Huitres à la Bordelaise, Crépinette de Porc à l’Echalote
Preparation Trumps Complication
Despite the fact that this recipe looks complicated with lots of steps, it’s basically oysters and meatballs! You can eat either of these separately, but also together, who knew?, to pack a one-two nutrient-dense punch for your health, because it combines zinc and selenium-rich oysters with nutrient-dense pork balls (containing pork fat, meat and liver, and let’s not forget the all-powerful but under-exploited vitamin-rich parsley). Plus, you can double the recipe, make bunches of meatballs in advance and freeze them for future snacks and meals when you have less time to prepare a meal. So make this recipes on a day you have set aside several hours for prepping meals ahead for the week. This is one key to success to having access during the busy times of the week: prepared, homemade food! The oysters must be consumed immediately, of course, particularly once opened. So that’s a fun way to invite some friends over and share a meal, making sure one of them knows how to open an oyster! (This is a skill I have yet to master!)
For the Oysters
36 Oysters (6 per person)
Large Sea Salt Crystals
Open the oysters carefully with the appropriate dull, thick blade of an oyster knife. (Two short videos on opening an oyster: British and American. In both of these videos, they say to hang onto the water in the oyster and to detach the oyster from its shell upon opening. They emphasize using a towel to protect your hands!)
Chef Fred’s Tip: No need to hang onto that water that sprays or drips out of the shell upon opening. Do use a towel, however, he did not in the photos, but don’t try that at home! Also, the French leave the detaching of the oyster from it’s half shell to the consumer of the oyster by supplying them with a nice oyster fork! This ensures freshness at consumption as well.
Place the oysters on each place over some large sea salt crystals, it looks pleasing, and holds the half shell in place on the plate!
For the Meatballs (Warning: lots of “weird” ingredients here! Feel free to improvise!)
350g (1.5 cups or 12.5 oz) Pork Liver
300g (1.3 cups or 10.5 oz) “Fatback” (see “Lard Explained” note below); Lard in French
300g (1.3 cups or 10.5 oz) Pork Neck; Gorge de Porc in French
Flat Parsley, handful, or half a bunch, leaves removed from stems
1g (one Pinch!) Ground Nutmeg (freshly ground or already powdered)
400g (1.7 cups or 14 oz) Pork Caul (see “Lard Explained” note below)
30g (1 oz or 4 tbsp) Unsalted Butter (Option for Casein Intolerant: Olive Oil or Lard)
100g (0.4 cups or 3.5 oz) Liquid “Leaf” Lard (see “Lard Explained” note below); Saindoux in French
3 shallots, finely chopped
Freshly Ground Pepper
Fine Sea Salt
Rinse the Pork Caul in cold water.
Place fineley chopped Shallots into a large mixing bowl.
Grind the Liver, Fatback, Pork Neck and Parsley leaves in a meat grinder to a medium consistency (not too fine) and add to the mixing bowl.
Add Salt and Pepper generously.
Add Nutmeg and MIX everything well by hand.
Spread the Caul out on a large cutting board and cut the caul into about 18 rectangular pieces, or make meatballs into about a teaspoon to tablespoon size ball and place them on the caul as you go, cutting around each meatball; the caul will be your “envelope” or covering, around the meatball.)
Chef Fred’s Tip: You can place a small torn piece of Laurel Leaf at each spot on the caul where you will place a meatball. The laurel leaf adds to the flavor and aroma of the finished product.
Place the meatballs in a frying pan with the Leaf lard and butter (or other lard or oil), sautéing them on medium high for several minutes on each side until they are cooked through (or place them covered in the oven to roast.)
Place the finished meatballs, one on each oyster. The warm flavor of the pork meat contrasts nicely with the fresh, cold, salty, iodized flavors of the oyster.
Accompanying Wine: A light red, a crisp white or Bordeaux Sweet!
I am posting this oyster and pork meatballs (crépinettes) recipe now because I just worked on it with my Bordeaux-born pal Chef Fred on Instagram at: FREDO_TRUCK_ and am so excited to share it. Plus, oysters are almost always in season in Bordeaux! In fact, the Bordelais eat oysters for Christmas! Chef Fred is a wizard when it comes to dreaming up recipes, though he says this dish is one from this region of France. I am nevertheless grateful to him for his creativity and generosity!
When it comes to oysters and liver, those are about the two most nutrient-dense foods you can consume. But don’t take my word for it, check out Mark Sisson’s article on Mark’s Daily Apple. Everything we eat affects us, so why not go for the things that heal and maintain our health rather than those that do not? This is a question I now ask myself every time I eat or am offered something to eat. Sometimes, when confronted with a whipped cream-laden hot chocolate, I tend to have amnesia in this regard. (This might be referred to as the 80/20 rule whereby most of the time you are on your own “right track” and occasionally, you fall off the wagon, but get back on and keep on rolling.) Dr. Terry Wahls, who beat MS using primarily food and lifestyle modifications, discusses the choices one makes between healing vs. harmful foods in The Wahls Protocol.
Pork Caul is the thin membrane of fat surrounding the intestines of the pig. Because it is thin and malleable, it is helpful in holding things together, like the ground meat of a meatball, as in this recipe. Fatback is the subcutaneous fat between skin and muscle on the back of the pig. Leaf lard is the highest grade lard from surrounding the visceral organs. Wikipedia has an entire Lard explanation.
Nose to Tail
Fergus Henderson’s book The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating provides us with a foundation for the modern (though actually very primal and ancestral) concept of Nose To Tail Eating. I would love to get that book! (So many cookbooks, so little time!) Pork, which has a long history of being rich man’s and poor man’s foods in societies over the millennia (check out Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig) is available year-round and the lard and fat in a dish like this really satiates as the cooler fall weather arrives.
This recipe incorporates the ancestral notion of eating the whole animal to derive the most nutrient density and economical potential from the animal. Why would you waste any of it? So many parts of the whole with which to create delicious meals! No waste! Economical! (The Weston A. Price Foundation is founded on the premise of nutrient-dense foods, the way traditional, ancestral societies nourished themselves.) When you eat oysters, you are eating the whole animal. As for the meatballs in this recipe, as you can see from the ingredients list, so many parts of the pig, including the liver are included.
A Sense of Community and Economy
Chef Fred explained to me that in a bygone era, French villagers slaughtered their own pigs, making their own products and preserves from these to last through the winter. Indeed, my own German ancestors did this, even up until about 15 years ago, my uncle and aunt in Germany slaughtered a village pig annually to be able to create their own sausages to eat year round. This was a most economical and quality-assured way to feed one’s family, as they knew the farmer who raised the pigs as well as his farm. It also brought the family together, with my uncle’s brothers joining to help, each with his own skill set to contribute to the sausage, meat and preserves production in the cellar of my aunt and uncle’s home. In France, this is no longer allowed in villages. Pigs must be taken to special slaughterhouses, which, of course, costs the individual much more. At any rate, by eating nose to tail, we receive a variety of nutrients, similarly as we do when we eat vegetables of all colors of the rainbow.
If you have read all the way to here, thank you for your attention! I know the pork part of this recipe looks very complicated, but actually, you could just form some ground pork and onions into little balls and call it a day. Again, as with most recipes, you can improvise! I actually don’t like following recipes. Maybe it’s an inability to focus on the page or to take the time to read and prepare all the ingredients. The fun part is in just mixing whatever I have and fitting a recipe to that. Hopefully the next recipe will take me less that two weeks to write up! Bon Appetit!