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Cooking With Myra: Trying oysters for the first time

By By Myra Starkey
March 12, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 11, 2013 at 10:12 p.m.

Sea salt brownies

Sea Salt Brownies

• 1 cup pecans, chopped

• 11/4 cups cake flour

• 3/4 tsp. sea salt, plus more for garnish

• 3/4 tsp. baking powder

• 7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine

• 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter

• 21/4 cups sugar

• 4 large eggs

• 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Icing:

• 1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate morsels

• 1/2 cup whipping cream

• 1 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread nuts evenly on a baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, about five minutes. Set aside. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Whisk to combine flour, salt and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

Melt butter in the microwave. Add chopped chocolate and let sit for two minutes. Whisk until smooth. You can heat for an additional 10-20 seconds if not smooth. Pour into bowl of stand mixer.

On medium speed, add sugar until combined. Add eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined and then add vanilla. Scrape sides of bowl. Add flour mixture in three additions, mixing until well combined. Add nuts and mix. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven. While mixture is cooling, prepare icing. Microwave the chocolate with the whipping cream in a microwave-safe container. Cook at 50 percent power for three minutes and whisk. Continue to whisk until mixture is smooth. Whisk in 1 Tbsp. butter. Immediately spread over brownies. Sprinkle with additional sea salt and let cool.

I've heard people ponder that age-old question regarding who the first person was to ever eat a raw oyster. It doesn't seem like a natural thing to do. A clearheaded person with their mental faculties intact is not going to see this mysterious morsel sitting on a plate or a half shell and pop it in their mouth.

Here is the typical scenario. Several adults are sitting around a table eating oysters on the half shell. A kid walks up. One of the people - perhaps an uncle who is known for playing tricks on his nieces or nephews - says, "Hey, how much would I have to pay you to eat one of these things?"

The child eyes the nasty looking little wad of slimy, whitish-gray flesh and immediately recognizes this as a trick. But the uncle persists and even eats one in front of the child to prove that his dare is not something that is life threatening but only perhaps borderline repulsive. The wary child watches him closely to make sure that he did not just pretend to eat it then spit it in his napkin.

He offers the kid a quarter, which, of course, is immediately and emphatically rejected. He ups the ante to a dollar and gets the hapless victim's attention. Maybe it takes $5. Let's be honest here - whatever it takes to see a little kid eat a raw oyster for the first and maybe last time is worth the money.

The child's next question is predictable, and that is whether or not the thing has to be chewed or simply swallowed. The adult, doing his best to repress laughter, says either method of ingestion is acceptable. And really, would you even want anyone to prove they chewed one by opening their mouth to show you?

The brave child pockets the cash, chooses the smallest oyster on the plate and after an appropriate time spent poking it and taking a closer look at it, either returns the wager or quickly swallows it and perhaps does not immediately barf it up.

There are many adults who love to eat raw oysters. When I was a child in southern Louisiana, I remember my dad going down to the dock to buy a gunny sack of oysters. He would ask the guy in the white rubber boots if they were some nice, fat ones and how was the season so far this year, and what part of the bay did they come from?

"Yes, good and down south," would be the typical reply. My dad would hoist the sack into the pickup bed for the trip home. I can remember my mom sitting on an ice chest on the back porch shelling them open and eating some right then but flipping most of them into a bowl to deep fry. I would eat a few once they were fried - especially if I could coat them well with cocktail sauce.

This past weekend, some friends came down from Temple, and we took them to Oysterfest in Rockport. This festival is held annually in a large tent right next to the harbor in Fulton where the oystermen bring in their bounty from Aransas and Copano Bays. This festival is great fun and involves lots of beer drinking, listening to live country music, eating large quantities of raw oysters.

I don't eat raw oysters or drink beer, but the festival is a fun place to watch people. I did have some good fried oysters and enjoyed two-stepping to the tunes by the very talented Jason Allen Band. We got there too late this year to see the belly dancing contest or the oyster eating contest. Those would have both been equally amusing.

I was wondering what the record was for eating raw oysters, so I researched it. In an eight-minute contest in New Orleans on June 5, 2011, a person ate 438. That is almost one per second. No chewing is required.

The Oysterfest benefits the Fulton Volunteer Fire Department and raises a great amount of money each year. They are currently building a large new building and need the funds. I asked my husband why guys seem to love volunteering to fight fires.

But then I figured that it was just their nature. I have noticed that most men like to burn things such as wood in campfires or especially very large brush piles. If they find something that is not supposed to be on fire, then they love to put it out. It's a guy thing.

My thing is to cook and see how happy people are when they taste something really good.

I have perfected a brownie recipe which is iced with a dark chocolate icing and then dusted with sea salt. These are delicious, fast and the chocolate taste is enhanced by the salt.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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