Belons are back! If you haven't had the pleasure, we are very much of the opinion that everyone should try them - at least once and perhaps even two or three times. Why?
Well, we always suggest tasting an oyster sans-toppings first and then with whatever your preferred sauce or garnish may be. This method allows you to both experience all the intricacies of the oyster itself and "choose your own adventure" with whatever toppings you like best. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy oysters. After all, taste is subjective.
Belons in particular tend to be one of the most polarizing bi-valves. Their unique metallic flavor is often likened to sucking on a penny or, even more off-putting, licking batteries. For me, Belons stand in stark contrast to most other oysters in a few ways; the most obvious being their appearance. Belons (Ostrea edulis) are round and flat whereas most other Atlantic oysters (Crassostrea virginica) tend to be teardrop-shaped with nice, deep cups. Beyond that, their flavors frankly couldn't be more different.
I can easily knock back a dozen or two east coast oysters in one sitting but Belons? Maybe two, total. That being said, I've only ever tried Belons raw. When I learned they were about to be in season, I did some research and found a few recipes for cooking them. This particularly interested me (an avid home cook always looking for exciting new recipes) as I had sneaky feeling that broiling them would change their flavor drastically and maybe even take that lingering tingly sensation down a notch or two...
And, boy, was I right! These were like no Belons I have ever tasted. Their normally over-the-top metallic flavor mellowed significantly. Their chewiness dissipated to reveal supple meats bustling with flavor. By adding just a few simple ingredients, I was able to balance out the overwhelming bitterness. They didn't lose their minerality, but were transformed into a delicate balance of salty, sweet, sour, and savory. Their now tender meats were perfectly complimented by the smoky crunch of toasted panko and the bright, fresh flavor of the scallions.
Needless to say, I ate them all - in one sitting. Truth be told, I didn't even bother to plate them. I ate them right off the baking sheet and would highly recommend you do the same!
Broiled Belons with Nori Butter
Yield: 4 Servings (3 oysters each)
Time: Approximately 45 minutes
1 sheet nori
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) room temp
1 T salt
1 t black pepper
1/4 cup panko
1 t olive oil
12 belon oysters
Toast nori on a baking sheet in the oven @ 250 for about 15 minutes, or until crisp and fragrant.
Grind toasted nori into a powder using mortar and pestle.
Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add butter, salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
Chill seaweed butter until firm.
[seaweed butter will keep for up to one week in the fridge or one month in the freezer]
Rinse belons in cool water.
Toss panko with olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat, 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning.
Shuck belons, discarding top shells. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet.
Top each belon with about 1/2 t seaweed butter + 1 t toasted panko.
Broil until butter is bubbling, about 2 minutes.
Carefully transfer to a serving plate and garnish with a squeeze of lemon and chopped scallions.