“Panhandle to Pan” Favorite: Baked Oysters with Hot Peppered Collards

In keeping with our love for Chef Irv Miller this week, we thought we’d share one of our favorite oyster recipes from his newest book, Panhandle to Pan. Chef says this is one of his “most talked about and requested oyster recipes”–and we can taste why!

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For the Ham Hock Broth: 1 gallon water, 2 smoked ham hocks, 2 yellow onions cut into quarters, 1 celery rib cut into 2 inch lengths, 2 carrots peeled and coarsely chopped, 2 TBSP kosher salt, 3 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns

For the Corn Bread: 5 TBSP olive oil (or bacon fat) divided, 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 cup yellow cornmeal, 1 TBSP baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 2 cups buttermilk, 3 eggs well beaten

For the Andouille Cream: 1 andouille sausage link coarsely chopped, 2 tsp minced garlic, 2 tsp minced shallots, 1/8 cup brandy or sherry, 2 cups heavy cream, pinch of kosher salt, dash of freshly ground black pepper

For the Finished Dish: 24 Gulf Coast oysters, 1 bunch fresh collard greens, pinch of sugar (optional), hot sauce to taste, 2 cloves garlic finely chopped, 1 shallot finely chopped, 2 TBSP good brandy or sherry, 1 pint heavy whipping cream, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

TO MAKE THE HAM HOCK BROTH: Combine all ingredients in an 8-quart stockpot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 hours. Remove ham hocks from the broth, let them cool, and remove meat, discarding skin and bones. Use meat and broth as directed below. Strain and reserve the liquid.

TO MAKE THE CORNBREAD: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sift flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together into a large mixing bowl and set aside. Mix buttermilk with 2 TBSP of olive oil and the eggs. Add the dry ingredients and stir briefly to combine.

Heat 2 TBSP of olive oil (or bacon fat) in a skillet. Remove pan from head and set aside until cornbread batter is ready. Hold a 10-inch round cast-iron skillet over a low flame and pour in the remaining 1 TBSP of olive oil. Swirl the skillet around so the oil completely coats bottom and sides of the pan. (If a cast-iron skillet is not available, oil an 8x8x2 inch or 1x7x2 inch glass baking dish well with olive oil.)

Pour in the corn bred batter. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean and top is golden brown. Remove and let cool completely, then crumble into fine crumbs and place in a mixing bowl. (This can be made one day in advance and stored in a sealed container until needed.)

TO MAKE THE ANDOUILLE CREAM: In food processor, combine chopped sausage, garlic, and shallots and pulse until ground. Place a thick-bottom saucepot over medium high heat and add processed mixture. Stir mixture over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, then add brandy and let simmer an additional 2 minutes to concentrate flavors and burn off the alcohol. Add the cream and stir mixture to blend well. Let simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until slightly thickened and velvety. Whisk the sauce frequently as mixture simmers. Add salt and pepper to taste just before serving.

TO PREPARE THE FINISHED DISH: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Shuck oysters, straining oyster liquor into a container, and add the shucked oysters to the strained liquid. Discard the top half of each oyster shell, but reserve bottom half and place cupped side facing up on a baking pan. (This is where, instead, we obviously use our oyster beds.)

Bring the ham hock broth back to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Place the fresh collard greens on a flat work surface, use a utility knife to remove ribs from leaves, then cut the collards into 1-inch cubes. Plunge the cut greens into the broth and cook for 30-40 minutes. If greens are slightly bitter, add pinch of sugar. Add hot sauce. Strain into colander, reserving the liquid. Spread the cooked collards on a baking pan to cool slightly. Chop them small enough to fit easily in an oyster shell (or your Oyster Bed).

Finely chop the cooked ham hock meat. Place a saucepot over medium-high heat. Add the ham hock meat, garlic, and shallot. Stir mixture over heat for 2 minutes then add brandy. Let simmer, stirring frequently to concentrate flavors and burn off the alcohol. Add the andouille cream, a few TBSP of reserved oyster liquor, and a few TBSP of the collard greens pot liquid. Stir to blend well. Stirring frequently, let simmer over medium heat until slightly thickened, 15-20 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and additional hot sauce to your liking.

Fill each oyster shell (or Oyster Bed reservoir) with a full teaspoon of chopped collards. Place an oyster over each greens-filled shell, and cover each oyster with crumbled corn bread. Place the oyster pan in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Remove and then sauce each individual oyster with 1-2 TBSP of the ham hock-cream reduction, then place pan back in oven and bake another 4 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

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