Necessity-and hunger- is the mother of invention. One fine winter day, we wound up with an extra bushel of oysters at the restaurant. One thing led to another, and this was the serendipitous result.
Serves 4 to 6
Celery Root Bechamel
2 cups celery root, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Coarse salt, to taste
1 large bunch collard greens, cleaned
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
3 cloves garlic, finely grated
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons honey
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
Coarse salt, to taste
12 large Apalachicola oysters
3/4 cup Pickled Ham Hock meat (Pantry, page 238)
- Combine celery root, cream, milk, and a large pinch of salt in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Cook until celery root is soft, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture turns golden and smells nutty. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Once celery root is soft, puree mixture in a blender until smooth. Return puree to the pot and heat until just bubbling. Whisk in butter-flour mixture, a bit at a time, until mixture thickens.
- Finished béchamel should be the consistency of warm mashed potatoes.
Make braised collard greens
- Separate collard leaves from stems. Slice leaves into 2-inch strips. Rinse strips with cold running water to remove dirt.
- Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent and soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
- Add collards, chicken stock, crushed red pepper flakes, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt.
- Simmer, uncovered, until collards are tender and liquid is almost completely reduced.
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
- Scrub oysters clean under cold running water.
- Shuck oysters. Discard top shell and reserve bottom shells. Set oysters aside in a small bowl. Scrub and rinse bottom shells again and pat dry.
- Arrange cleaned bottom shells on a baking sheet. Place one shucked oyster into each shell; dollop each with béchamel, top with pickled ham hock, and a small spoonful of braised collards. Bake until bubbling, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Serve on a plate lined with rock salt.