Oysters are a tasty symbol of the Pays Nantais region, on the Atlantic coast near Brittany. There, oysters are paired with Muscadet or sometimes Gros Plant du Pays Nantais, though briefly cooking the shellfish widens the pairing possibilities.
- 12 oysters, freshly shucked and drained, liquid reserved, bottom shells washed and dried
- 1 fennel bulb, white and pale-green parts only, cored and finely diced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
In small pan, boil reserved oyster liquor until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Let cool. In large sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine fennel, butter, salt and sugar. Cook until fennel is soft and almost caramelized, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Whip cream to soft peaks. Whisk in lemon juice and oyster liquor.
Preheat oven to 500°F. Arrange oyster shells in shallow, ovenproof dish covered with rock salt (to keep the shells upright). In each shell, place heaping teaspoon of fennel, one oyster and enough cream to cover shell. Bake until cream starts to brown (it will partially melt into shell), about 10 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 2–4.
Muscadet is the natural partner with oysters. It’s light, fresh and low in alcohol (typically 12%), so you can drink more than one glass as you sit on the deck. It also has the same salty character that you naturally find in oysters.
Look for the classic Muscadet Sèvre et Maine. Make sure it has been aged sur lie (on the lees), a traditional method that gives the wine extra depth, which in this case will provide ample weight to match with the fennel. A classic example is Château de la Ragotière’s 2014 Sélection Vieilles Vignes.