This is an unusual pairing of meat and seafood, but one which is particularly effective because the spices in the Italian sausage are equally delicious with oysters. You may purchase bulk sausage, hot or mild, if you prefer, but this blend is simple to make.
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- Romano cheese - 2 tablespoons, finely grated
- Fine French bread Crumbs - 2 tablespoons
- Hungarian Paprika - 1/4 teaspoon, hot
- Unsalted Butter - 2 teaspoons, melted
- Italian Sausage
- Olive Oil - 1 teaspoon
- Ground Pork or Beef - 1/2 cup
- Yellow Onion - 1/4 large, finely diced
- Garlic Clove - 1, minced
- Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
- Red Pepper Flakes - 1/4 teaspoon, crushed
- Anise seeds - 1 teaspoon, whole
- Dried Oregano - 1/8 teaspoon
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh Oysters - 24 large
- Unsalted Butter - 4 teaspoons, softened
- Shallots - 2, minced
- Fresh spinach leaves - 4 cups
- B&B liqueur - 2 tablespoons
- Oyster liquor - 2 tablespoons (reserved from oysters, above)
- Romano Cheese - 6 tablespoons, coarsely grated
- Seaweed - 2 cups (alt. rock salt)
To make the topping: In a small mixing bowl, blend the dry ingredients and add the butter. Blend well to coat all the crumbs with the butter and set aside.
To make the sausage: Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and brown the meat, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add the onions, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, anise seeds, oregano, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the spices are fragrant and the mixture is completely cooked. Set aside.
To assemble: Wash and shuck the oysters, reserving 24 of the deepest shell halves. Place the shucked oysters in a sieve over a bowl to catch the oyster liquor. Preheat the broiler to high.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, until softened. Add the Italian sausage mixture and the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the spinach begins to wilt, about 30 seconds.
Remove the skillet from the stove and add the B&B liqueur. Return the skillet to the stove and tilt it to ignite the liqueur; when the flames subside, add the oysters and cook, stirring gently, for 1 minute. Add the oyster liquor and bring to a boil. Add the remaining butter and toss in the skillet until the butter is melted. Remove the skillet from the stove and stir in the coarsely grated Romano cheese. Place the 24 reserved shells in a baking sheet lined with rock salt, anchoring the shells in the salt. Divide the mixture between the shells, making certain there is an oyster in each one. Top each with crumb topping. Place under the broiler until the crumbs begin to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from broiler.
To serve: Place a bed of seaweed in each of four serving platters. With large tongs, lift the oyster shells and nestle six in the seaweed on each platter. Or, if not using seaweed, fill the platters with rock salt and nestle the oysters in the salt.