oysters gratin, and the knysna oyster festival 2013

by Sam on June 12, 2013

oysters gratin on leeksoysters gratin on a bed of leeks

In 3 weeks I’m off to to Knysna to slurp oysters, sip wine and generally dive into some of the amazing food and wine activities on offer over the festival. I simply.can.not.wait.

I spent a few of my childhood holidays in Knysna because my grandparents retired there, so the place has a special place in my heart. It has obviously grown from a tiny village -when I was a child- to what it is today, and its home to the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival, which takes place every year in July. I have often been over the week end of the marathon – and even ran the half once – but I have never been for the food part.

This year it will be all about that for me. The event sponsors have invited me to go and check it all out and report back on the deliciousness I find.

If you would like to win a pair of tickets to the Pick n Pay Flavours of Knysna, valued at R300 (one of the events I will be attending), simply leave a comment below about an interesting story or anecdote about Knysna, or oysters. You can also leave a recipe for how you like to eat yours.

You will experience a gourmet evening filled with shucking, slurping and swirling when up to 15 local restaurateurs will compete against one another with their signature oyster dishes and up to ten wine estates will fill your glass. A panel of judges – including both celebrities and members of the public – will select the winners across a variety of categories, and Pick n Pay will offer a full menu with a variety of entrées to suit almost all palates, including starters, main courses and, of course, desserts.

The event will be held on Wed 03 July, 18h00 - 23h00

KNYSNA

I had it on the back of my mind to come up with an exciting recipe involving an oyster, and then I had lunch at the Foodbarn two Fridays ago. Franck made these oysters as part of his first course, and I was sent straight to heaven. As one of the most generous chefs I know, he has very kindly given me the recipe, and talked me through how to make it on the phone.

This is what they looked like at the Foodbarn.

Franck Dangereux oysters

If you in any way need to make friends, impress people or seduce a lover this is the perfect recipe for you.

Its quite a cheffy dish, but I have tried to make it as accessible to the home cook as possible, and let me assure you, its worth all the effort to make it. Franck makes it en masse in the restaurant, but I have altered the quantities down.

I used a crisp dry Sauvignon Blanc for the recipe, but you could use bubbly.

Makes 12 oysters

  • 12 large oysters
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) oyster juice (as they are shucked)
  • 1 cup of dry white wine / champagne / Cap Classique
  • 1 1/2 cups of cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 300g trimmed leeks, cut into thin julienne
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 50g butter
  • salt and pepper

Shuck the oysters and retain the juice that comes out of them. I got 1/3 of a cup. Strain the juice. Loosen the oysters from the shell and set them aside. Wash and dry the shells.

Bring the wine and oyster juice to the boil, and poach the oysters in the liquid for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Strain the liquid into a clean pot, add 1 cup of the cream and allow this to simmer until it reduces in half. This will take around 20 – 30 minutes.

While the sauce is reducing, heat the olive oil in a pan and add the leeks and butter. Saute until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Beat the remaining 1/2 cup of cream until stiff peaks, and in a separate bowl beat the 2 egg yolks. Fold the beaten egg into the cream. *this forms the ‘gratin mix’, and you will have more than required for the recipe, but I found it easier to whip a slightly larger quantity of cream. You could adjust to 80ml cream and 1 egg yolk if you prefer zero waste.

When the sauce has reduced allow it to cool, where it will further thicken. When cool, scoop out half a cup of the whipped cream / egg mixture and stir this through the sauce.

To prepare the pan, scrunch up a few sheets of tin foil on a baking pan and place the washed and dried shells on top. You want them to stand level and face up so that the liquid does not fall out. Fill each shell with about a teaspoon of leek mixture, top with a poached oyster, and then fill the shell with as much of the sauce as you can.

Place under a hot grill / broiler, until it just starts to go brown and bubble.

Serve immediately with a glass of dry white wine or bubbly, and knock the socks of your guests.

oysters gratin on leeks

Knysna

Check out the full list of events by clicking here, and be sure to follow @oysterfestival and me @drizzleanddip on Twitter to get all the updates between the 2nd and the 5th July. I kick off my visit at the Knysna Wine Festival and Night Market on the 2nd.

See you there!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete June 12, 2013 at 8:52 am

Hey Sam, they look flippen delicious. Have a fab time in Knysna.

Sam June 12, 2013 at 8:56 am

Thanks Pete, They were flippen delicious, and I think I got it to the same standard as Chef :-)

samantha June 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

One of my favourite delicacies. We’re planning on going to the oyster festival.
I prefer my oyster with just a tad of tobasco, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Doesn’t get better than that. But I’m definitely trying your recipe.

My husband’s first encounter with oysters wasn’t a good one. It was a couple of years back at the The Good Food & Wine show, when it was still held at the Good Hope Centre.
I order 6 oyster and bubbly for each of us. He was hungover after an allnight drinking spree. So the first oyster didn’t even make it to his tummy. So I had all the rest and the bubbly. He was green (sick) for the rest of the day. I took him quite some time to get used to the taste without being reminded of that terrible first encounter. But he has been converted to an avid oyster eater now.

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com June 14, 2013 at 10:05 am

I need to muster enough courage to try oysters. You styled and captured it so temptingly, my friend :) Have a great time at Knysna :)

Billy Gee June 14, 2013 at 10:43 am

I have a ‘pearler’ for you Sam. One year at the Knysna Oyster Festival, we were ordering oysters by dozen and the wine was flowing. Only one member of our group declined to try the oysters, that is until they were served Kilpatrick, turns out her ex was a Patrick. Oh shucks – how we laughed!

Liz Thomas June 15, 2013 at 7:06 am

Oh Sam, another blast from the past. I once camped at Knysna in the mid ’70′s. I can imagine how much it has changed. Please!! Can I come with you!! I hope you have a really good time and can’t wait to read all about it. Love cooked oysters and your recipe sounds wonderful. Must try!

Cheers!
Liz

Melanie du Toit June 17, 2013 at 7:19 pm

As a result of having parents that live in Knysna and me having spent a large amount of my younger years growing up at the coast, I have a huge weakness for any kind of seafood – but any kind of shell fish in particular. The first (and sadly – one of few) times that I have joined in on the oyster part of the festival fun, occurred when I had a rather large shooter glass shoved into my hand that contained an oyster, tobasco sauce, black pepper and was topped up to the brim with vodka. I managed to slug this down although I don’t think it did the oyster or the vodka any justice. Hoping to try nicer oyster and alcohol (preferably wine) combinations at this year’s festival. See you there, Sam! :)

Alessandra June 17, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Hi Sam, I really like your recipe and how you presented it. Oysters aren’t my favourite seafood but my
fiancé loves them so much that I will prepare them again soon. Definitely, I’m going to try your recipe which will become my next post. Last October I served marinades Oyster, did you tried them?. After I saw your post, I am sure that I can change my mind about oysters.

Sam June 18, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Hi Alessandra, yes, I love marinaded oysters, another really good way to eat them. If you are unsure of raw, this recipe will definitely change that for you.

Sam June 21, 2013 at 8:40 am

The winner of the Flavours Tickets is Billy Gee. Well done and see you there.

Doné Else June 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm

We always came to Knysna on holiday when I was young and I would remember every detail about it. Small things like who would see the lagoon first etc, Had my first Oyster when I was around 9. Did not think much of it and pulled the most wonderful face. However I have fallen in love with Knysna and been here 16 years.

Kevin Ryan February 18, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Leeks cut into ‘think’ Julienne – ?

I like the look of those, but usually have my oysters raw

Sam February 18, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Hi Kevin – obviously a typo and obviously thin julienne :-).

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