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Ostriche del Mar Piccolo

24 oysters
Coarsely chopped fronds from a bulb of fennel
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 fat cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and finely minced
1 small bulb fennel, very finely minced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup dry white wine


Scrub and open the oysters, reserving their liquors. Loosen the flesh of each oyster from the lower, curved shell and position the meat and shell bottom in a shallow terra-cotta or enameled cast-iron gratin dish. Tuck a few pieces of fennel frond in each shell under the oyster. Discard the top shells. In a saute pan over a lively flame, warm the olive oil and soften the garlic and fennel to translucence, adding the fennel seeds, the sea salt, and the lemon juice and stirring it all about for another minute. Spoon a bit of the mixture over each oyster and place the dish several inches below a very hot broiler for a minute or two to lightly brown the topping and to barely warm the oysters. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, warm the wine with 1/3 cup of the reserved oyster liquor nearly to a simmer. Remove the dish from the oven and quickly, gently pour the hot wine and oyster liquor into the dish, taking care not to disturb the oysters. The hot liquids against the hot pan will send up beautiful vapors, finish warming the oysters, and build a little sauce. Present the oysters at once with rough hunks of just-toasted bread to use as sops for the juices and jugs of cold white wine. It seems a better feast if each one takes an oyster or two at a time with spoonfuls of the sauce to his own plate, then goes back for another and another, the oysters staying warm in their cozy dish. At the last, its a free-for-all to swoop up the last of the liquors with the last of the bread.

Source: www.epicurious.com