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Archive for August 5, 2015

TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Oyster Shells

In this era of recycling consciousness, it’s important to re-use something at least one more time before it ends up in the trash. There are suggestions galore, from re-using plastic dry cleaning bags to wrap clothes for wrinkle-free traveling, to filling empty drink bottles with water for in-home or grab-and-go use.

Even if something must ultimately end up in a landfill, it’s surprising how many different items destined for the garbage can be re-purposed at least once.

We were feasting upon a mammoth plateau de mer* at a local bistro, wondering if we should ask to take the empty lobster and shrimp shells home to make stock. Then it struck us: If the larger scallop shells have long been used to serve Coquilles St. Jacques and other foods, we could find uses for the cast-off oyster shells. The solution was easy: Use them as replacements for appetizer spoons (also called amuse-bouche spoons or tasting spoons, and a popular way to serve at cocktail bites).

You can wash and refill the oyster shells ad infinitum; you can use scores of them at parties; and if you collect too many, you can give sets to your friends.

As we munched our way through the platter of seafood, we thought of the visual fun of using those half-shells to serve something other than oysters. Here’s our preliminary list, especially appropriate since today, August 5th, is National Oyster Day:

  • Fill with salmon, scallop or tuna tartare
  • Ceviche “shooters”
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    What would you serve in an oyster shell—besides oysters, of course?James Beard Foundation. This dish was created by chef Kyle Koenig of Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, New York.

  • Add a fried oyster, topped with tartar sauce, horseradish cream or spicy mayo, garnished with chopped chives
  • Serve anything topped with tobiko, from a hard-boiled quail egg to grilled cauliflower florets
  • The natural: Oysters Rockefeller or “Scallops Rockefeller,” substituting scallops for the oysters
  • As a “spoon” for smoky whitefish salad, chopped herring salad or any salad
  • Use for non-seafood purposes, such as stuffed mushrooms (you can serve the mushrooms chopped instead of filling the caps)
  • Use for anything you would serve in an appetizer spoon (this is often a repurposed ceramic Chinese soup spoon)
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    *French for “plate of seafood,” a plateau de mer, or plateau de fruits de mer, is a seafood appetizer that consists of raw mollusks (clam, oyster, periwinkle, scallop) and cooked shellfish (crab, lobster, prawn, shrimp). The seafood is served cold on a platter, on a bed of ice. At restaurants, depending on the size ordered, the platter can be two or three tiers high and plated in silver for a grand presentation.

     

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    Why purchase tasting spoons when you can repurpose oyster shells to do the same thing? These spoons are from Libbey.

     

    NON-CULINARY USES FOR OYSTER SHELLS

    We traveled the Web to see how others were using empty oyster shells. Here’s what we found:

  • Crafts. Turn the shells into craft projects.
  • Gardening. Crush and mix them into your garden soil. The shell is 95% calcium carbonate and provides a slow release of calcium that de-acidifies and helps balance soil pH, loosen clay and improve drainage. That’s good news for tomato and other vegetable gardens.
  • Gardening. Similarly, use crushed shells in container gardening; the coarse texture of the crushed shells promotes drainage. Sprinkle them in the bottom of planting holes for vegetables and bulbs. Be sure to use crushed shells, not commercial oyster shell flour, for an even release of calcium throughout the growing season.
  • Gardens. Save enough shells to create a garden path. Oyster shell paths are a recycling effort that originated in Colonial times: If you’ve been to Colonial Williamsburg, you’ve seen them. They’re a charming alternative to gravel, and can also be used as a cover material for patios, courtyards and driveways.
  • Aquaculture. If you live near salt water, or are headed there, toss the dried oyster shells back into the sea. Young oysters will attach themselves to the empty shells, helping to propagate more oysters. The person who contributed this dip dumps the shells near her dock to create a mini oyster reef. “It creates a habitat for crabs, for which we have crab-pots (YUM!).”
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    If you have other ideas, let us know!

      

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