I’ve been getting into oyster season big time, this year. Maybe it’s all because of the folks at Ravine Estate Winery, in Niagara, whose restaurant features an oyster bar, in the summer time. I had oysters there, when I was in the region in August, with a number of great little garnishes, including freshly grated horseradish, a spicy kimchi and a mignonette sauce. It was an inspiring way to get back into the whole bivalve thing, and I’m happy to keep going.
Mignonette, which I particularly liked in August, is remarkably simple to make: very finely chop a grey shallot, grind some black pepper, and pour a few spoonfuls of vinegar over the shallots and pepper. Mix well, and let it marinate for a couple of hours, at least, and ideally for a day or two, as the flavor will improve with time.
This week, I made a mignonette variation using verjus from Closson Chase vineyards, in Prince Edward County, the estate where I’ve been fiddling around the cellar since last year, under the guidance of Deborah Paskus. Verjus is a tangy, tasty juice made from unripe grapes, which makes a pleasant drink on its own, with some sparkling water or pop, or can be used in many different ways for sauces and marinades. Because it does have a certain sweetness, it adds an extra layer of flavor, compared to plain vinegar.
Using it is even simpler than making it. After shucking fresh oysters, pour about half a spoonful on top and then up and away. You’ll see that the mignonette just gives a fresh lift to the oysters, providing a great counterpoint to their richness and brininess.
Although mignonette is mentioned pretty much only in conjunction with oysters (or maybe clams), I could also see it used over freshly sautéed shrimp, or as a ceviche-like preparation with thinly-sliced fish, sashimi-style.
Mignonette is also one of the many ways of using verjus. I also received samples of the Verjus de cigare made from unripe grenache at Bonny Doon Vineyards, and used it to bake a very nice dish of turkey, slowly cooked in a dutch oven. I’m currently marinating a whole salmon fillet in verjus (with a bit of pepper, brown sugar, salt and finely chopped shallot). Results and recipes to follow.
The New York Times also recently published other verjus recipe ideas, as well as sources for verjus. An excellent brand, available for purchase online, is Verjooz, made in the Finger Lakes. I even found an apple-based verjus, made by Québec orchard Le Verger du Clocher. So get yourself some verjus and some oysters, and while you eat the oysters, think of some other ways to use the rest of the bottle.