Welcome to Bar Bites, our new column all about bar snacks. Marvin Gapultos will be stopping in every week with a new recipe custom-designed to go with your favorite drinks.
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A cold pint of stout and a plate of freshly shucked oysters may seem like an odd coupling at first. But because the waters around England and Ireland were once brimming with oysters, the beer and bivalve pairing became just as natural (though less well-known) as corned beef and cabbage, fish and chips, or Wills and Kate.
Royalty aside, it was actually the proletariat that first discovered the joys of slurping the shellfish with a dark beer chaser—a plate of oysters and a pint of stout or porter made for a cheap working class meal once upon a time. And sure, oysters and stout made sense economically, but they also tasted great together. The dry bitterness and roasty malt flavors of a stout play very well against the sweet and briny flavors of a fresh oyster.
Today, depending on where you live, the time of year, and what sorts of microbrews are available to you, a dozen oysters and a brew ain't exactly cheap. But the complementary flavors of the classic pairing are well worth it—especially when the beer is frozen and flaked into an icy granita that can be spooned over the fresh oyster just before slurpage.
Although granitas are usually sweet icy treats made by first freezing a sweetened liquid or juice, and then scraping the frozen ice into flakes with a fork, the method works just as well with savory flavors too—especially beer.
The beer I chose for this stout granita was Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, which is a bit stronger in flavor (and alcohol) than regular Guinness Stout. If you can't find Guinness FES in your neck of the woods, regular Guinness, or your favorite stout or porter, will work just as well.
In making this granita, I wanted to retain the roasted malt flavors of the beer while also adding flavors that would further enhance the oysters. So the few simple additions of black pepper, shallots, lemon zest, and parsley found their way into my recipe.
Although the bit of lemon zest in this granita lends that burst of citrus flavor that oysters always seem to welcome, I omitted any actual lemon juice because I found that it clashed with the beer. But because oysters always do benefit from a bit of acid, I found that a dash or two of malt vinegar splashed onto the oysters—just before they are dressed with the granita—works wonders. Malt vinegar, after all, is made from beer.
When spooned atop a freshly shucked oyster, this stout granita provides icy texture and coolness, in addition to the traditional stout flavors that have always paired so well with oysters.