"This dish has all the cheesy, satisfying qualities of a potato gratin but adds coastal New England flavors with East Coast oysters. This recipe uses Island Creek oysters, grown in the Duxbury Bay not far from where the Mayflower landed for the first Thanksgiving."
Total: 20 minutes
12 large oysters (such as Island Creeks)
1 small leek, (the white part only) split lengthwise and washed
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup diced, uncooked slab bacon
1 tablespoon paprika
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon freshly chopped tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 cups kosher salt for baking, plus more to taste
freshly ground white pepper, to taste
box of salt, for salt mound (see below)
1. Shuck the oysters, saving the bottom shell and meat separately. Clean out shells and set aside. Refrigerate oyster meat covered with plastic wrap until ready to use.
2. Preheat a grill pan or saute pan over medium-high heat. Brush the leeks with a little bit of the oil and place both halves on hot grill or saute pan, flat side down. Cook for one minute, then roll onto its side; repeat twice to grill all sides. The leeks should not be fully cooked but should have a little color from the pan. Let cool slightly; slice into thin half circles.
3. In a saute pan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat, add the bacon, and cook until it begins to brown, approximately four to five minutes. Drain off all but two tablespoons of the fat and add paprika, leeks, and garlic. Cook for two minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, careful not to let the mixture burn. Remove from the heat and fold in breadcrumbs, tarragon, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season with salt and white pepper.
4. Heat oven to 400°F.
5. Mix a little water into one to two cups of salt to make a paste. Mound the paste into a long, flat pedestal on a baking sheet. Place cleaned oyster shells on top of the mound. Place an oyster in each shell and spoon the leek mixture over the oyster meat so that it is completely covered. Bake the oysters for eight minutes, then turn the broiler on and cook for two more minutes.
6. To serve, create small mounds of salt paste on a large serving platter and place baked oysters on top of the mounds.