Petites vs. Shoes

Start song! nitty-gritty-mr-bojangles

The year is ending.  North winds are slicing through the leafless trees.  I returned from our New Year’s delivery into the city and found the flag ripped into two strips on the flagpole.  Time to retire that one.  Another nor’easter had pushed the debris from October’s hurricane higher up the banks of Widow’s Hole.  No damage to the docks nor boats.

I’m running a light in the engine compartment overnight to keep the fluids from freezing.  It’s cooled with seawater and tonight will be mid 20′s as will every night in the 10 day forecast.

Instead of the 6-7000 thousand oysters we’ve been hauling in, I’ll scale back to around 2500.  Demand drops and I really don’t have many big ones left.

We normally sell about 2000 petite, 3-3.5 inch, oysters every week.  I should be able to find  2000 of them in the oysters that were put back as too small in October.  The demand for small oysters always strike me as somewhat odd.  I enjoy the big ones and they are harder to grow.  But many chefs, and often the fancy three Michelin Star ones, insist on the smaller oyster.  Since I charge the same, I don’t mind delivering them for another month or two.

I had a well known writer who lives in my building and always ordered a couple of dozen big oysters a week.  After he spent time in France working on a book, he’s switched to petites.  Many chefs will tell you that women don’t want a big slug of oyster meat in their mouth, but I think the dainty appearance on the plate is the major reason for their populatity.  Oysters, unlike other shellfish, do not become any tougher as they grow larger.

Cornell Marine extension, which has an office near me and has been very helpful in the past, is trying to get me and other growers to sell juvenile, small bay scallops.  They think chefs should cook them whole in the shell like clams.  I have not had any success selling them; unlike the mature wild ones which many clients like to serve raw.  But I know that a west coast grower has a lot of success getting their juvenile scallops to 3/4′s size and marketing that, so there is a market for those smaller shellfish too.

A big 4-5 inch oyster, floating in its liquere, is my preference.  A dozen of them not only envigorates me but fills me with protein.  They can be a meal in themselves.  Old timers used to eat big 5 year old oysters that could be six inches, a size they called shoes.

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