31 December 2010

Oysters to finish the year

Tomorrow's date will be 1/1/11. Let's hope it's a singular year.

We just came back from the market in Saint-Aignan, where we went to buy some oysters for our New Year's Eve dinner. Oysters and then a big escarole (scarole in French) salad with some lardons (chunks of smoked bacon), croûtons (cut from a baguette), and garlicky vinaigrette dressing will be our food for the day — plus some rice pudding that I made day before yesterday.

The church in Saint-Aignan on New Year's Eve 2010

Yesterday I bought some Muscadet wine to go with the oysters. It's a very dry white wine from the area down at the mouth of the Loire River, and it's the quintessential shellfish wine. It's not expensive either — about 3 € a bottle. With the oysters and Muscadet, we eat slices of rye bread spread with butter.

Rice pudding with a caramel sauce —
Gâteau de riz au caramel

And with the oysters, we like to have what is called a mignonnette sauce — that's a shallot diced up into a little wine vinegar, with lots of black pepper. A few drops of the vinegar-shallot sauce on each oyster does the trick.

Three kinds of oysters: "flat" at the top; "open sea" on
the right; and salt-pond fattened on the left.

We got three kinds of oysters: 18 Fines de Claires, which are oysters that are fattened up in salt ponds along the coast for a couple of months before they are taken to market; 12 "flat" oysters, which are the original French species, now not so plentiful as they used to be; and 3 pleine mer ("open sea" or wild, I guess) oysters, which the market vendor gave us as a bonus — they're a present for the person assigned the task of opening the the other oysters, she said.

I'll have more to say about the oysters after we've tasted them. I'm not sure we've ever bought the flat oysters before.

Un beau plateau de fruits de mer

Our New Year's Eve meal is very simple. Just look at the plateau de fruits de mer — shellfish platter — that I enjoyed at a friend's house in Normandy a few years ago. We could get the same thing here, but for the two of us it would be overkill.

The cheese stand at the market in Saint-Aignan

The market was small and not crowded. Only the essential merchants were there. One sells all kinds of seafood and fish. Another had oysters only. Two or three were selling produce. One had nice breads and brioches. And finally, the regular cheese vendor was there, with a great selection of cheeses from all over France.


  1. By singular do you mean odd?

  2. I guess I mean unique, or at least different from the last two years. I mean special. Good, I hope. Bonne année et surtout bonne santé, Ken

  3. just give me the cheese vendor & I'm happy...i know the french would cringe, but i froze a couple of stinky cheeses from my oct trip to paris & pulled them out last week.....they r mahvelous...who knew....Bonne Annee!!

  4. 1/1/11 sure looks good to me! I bet you will enjoy those oysters. I've never seen a rice pudding like yours.

    The McConnells are coming here for the holiday, but we are having dinner in B'ham first at a restaurant named "Chez Fon Fon". We are going to see "The King's Speech" also. Will see the ball drop chez nous.

    Happy New Year, Ken and Walt.

  5. Happy New Year to you and Lewis, Evelyn. And I hope Chez Fon Fon turns out to be really good. Hi and Happy 2011 to Conn and Betty too.

    The rice pudding is easy. I'll post the recipe. And then you have to make a caramel in a mold or loaf pan. It came out really nice, and it's delicious. Walt said it had too much vanilla in it, and then he ate two slices!

  6. Happy New Year, Melinda. Good idea to freeze the cheese (freese the cheeze?) My mother does that, and it comes out and thaws just fine.

  7. Have a lovely evening, with great food in your cosy home in the vineyard. Muscadet Sèvre et Maine is fantastic with oysters! BTW, Don't forget to give Bertie one of those oysters! Maybe it'll stop him from staying out all night the next time. I'm not sure Callie would appreciate them though!

  8. Well, here's wishing everyone a FABULOUS new year :) I hadn't even thought for a moment of the 1/1/11 thing... how did that slip by me?

    I look forward to the rice pudding recipe, and I hope those oysters were good to you... I am not a fan:))


  9. The oysters sound delicious. What a great way to start the year.
    We will be flying to Paris on the 1st for a week. That is not too bad a way to start, either. We have many gastronomic adventures already planned. Best wishes for the New Year to you and Walt.

  10. Bonne année et bonne manger

  11. Happy, healthy new year Ken and Walt, Callie and Bertie!
    Your evening sounds lovely.

  12. Happy New Year's Ken and all the other bloggers!

    Not being an oyster's afficionado (sp?) I can't get excited by your photo although it does look compelling. Perhaps a taste one of these days just in case my taste buds have changed...

    Too bad about that damage to the "Bertie Bell" on your gatepost. I don't know if I could have said, "Ce n'est pas mauvais" or something like that... Well done, I must say. That's how to keep friends and acquaintenances, isn't it.

  13. I didn't really stop to think about 1/1/11, but maybe 1/ll/ll or 11/11/11 will also be significant!? Thanks for the thought and the informative posts about your area of France. I hate to say it, but I don't like oysters very much. Wish I did. Good post.

  14. Looking forward to the oyster report. And I didn't know you could freeze cheese--the things you learn on these magic machines.

    Happy new year, bonne annee, to you and Walt and Callie and Bertie.

  15. I LOVE raw oysters! Mmmm..... my favorite meal. Thank you!



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