For twenty-two years Puerto Vallarta – a food tourism powerhouse – has hosted the Festival Gourmet International attracting an eclectic and enthusiastic mix of international and Mexican chefs eager to turn the nation’s premium food products into culinary art works. Among many highlights of the 2016 festival were cooking demonstrations, tastings and special festival menus created by guest chefs at A-list Puerto Vallarta restaurants.
Since I have a passion for oysters, two dishes created by Mexican chef Luis Noriega and Japanese-American chef Hiroshi Kawahito were particular favorites. Mexico’s northwest Pacific coast – particularly Puerto Vallarta’s Bay of Banderas and the Gulf of California – produce both excellent oysters and sea urchins.
Chef Heinz Reize has owned the beautiful oceanfront Coco Tropical on the Malecon for years and is a co-founder of Puerto Vallarta’s Festival Gourmet International. Coco Tropical’s guest chef Luis Noriega’s international career has taken him from Acapulco, Europe to owner of Restaurant La Gula in Zihuatanejo. His inspired festival menu for Coco Tropical included grilled oysters over wilted spinach with chipotle hollandaise sauce.
Oysters au gratin with Chipotle Hollandaise Sauce
Ingredients for the oysters:
- 12 each fresh oysters on the half shell
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
- 5 tablespoons dry white wine
- 1 each shallot, finely chopped
- 1 each clove garlic, finely chopped
- several drops Worchester sauce
- pinch black pepper
- pinch salt
Ingredients for the Hollandaise Sauce:
- 4 each egg yolks
- 10 ounces clarified butter
- 3 ounces white wine
- 1 each chipotle chili liquefied in a blender with a small amount of white wine
- pinch salt
for the oysters
- Shuck oysters but reserve bottom shell. Wash and dry the shells.
- Sauté spinach, onion and garlic with 4 tablespoons of butter, salt, pepper and Worchester sauce.
- Saute oysters in a seperate pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter for 1 minute. Add the white wine and reduce for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove both pans from the heat but keep warm.
for the Hollandaise Sauce
- In a stainless steel bowl set over another pan with hot water beat the egg yolks, white wine and salt with a wire whisk until slightly thickened and creamy.
- Slowly add the clarified butter in a thin stream whisking constantly until the sauce is smooth.
- Blend in the chili puree.
- Divide the spinach among the 12 reserved shells on a baking dish.
- Top each with an oyster.
- Cover with Hollandaise Sauce.
- If you have a gas torch, gently brown the top or place the oysters under the broiler until lightly browned.
Serve immediately with a crisp, dry white wine such as Monte Xanic Sauvignon Blanc from Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley.
Chef Hiroshi Kawahito of Restaurant Zoku in Mexico City epitomizes the international trend that’s creating Mexican New World Cuisine. Born in Japan, grew up in Los Angeles, Chef Kawahito returned to his home country after university studies in architecture. Drawn to Japanese cooking he honed his skills over a decade and a half before returning to Los Angeles.
Despite a successful Los Angeles restaurant experience, Mexico attracted Hiroshi, and Zoku offered a venue for his imaginative Japanese inspired cuisine. During the 22nd annual Festival Gourmet International held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, he was quest chef at Casa Magna Marriott’s Japanese/pan-Pacific Rim restaurant Mikado.
Chef Kawahito’s recipe for raw oysters with sea urchin and quail eggs is not for the faint of heart. Yet for a true lover of raw food, I enjoyed ever morsel. It’s imperative that the ingredients are as fresh as possible and purchased from shops selling the highest quality ingredients.
Fresh sea urchin is available at Japanese or other specialty seafood markets. If you can’t find fresh sea urchin but want to sample this dish simply double the quantity of salmon caviar, or substitute two tablespoons of golden caviar. Gently wash the quail eggs with warm water and dry before cracking them open.
Raw oysters with sea urchin & quail eggs
- 12 each fresh oysters on the half shell
- 2 each sea urchin tongues thinly slivered
- 2 tablespoons salmon caviar
- 12 each quail eggs
- Shuck the oysters and discard the top shell.
- Top each oyster with some sea urchin and ½ teaspoon caviar.
- Carefully break a quail egg over each oyster being careful not to break the yolks.
- Serve immediately.
I often don’t think of sake as a dinner wine, but Chef Kawahito dispelled that myth pairing the oysters with a glass of chilled Sawanotsuru Itsuraku Premium Grade Sake. It’s mild umami notes and dry finish were perfect.
When you go:
Puerto Vallarta is served by many international airlines.
The 23rd Festival Gourmet International will be held November 10 – 19, 2017.
Disclosure: the author was a guest of the Festival Gourmet International, Puerto Vallarta Tourism, Restaurant Coco Tropical, the Mikado at Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa, Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel and Hotel Cathedral.
Additional Puerto Vallarta articles by Chef Marc d’Entremont:
Vegan Chef Christian Krebs wows Puerto Vallarta
Cruising Bahía de Banderas with Mike’s Fishing Charters
Discovering the meaning of pride in Puerto Vallarta
Villa Premiere: excellence by design in Puerto Vallarta
Mexican New World Cuisine at Festival Gourmet International
Angus Beef recipe, Chef Luis Noriega and Puerto Vallarta
Wagu Tatki and Japanese Mexican Fusion
You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:
Hellenic News of America
Travel Pen and Palate Argentina
Original World Insights
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