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Oysters with a Garlic-Tarragon Crust

To shuck oysters, use a folded cloth to hold the oyster in your nondominant hand with the flat top shell facing up. Holding an oyster knife in your other hand, insert its tip into the dark, rounded spot at the oyster's hinge. Twist the knife sharply to break the hinge. Run the knife carefully along the inside surface of the top shell, severing the muscle that grips it. Take care not to cut the oyster or to spill its liquor. Discard the top shell. Carefully cut the muscle under the oyster to loosen it from the bottom shell.

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 large slice coarse country bread, crusts
     removed and bread broken into small
     pieces
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room
     temperature
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 to 3 cups coarse salt
  • 16 small oysters, such as Kumamotos, shucked
     and on the half shell

Directions:

Using a mini food processor, with the motor running, drop the garlic cloves through the feed tube. When they are finely minced, add the tarragon and process until minced and combined with the garlic. Add about two-thirds of the bread and process until crumbly. Set the remaining bread aside. Add the butter, minced celery, the 1/2 tsp. salt and the pepper and process until well combined. (If not using a processor, mince the garlic cloves and tarragon and place in a bowl. Crumble the bread into fine crumbs and add two-thirds to the bowl along with the butter, minced celery, salt and pepper. Mix with a fork until well combined.)

Preheat a broiler.

Pour the coarse salt into a large, shallow flameproof baking dish, making an even layer about 1/2 inch thick to serve as a bed for the oysters.

Smear about 1 1/2 tsp. of the tarragon mixture on top of each oyster. Then, rubbing the reserved bread between your fingers, top each oyster with a dusting of bread crumbs. Nestle the oyster shells in the salt, keeping them as level as possible.

Place the baking dish under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source and broil until the topping is bubbling at the edges and beginning to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 16 warm bites.

Note: Celery is too fibrous for the food processor, so it will have to be minced by hand.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Hors d'Oeuvre, by Brigit L. Binns (Simon & Schuster, 2001).