Sur Lie opened somewhat quietly early last October on Free Street in Portland, Maine. But it didn’t take long for the tapas-style restaurant to become a major player in the city’s dining scene. Chef Emil Rivera’s small-plates menu is inventive, yet never veers into that over-the-top, trying-too-hard territory. We’ve especially enjoyed the luscious rabbit rillettes, fried, milk-braised cauliflower with honey-soy glaze, and the local cheese platters, and there’s a lot more we’d like to try.
Along with icing a layer cake, baking a flaky pie crust and making killer spaghetti carbonara, one of the kitchen skills of which I am most proud is learning how to open oysters.
I’m not fast, and I don’t always get the oyster shucked clean from the shell without mangling it a little. Ted is much better, and as a result, generally does the most of the job while I mix the cocktail sauce.
We love raw oysters on the half shell to the point of obsession, so knowing how to shuck them at home saves us a considerable amount of money. And since we happen to live in an oyster-growing state, we are lucky to get local ones (except in the dead of winter, when they may be from the Canadian Maritimes).
Certain varieties are easier to open than others. Ask your fishmonger to guide you. We like Flying Points, a clean-tasting, meaty oyster harvested right up the way from us in Freeport, Maine. They are large enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand and while they can chip, the shells are not as fragile as other varieties. When you’re a novice, you want a sturdy oyster.
We first discovered poke (pronounced “po-keh”) on a trip to Maui a few years ago. The mix of bite sized cubes of super-fresh raw fish — usually ahi tuna — sesame oil, soy sauce, chili flakes, sweet Maui onion and scallions is ubiquitous in Hawaii, enjoyed as a snack or an appetizer. Fancy restaurants present it in coconut shells and it’s scooped out like potato salad from the deli case at supermarkets. We ate it with our fingers on the beach, washed down with ice cold Bikini Blond Lager from Maui Brewing Co.
You may well wonder: Why are we doing this recipe now, when Cinco de Mayo was Tuesday?
Well, first of all, Mexicans don’t actually celebrate the day their country drove out the invading French — or at least they don’t get drunk on tequila like Americans do — but WE are celebrating the launch of chef Shannon Bard’s debut cookbook, “Gourmet Mexican Kitchen.”
If you live in New England, you know that tomorrow, Monday, April 20, is Patriots’ Day — the annual observance of the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, which started the Revolutionary War. Since 1969, it’s been a holiday in Massachusetts and Maine (and a “special observance day” in Wisconsin, whatever that means).
For the last 118 years, it’s also been the day of the Boston Marathon.