Featured Book Club Recipe: The Perfume Collector

Today’s post by our chef, Ingrid of Edible Tapestry | @Edible Tapestry

We love how our featured book club selections inspire these recipes each month. And how perfect that THE PERFUME COLLECTOR was the impetus behind such a classy meal. Of course it’s no surprise, really. The book is classy as well.

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Bourgeois Oysters

Yes, “they look like something one would avoid stepping on in the street “, as Grace so honestly put it in The Perfume Collector, but oysters on the half shell with champagne and “just a squirt of lemon “, how Monsieur Tissot preferred to eat them, were my must do choice for August’s book selection.

Auguste Escoffier, the father of modern cuisine, insisted in his 1864 A Guide to the Fine Art of French Cuisine that oysters be eaten just as Kathleen Tessaro described in her novel, The Perfume Collector. “Oysters ought to be served very cold. “, he emphasized. “In France and in the United States they are left in the hollow half which is better calculated to retain the natural liquor of the oyster. ”

Apparently, as Monsieur Tissot prompted Grace to do, one tilts the head back and allows the squishy mollusk to slide right down the throat before slithering into the belly.

I can appreciate the beauty of the dish, the tradition of eating them in this manner, but I just don’t have the stomach to down raw oysters. The ones pictured were promptly taken from their shells and dredged in flour. Fried oysters happen to be one of my favorite dishes. But for anyone who isn’t “too English ” and wishes to be as culinarily adventuresome as Grace was under Monsieur Tissot’s encouragement, here is the method for preparing and serving Edouard and Grace’s “Bourgeois Oysters “.

You will need:

Whole oysters by the dozen

An oyster knife

Crushed ice

Lemon wedges

A colorful garnish

Champagne (or, in my case, a cheap bottle of sparkling wine)

Hold an oyster in a towel, rounded shell down, flat shell up.

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Slide the oyster knife into the crack between the flat and rounded shells. When the seal is broken and a gap is made, twist the knife to separate them further.

Slide the tip of the knife under the adductor muscle where it attaches to the upper, flat shell. Remove the top shell. To loosen the oyster from the bottom shell, scoop the knife under it to separate, leaving the oyster to lie in in its juices in the bowl-shaped shell.

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Arrange shucked oysters on a bed of ice to keep them chilled, around a center garnish and lemon wedges. Serve with chilled champagne.

Question: Are you brave enough to try raw oysters? Do tell!

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

5 Responses to Featured Book Club Recipe: The Perfume Collector

  1. Ann Bresnan August 13, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    No,I am not! Looks great but that will do it for me. I used to enjoy stuffed clams until I did my own and saw what they actually looked like….now they get caught in the back of my throat :(

  2. Audra (Unabridged Chick) August 13, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    YUM! I had to laugh when I read that scene in The Perfume Collector as I’m a devoted fan of raw oysters, but they *are* pretty gross (looking)!

  3. Pat @ Posting For Now August 13, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Great choice! I’ve eaten them raw before. I thought they were ok, but not my favorite. The way they look probably has something to do with that.

  4. Heather August 13, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I’m not brave enough to try *cooked* oysters, let alone raw ones. They look like…well, I’ll leave that to your imagination. [shudders]

  5. Susan G. August 13, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    No I do not ‘consume’ oysters…they look like something that should not enter the body…at least not my body! My husband does eat them on rare occasions, and I just make sure I do not make eye-contact with them as he ‘consumes’ them.
    Now back to reading… :)

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