Oysters with Mignonette Sauce

There are two things that our little island of Chincoteague, off the coast of Virginia is known for…Pony Penning, and oysters. Since we are a barrier island next to Atlantic Ocean we have extremely high salinity (salt content) in our water, making for some extra-salty and delicious oysters. They ship them all over, to the fanciest restaurants and oyster bars in the country – and people pay top dollar for them. Chesapeake Bay oysters are also world-renowned, but for their sweetness from the brackish waters (part salt, part fresh) as opposed to the briny saltiness. I find it so interesting that they can taste so different, but still be so delicious in their own way…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m so thankful to call this little stretch of land between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean my home. While we have things like clams and blue crabs to look forward to in the summer months, the cooler months is the time for oysters. The rule of thumb is any month that ends in “ember” is the best time to enjoy them.

My best friends aunt has an oyster bed, and dredged up a half a bushel for me on Saturday morning. They are always covered in marsh mud, and require plenty of scrubbing – but they smell of the sea, and to me that’s one of the best smells in the world.

Now, it’s pretty much blasphemy for anything to be served with “Chincoteague Salts” – as they contain so much flavor from the salty brine found inside. But for any other oysters you’ll commonly find a mignonette sauce served with them. It’s a simple vinegar based sauce that usually includes minced shallots, black peppercorns, and fresh herbs.

It’s an extra special appetizer during the Holidays, something that’s easy (provided you have a good fishmonger or husband who is prone to shucking!) and so impressive. If you have access to fresh oysters, even if they aren’t from my neck of the woods, pick up a dozen and give them a try. And if you are lucky to have access to them in abundance (or you are more into cooked renditions of oysters), make sure you check back here in the next week – I have two other oyster recipes coming up that will knock your socks off! 

Crab and Corn Chowder

A couple of weeks ago we played tourist on our little island of Chincoteague, left the boys with my mom and dad, and walked down to Main Street…which, is just literally at the end of my parent’s street. There aren’t many shops – a small bakery, a little wine and cheese shop, some tacky beach t-shirt shops, and a few really fun and funky boutiques. We ventured in The Flying Fish Gallery, and amongst all the fun things they had in the store – my ceramics honing sense immediately zeroed in on these gorgeous oversized mugs. I thought how pretty would these be with a cream of crab soup or chowder in them? I couldn’t wait to get them home and fill them up with something!

Seems like everything is in season right now here on our beautiful Eastern Shore. Crabs are running great, thought they got a late start. Dad got a bushel in his 2 pots he has off the dock in just 4 days last week. That’s a lot of crabs for very little work, folks! We went and had steamed crabs for lunch, and he sent me home with the leftovers to pick.

Corn is in season everywhere right now, and this chowder really showcases the sweet, fresh flavor it lends. Let me just say that this soup was nothing short of phenomenal. All the flavors married so well, and I loved that you could taste the individual ingredients. The crab, the corn, the onion, the garlic, the potatoes…all off them working together in perfect harmony, but one not overpowering the other. Will be making this one again and again! The epitome of a Maryland Eastern Shore summer.

Chicken Chesapeake

It’s getting to be the time of year where I have to get creative with crab. I’m hoping Jon and my dad will have an opportunity to run the trotline for the first time this weekend. I think Andrew will be old enough to go this year, everyone’s excited about that!

I’ve seen this dish on many restaurant menus in our area. Usually a chicken breast stuffed with crab dip or crab imperial, then baked. But you guys know me – I couldn’t leave it at that. So I added bacon and cheddar cheese, as well as using some seafood seasoning to add some flavor to the chicken breasts.

Since the chicken is stuffed, you don’t need a ton of crab meat. A small amount goes a long way in this dish. I know not everyone is as fortunate as me, crab locale wise…trying to look out for you guys! But, if you happened to have some leftover crab dip or crab imperial, you could certainly substitute that in place of the crab filling listed in the recipe.

It was delicious, relatively easy and quick to throw together, and impressive…always a winning combination in my book. Looking forward to summertime here on the Chesapeake Bay!

crabimperial

Summer is just around the corner for us here on the Chesapeake, and for my family – that means bushels of crabs steamed on the regular. My dad and Jon run the trotline early on Sunday mornings, and are usually home by 10 AM with a full bushel of #1 Jimmies (or males). This year, our oldest son Andrew – who just turned five, will be old enough to go out and help man the line and net. I know everyone is excited for that!

They haven’t had a chance to go out yet this year, as the water is just starting to warm up. But, I managed to get my hands on a few to steam, and then pick to make a delicious dinner out of to share with you guys. Crab Imperial is on just about every local restaurant menu here on the Eastern Shore. It’s usually used to stuff into fish or shrimp, which of course is delicious. But a GOOD crab imperial – well, I think it’s bright enough to shine on it’s own. Lump crab, tossed with a luscious cream sauce, then baked to perfection – it’s divine. I found the cute little vintage crab dishes at a yard sale, but a ramekin or shallow au gratin dish would be just fine to bake in as well.

I’m so thankful to live in an area where my boys can experience this – learning to crab from their grandfather, who learned it from his father before him – right here on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Time to stock up on Old Bay and Boh, Maryland kiddos – summer is coming!