New Year's food in the United States is a truly culinary celebration that definitely includes oysters.
The 17th century Dutch settlers in the Hudson River Valley welcomed the New Year by "opening the house" to family and friends. The story of Ichabod Crane in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleeping Hollow features just such a festive gathering.
When the Dutch government ceded the Hudson River Valley and the Island of Manhattan to the English in exchange for the East Indies Spice Island, the English were quick to adapt the Dutch tradition of New Year’s Open House with a few additions.
Gone was the casual just-drop-by Dutch attitude accompanied by honey cookies, olykoek doughnuts and beer. Instead, the English set visitation hours and expanded the menu to include oysters, oysters, oysters. Among those who loved oysters was George Washington. After his first inauguration, he opened his home in the nation’s new capital of Philadelphia and served, you guessed it, oysters, oysters, oysters.
Yet despite the North’s enthusiastic hospitality, it was the South that established the grandest traditions. Starting in the Carolinas but extending throughout the South, ‘one-eyed’ black-eyed peas were believed to bring luck and the oysters (which plump up when cooking) meant the diner would enjoy a growing fortune in the future.
The well-set southern sideboard tables offered raw oysters on the half shell, mock turtle soup, roasted oysters, oyster soufflés, scalloped oysters, jellied oysters, cold slaw garnished with fried oysters, oyster rice, oyster gumbo, oysters with green apple mignonette and low country oyster dressing to name just a few of the favorite shellfish dishes.
All are fantastic but one favorite is oysters with…
Green Apple Mignonette
- 1/3 cup finely chopped Granny Smith apple (about 1/4 large apple)
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Stir together first 6 ingredients.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Let stand 20 minutes before serving.