By Chef-Owner at Splendido, Victor Barry
When I was growing up in Southern Ontario, I used to go camping a lot with my dad.
And for some reason, we always used to end up eating the same thing by the campfire at night: smoked oysters from a can and boiled potatoes. I don’t know why. I actually hated those tinned oysters. Anyway, a long time later—a couple of years after I bought Splendido—I was working on putting together a new starter for a tasting menu. I had Thomas Keller’s “oysters and pearls” on my mind, and then for some reason I started thinking about eating those potatoes and tinned oysters by the smoky campfire when I was a kid. It all came together in this little dish. That was 2011, and it’s still on the menu. It’s our signature amuse-bouche.
– Victor Barry
Mini potato chips:
- 1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled
- 1 L (1 quart) canola or other frying oil
Salt Potato foam:
- 3 medium Yukon gold potatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 125 mL (½ cup) whipping cream
- 125 mL (½ cup) whole milk
- 1 stick (¼ lb) butter
- 100 mL (3 fl oz) whipping cream
- 454 g (1 lb) cold cubed butter— smoked, if possible
- 4 large freshly shucked oysters, drained
- Wood chips for smoking
- Lemon juice
- 1 tbsp finely minced chives • Salt
4 (as an amuse-bouche)
To make the potato chips, heat oil to 150°C (300°F). Slice potato extremely thin on a mandolin. Punch identical sized circles out of each slice with a small ring cutter. Then in small batches deep fry the individual, identical potato disks until golden. Remove to drain on paper towels, and season with salt while still very hot. (Note: Only 12 are required.) Set aside.
Combine potatoes, bay leaves, thyme and a generous lashing of salt in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and then bring to a boil on high heat. Lower to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, combine cream, milk and butter in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer—then keep warm. Drain potatoes, peel, and pass through a ricer or drum sieve back into their pot. Return it to a low heat and stir in the cream mixture. The mixture should be fairly wet. If not, add more cream. Funnel into chamber of an iSi Whip (or other CO2 charger) and keep warm in hot water. (If you have an immersion circulator, set it to 48°C (118°F).
For the beurre monté, in a saucepan on medium heat, reduce cream by half—whisking frequently so that it does not stick to the bottom or sides of the pot. Whisk in butter one piece at a time. If the mixture becomes too thick, thin it by whisking in a few drops of cold water. Keep warm (but not hot, or it will split).
To finish, transfer half the warm beurre monté to a separate saucepan. Place on a simmering plate and add the oysters until heated through and just beginning to firm—one to two minutes. Brighten the reserved beurre monté with lemon juice to taste. Stir in chives and salt to taste. Meanwhile, transfer woodchips to a metal plate, and light with a blowtorch. Let burn for about 20 to 30 seconds, then extinguish by placing an inverted large bowl on top. Invert CO2 charger, and discharge a golf ball-sized dollop of potato foam onto each of four warmed small plates or saucers. With a slotted spoon remove the poached oysters from the beurre monté and place on top of the potato foam. Dress each oyster with 1 tbsp of the chiveand-lemon enhanced beurre monté. Arrange three potato chips on top of each oyster. Finally, lift the mixing bowl from the wood chips and successively capture the smoke inside four inverted teacups. Place the smoke-filled cups upside down on top of the oyster composition—and only remove them at the table—unveiling the dish and unleashing its smoke simultaneously.