Smoked Oyster Timbale on Fried Tabasco-Cheese Grits
Plump oysters are smoked on the top of the stove and formed into a timbale with fresh spinach and bacon. The timbale is served atop diamonds of fried cheese grits, a great way to use left-overs, and garnished with citrus vinaigrette, tomato diamonds, and bits of chive.
- Water - 1 quart
- Stoneground Grits - 2 cups
- Salt - 1 teaspoon
- Tabasco Sauce - 3 to 5 dashes, other hot pepper sauce
- Asiago Cheese - 1 cup, grated
- Smoked Oysters
- Oysters - 24 to 32, depending on size
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Shallots - 2, minced
- Citrus Vinaigrette
- Orange Juice - 1/4 cup, fresh
- Juice and of 1 lemon
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Olive Oil - 3/4 cup
- Timbale Assembly
- Spinach - 1 bunch, washed and stemmed
- Smoked Bacon - 8 strips, fried soft and crumbled
- Canola oil for deep-frying
- Tomatoes - 2, peeled and seeded
- Chives - 8, cut into 1-1/2-inch sections
To make the grits: Butter a baking sheet. Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan or pot and add the grits, stirring constantly. Stir in the salt, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the Tabasco and cheese. Pour the grits into the prepared baking sheet, smoothing out about 1/2-inch thick. Let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the grits are firm and easily turned out of the pan, or overnight. Keep refrigerated until ready to fry.
To smoke the oysters: Shuck the oysters and remove them from their shells. Make a small square box of foil and put 3 or 4 small wood chips in the foil. Place it to one side in a large roasting pan, leaving the top of the foil open. Ignite the chips with a long kitchen match or small kitchen torch, then let them start to smolder. To improvise a perforated pan to hold the oysters, select a rack which will fit into the roasting pan over the coals. Cover the rack with foil and poke 1/4-inch or slightly larger holes in the foil. Place in the roasting pan with the smoking wood chips. Spread the oysters over the foil-covered rack and sprinkle them with pepper and the shallots. Crimp foil over the whole pan to cover. Place the roasting pan over medium heat, putting the portion with the wood chips over the heat source. Let smoke for 12 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, move the pan to a cool burner, and let stand 5 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. Soak the chips to extinguish all fire before disposing of them outside.
To make the vinaigrette: In a non-aluminum bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk or blend together. Set aside until ready to use.
To assemble the timbales: Prepare four 5-inch-by-3-inch cylinder molds (PVC pipe sections): place plastic wrap over one end and hold in place with a rubber band. Stand the molds on the plastic-covered ends on a baking sheet or in a pan. Cut the spinach leaves in chiffonade: stack 4 or 5 leaves at a time, roll up together, then slice down through the rolls in narrow strips,. Unroll for the chiffonade. Place a layer of bacon pieces in the bottom of a mold. Top with about 1/2 inch of spinach chiffonade. Place 3 or 4 smoked oysters on the chiffonade and press together gently. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of citrus vinaigrette over the oysters. Put another layer of bacon on the oysters, then another layer of spinach, then more oysters, again pressing gently to compact. Pour 1 or 2 more tablespoons of vinaigrette into the mold and press down gently with the back of a spoon. Repeat with remaining molds. Refrigerate the molds on the baking sheet for at least 30 to 45 minutes.
To fry the grits: Preheat the canola oil to 360 F. Cut the grits into diamond shapes, about 5 inches long and 2-1/2 inches wide. Fry about 5 minutes, turning once, until slightly crisp and browned.
To serve: Cut the tomatoes into small diamonds and toss with a little vinaigrette. Place 3 grits cakes on each plate, fitting the sides together at one end and letting the points fan out. Set the timbale as flat as possible on top of the cakes where they join and gently remove the mold, holding the tower in place as the mold comes off. Whisk the vinaigrette again to blend. Drizzle with the plates vinaigrette and sprinkle with tomato diamonds and chives.