The year 2010 is coming to a close and many of us are in a reflective mode, others preparing for New Year’s celebrations or looking forward to attending a party with family or friends. The usual way to celebrate the coming of a New Year is by opening up some champagne or a sparkling wine of your choice.
Since the ushering in of the New Year is all about new beginnings, why not try a sparkling wine from Greece? My parents come from the towns of Amynteon and Agios Panteleimon - two neighboring towns with a blessed plateau in between that has been producing award-winning wines for ages. The indigenous grape varietal in this region is the Xinomavro grape. Xinomavro is literally translated as “sour-grape”.
The Xinomavro grape is a wild one, bearing varied results to the inexperienced vintner but to the seasoned winemaker, Xinomavro can produce reds, blanc noirs (whites) and rosés. The region of Amynteon’s rosés are considered some of the best in Greece and they hold-up very well to Champagne.
I most recently made a baked oyster dish that I paired with this Pavlou Sparkling rose and I loved the pairing so much that I wanted an excuse to open another bottle of rose, this time with some raw oysters. Having our family’s summer home in Halkidiki (walking distance to the beach) and blessed with a bounty of fish and seafood, I’ve come to appreciate cooked (grilled, baked, fried) and raw seafood. There are no oysters in season in the summer in Greece but I do enjoy slurping on some fresh-caught venus clams!
In the winter, oysters appear in the fishmongers’ stands in Greece and lucky for us here in Canada, we have a bounty of fresh oysters from both the Pacific and Atlantic. Once again, I’m using Malpeques from Prince Edward Island and after clumsily shucking my first batch of oysters, I’ve gone & bought the Trudeau Oyster Knife. It made this task much easier.
Today, I’m making a my own riff on the classic Mignonette Sauce made with white wine, wine vinegar and shallots – popular condiment for raw oysters and my favourite. Another fave with oysters is a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh-grated horseradish (none of that jarred stuff for me). So, to satisfy both cravings, I’ve added some radish into this Mignonette and rather than using white wine, Greek sparkling rose wine is used. Add a fine dice of red onions (traditionally it’s shallots) and red wine vinegar and this twist on Mignonette comes together rather nicely!
(suggested 6 oysters per person)
12 Malpeque oysters (or fresh oysters of your choice)
2/3 cup sparkling rose wine
2 Tbsp. of good red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp. finely diced red onions (or shallots)
1 Tbsp. of finely diced radishes
- In a small pot, add your sparkling wine and vinegar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and and boil down to one-half. Take off the heat and add the red onions, radishes and cracked black pepper. Adjust seasoning accordingly and allow to cool.
- To shuck your oysters, place some crushed ice on a platter and reserve. Place your oyster on a secure work surface and hold the oyster in one hand, wrapping half the oyster with a tea towel to help you grip it. Ensure the hinged end of the oyster is facing out and with one hand holding your oyster and the other holding your knife, stick the knife into the hinged end of the oyster. Dig the knife into the hinge while wiggling it until the oyster begins to open. Now slide the knife across the top shell of the oyster so as to disconnect the top muscle and now slide the knife around the other side of the oyster.
- You should now be able to open the oyster. Discard the top shell and slip your knife under the oyster meat to disconnect the muscle from the bottom shell. Remove any pieces of shell or dirt and take a whiff of the oyster. The oyster should smell of the sea (and any other fishy odour means it’s gone bad and should be discarded). Place the oyster on ice and continue shucking your oysters.
- Serve your oysters on the half-shell, chilled and with a bowl of the Sparkling Rosé Mignonette Sauce and serve a Pavlou Estate Sparkling Rosé. Spoon a little bit of the Mignonette Sauce on an oyster, slurp it up and sip some sparkling wine.
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