Carolina Cup Crackling Oysters
Carolina Cup Oysters are one of our local oysters that have a cuplike bottom shell and a flat top shell. This makes it easier to shuck them and add other ingredients as I do in this recipe. They have the wonderful briny flavor of our local clusters.
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
24 Carolina Cup Oysters, top shells removed, the oysters' bottom muscles cut, and shells wiped clean of shell pieces and mud
3/4 cup Carolina Ham Cracklings (recipe below)
3 cups rock salt
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese with the mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce.
Drain most of the liquor off the oysters. Place about 1 teaspoon of the mayonnaise mixture over the oyster on the half shell. Use a flat knife to fill the topping in around the oyster. Sprinkle the oysters with the ham cracklings (recipe follows) and the remaining 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Place them on a baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet on the upper shelf of the oven and roast the oysters for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the oysters are bubbly and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow the oysters to cool for 1 to 2 minutes.
Place 1/2 cup of the rock salt in each of 6 shallow bowls. Place 4 oysters in each and serve immediately with a small wedge of lemon.
Carolina Ham Cracklings
Makes 1 cup
1/2 pound of Carolina ham trimmings (see cook's note)
3 tablespoons light olive oil
Cook's note: Available at Piggly Wiggly stores.
Chop the ham trimmings finely by hand or pulse them in batches in a food processor into small pieces. This is best done while the ham is frozen. Because of the curing process, the ham never freezes rock hard.
Place the ham and the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring the heat gradually up to medium, cooking the trimmings slowly to render the ham of most of its fat. Cook the trimmings for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the ham begins to become somewhat caramelized and is crispy. When you hear it sizzle and crackle, remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, move the cracklings onto paper towels to drain.
Spread them out to cool.
Use immediately, or once cooled to room temperature, place in an airtight container, cover and refrigerate.
Donald Barickman is chef instructor with the Culinary Institute of Charleston.