Gratin de Belons au Champagne

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(Serves two as first course)

12 Katama Oysters (OK ... 12 Oysters)
3½ oz raw spinach
3 Tablespoons extra dry Brut Champagne taken from the bottle to be drunk with the dish
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons chilled single cream
1/2 oz butter
Handful seaweed
Course salt and pepper

Shuck the Oysters and carefully remove them from their shells with a teaspoon. This operation should be carried out over a strainer held over a small saucepan to catch the juices. Reserve the hollow halves of the shells. Add the 3 tablespoons champagne to the small pan, adding a little pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce over a medium heat until no more than 2 tablespoons of liquid remain. Meanwhile plunge the oysters into very icy cold water for about 20 seconds to firm them up using a slotted spoon.

Pick over and trim the spinach and wash thoroughly. Cook in a minimum of boiling salted water, uncovered for about 3-4 minutes. Refresh in cold water, drain and squeeze out the moisture. Chop coarsely with a knife.

Spread about 7 oz. of course salt on a gratin dish which can fit under a grill, and set the concave shells firmly in it. Dry in a low oven for 5 minutes and keep hot.

Whisk the cream until it is slightly thick and add the egg yolk. Then whisk this mixture vigorously into the champagne reduction in the small saucepan. Heat through, whisking all the time and without boiling - which would coagulate the egg and ruin the sauce. When the sauce has thickened a little, remove from the heat and taste for seasoning.

Heat the grill until it is really hot. Meanwhile, reheat the spinach with a nut of butter. Then put a little spinach in each hot shell. Place an oyster on each and cover lightly with the sauce. Place the gratin dish under the grill until the sauce has formed a golden skin.

Make nest of seaweed on two large plates and plant six shells on each.

Serve very hot with Champagne.




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