Saturday, February 19, 2011

Huitres Gratinee au Champignon Creme

     My best days of restaurant cooking were spent in small formal French cafes and small French restaurants.  I liked cooking classic French food!  It seems that today, most of the American top chef French food is far removed from the old classic French cuisine.  There is such a thing as being too uncomfortable and too eccentric when cooking cutting edge French cuisine.  "Hit or miss" overpriced French fusion recipes can leave customers in dismay.  Especially during an economic depression.
     The recent movement in cutting edge fusion French cuisine has been over priced tapas style portions and pre fixe menus of trendy, but uncomfortable menu items that do not satisfy customers needs.  The reaction most of the French tapas food gets is comments like "It was a nice plate of food, but I would not return to order that item again."  Hit or miss!
     Why not fall back on the affordable, well crafted, French food that made French cuisine so famous?  That tactic worked for a few other chefs and myself at a great AAA 5 Diamond rated resort's 3 Star Michelin rated French Restaurant during the economic recession after the events of 9/11/2001.  The executive sous chef fired the fusion cuisine chef, because the restaurant was losing money everyday.  The sous chef was a Greenbriar chef and he took over as the chef de cuisine of the French restaurant.  The menu was changed to classic and modern French comfort food with a few American wild game entrees.  The portion size of each entree was also changed from petite artistic size portions to standard old time classic portion size.
     After the menu changes were made, the French restaurant broke all sales records by serving traditional French comfort food with a modern presentation style.  The menu prices were not cheap either.  The average entree price was $120.  Our success came from giving people what they wanted to eat and by offering food that was easily recognized.  The French restaurant grossed between $45,000 and $98,000 per night during that recession!  A portion of the income was from our extensive wine list.  We served great comfortable classic French food and customers returned to our restaurant to have the comfort food again and again!  The restaurant ended up being rated as the 7th best out of 35,000 restaurants in that state.  That was far better than being rated in the bottom of the top 100, like the previous chef's food was.
     Oysters gratinee is a classic French comfort recipe.  It can be baked plain or with a mornay sauce.  I have seen oysters gratinee baked with a mushroom cream in the past.  I liked the mushroom sauce version of oysters gratinee.  Huitres Gratinee is a very comfortable classic French appetizer.
     Huitres Gratinee au Champignon Recipe:
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 ounce of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 teaspoons of finely chopped shallot.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Saute till the shallots turn clear in color.
     Add 1 thin sliced shiitake mushroom.
     Add 4 thin sliced button cave mushrooms.
     Saute till the mushrooms become tender.
     Add 4 large shucked oysters.  (Reserve the oyster liquor.)
     Saute till the oysters become half way cooked.
     Remove the oysters from the sauce and set them in a small casserole dish.
     Add a very light sprinkle of flour, while gently stirring, to absorb the excess butter in the pan and to form a simple pan roux.
     Add the reserved oyster liquor.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of fumet.  (White fish stock)
     Add 1 ounce of Pernod.  (optional)
     Stir the sauce.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 2 pinches of tarragon.
     Add 1 cup of cream.
     Stir the sauce.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin consistency.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Spoon the mushroom slices between the oysters in the casserole dish.
     Pour the sauce over the oysters.
     Sprinkle a little bit of finely grated parmesan cheese over the oysters and sauce.
     Sprinkle a little bit of plain fine French bread crumbs over the oysters and sauce.
     Sprinkle a little bit of finely chopped parsley over the casserole.
     Place the casserole dish on a baking pan.
     Bake the casserole in a 375º oven.
     When the sauce starts bubbling and some light brown highlights appear on the oysters, then the casserole is finished baking.  (About 7-10 minutes.)
     Set the casserole dish on a serving plate.
     Simple and delicious!  The oysters and mushrooms are well matched with the thyme and tarragon flavors of the light cream sauce.  Only a little bit of cheese and bread crumbs are required for oysters gratinee.  The oysters do not have to be smothered in cheese!  The cheese is only used like a seasoning.  This is a very nice French oyster appetizer that is elegant and easy to prepare.  Yum!  ...  Shawna      

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