly now OUR dog, he needed a special dinner. Enter the birthday dinner …

birthday-cake

A meatloaf cupcake, wrapped in bacon, mashed potato frosting and carrot candles. Maybe it was gone in 2 bites.

The grownups, however, didn’t want Bob’s birthday dinner surprise so we had Baked Oysters with a Spicy Tarragon Butter. This is a Bobby Flay recipe from Food & Wine.

We have a friend who grows oysters. When he calls and says he has oysters the only answer to be given is – OH.YES.PLEASE. We ate a bunch of them and had a bunch left over, but no shucking knife. Our dear friend said to just bake them in a hot oven and they’ll open right up.

These are so fresh, so sweet, so perfectly briney and grown just off the coast a few miles from our house.

  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 dozen medium to large oysters, such as Gulf Coast or Bluepoint

NOTE: The oysters we used were farmed by a friend the day before. These are, without a doubt, the best oysters I have ever eaten.

Light a grill.

oysters

NOTE: It’s February – in Maine. The grill is away in the shed, shivering, waiting for spring to make an appearance. I turned the oven  up to 500 and baked the oysters for 10 minutes. The top shell lifted right off and we continued from there.

tarragon

In a food processor, pulse the butter with the tarragon, hot sauce, salt and pepper until blended. Transfer the tarragon butter to a sheet of plastic wrap and roll it into a 2-inch-thick log. Refrigerate the butter until slightly firm, about 15 minutes. Slice the butter into 36 pats.

NOTE: I had 2 dozen oysters, but made the same amount of butter. There would have still been a lot left over with 36 oysters. I sliced the butter and froze it. There’s a salmon somewhere just itching for this butter!

baked

Place the oysters on the hot grill, flat-side up. Cover the grill and cook until the oysters open, about 5 minutes.

NOTE: A baking sheet and 500 degree oven for 10 minutes did the same thing.

with-butter

Using tongs, transfer the oysters to a platter, trying to keep the liquor inside. Quickly remove the top shells and loosen the oysters from the bottom shells. Top each oyster with a pat of tarragon butter and return the oysters to the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the butter is mostly melted and the oysters are hot, about 1 minute.

NOTE: Turned on the broiler and put the baking sheet back into the oven.

Serve right away.

Mussels in White Wine and Garlic

Ready

“It’s a beautiful day,” says he.

“I know!” I respond, “FINALLY!”

“We really should get out and about.”

“Oh, yes, please! That would be great.”

It’s one of the first truly nice days of spring. The sun is shining, there’s a light breeze, it’s warm(ish). I want to get out and feel the sun on my face. A nice walk in Acadia National Park. Oh, Sand Beach, I haven’t been there yet. My head was filled with places on Mount Desert Island I wanted to explore.

The Dear One, however, had other ideas in mind.

See, there’s a tree. A tree he cut down. A tree destined to be cut and split and stacked and dried for the wood stove for the winter.

THE WINTER? Seriously, Dude? It’s April! I’ve barely had time to recuperate from this past winter much less think about NEXT winter.

Well, you see, he explains, it has to be cut and split and stacked now, and covered in plastic so that it dries out to be ready for next winter.

Now, back to that tree … it’s down a ‘slight’ hill, on the opposite side of the house from where it needs to be stacked, and looked MUCH smaller standing upright.

“Okay, I’ll take the big part of the trunk. You take the branches. Whatever is too small to cut for the wood stove, throw on the wood pile.”

This is when I realized that the man of my dreams is completely OFF.HIS.ROCKER! Has he not seen these delicate, little hands? Has he not seen me struggle to pick up heavy grocery bags? Most importantly, has he NOT SEEN MY TIARA!? A princess, I tell you! A City princess, at that, carrying a tree? Stacking wood? Surely you jest.

Jesting he was not. But I princessed up, rolled up my sleeves and heave ho’d. I threw branches and stems on the burn pile (wait, ce qui es une BURN PILE … oh, I am so new to this planet!), carried big branches up to some God awful contraption so it could be cut into logs, and stacked up wood that Mr. Lumberjack split.

I smelled. I dropped a birch branch on my toe. I dropped a birch log on my ankle. I was covered in sawdust and dirt and YUCK. Every single inch of my body hurt … except, perhaps, a 1/4″ spot on my left ear.

AND I WAS STARVING. I needed a HOT shower and a hot, quickly made dinner.

I sent Simon Legree the Dear One off to the market to pick up dinner … mussels, garlic, parsley … while I stood in a scalding hot shower trying to wash away the memory of the day.

In the time it took to boil a pot of water, shallots were sliced, garlic was minced, parsley was chopped. When the pasta was dropped into boiling water, the shallots, garlic and white wine simmer, after about 5 minutes the mussels were added, another short 5 minutes, added some parsley and butter. Everything done at the same time. 15 minutes from start to finish.

A few slices of toasted Italian bread, glasses of fabulous red wine, and I was a happy, though still sore, camper.

It doesn’t really get easier than this dish. Next time I may add some arugula in, or perhaps halved grape tomatoes, the possibilities are endless.

  • 2 C dry white wine
  • 4 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 pounds live mussels
  • 1/3 C mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil, or basil, chopped
  • 6 T butter, cut into pieces

Rinse and scrub mussels under cold running water. Using your fingers or a paring knife, remove beards (strings that hang from the mussels’ shells), and discard.

In a large stockpot set over medium heat, combine wine, shallots, garlic, and salt. Simmer 5 minutes. Add mussels. Cover, and increase heat to high. Cook until all mussels are open, about 5 minutes. Stir in herbs and butter. Remove from heat. Divide mussels and broth among four bowls. Serve immediately.

NOTE: We were STARVING so I threw this over pasta. If you serve the mussels without pasta toast some bread, rub it with garlic for dipping.