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“Seasonal seafood, freshly cooked. Good fish, that’s the hook,” hums Ricky Moore on a sticky July morning in Durham. Ricky is the chef and proprietor of the regionally famed Saltbox Seafood Joint.
The seafood you eat from the Saltbox may as well be seafood you caught. It’s that fresh. This commitment to fresh means the menu is always seasonal. Saltbox only serves what’s being caught. Every visit is a roll of the dice.
“A lot of times people will say ‘Oh, do you have this?’ And I say, ‘No, because it isn’t in season.’ I don’t do a printed out menu because I only serve what the fisherman catch and what’s in season,” says Ricky.
The sea-to-plate philosophy goes hand in hand with the farm-to-fork movement that’s caught fire across the country.
An eastern North Carolina native, Ricky grew up eating local seafood. Serving seasonal isn’t without its challenges, but it’s an nonnegotiable cornerstone of the Saltbox mission — a mission that depends on what commercial fisherman bring to the dock. “Saltbox wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have our local fisherman,” says Ricky. “Let me make that very clear: I won’t compromise that. If it isn’t available right now, then I’m not serving it.”
This week, Ricky more brings us his oh so scrumptious take on oysters on the half shell.
Ricky tells us, “The oysters used in this preparation are coming from Swan Quarter. They were harvested probably two days ago.”
With awe, we present raw oysters on seasoned ice with yellow tomato mignonette, Texas Pete seasoning, smoked paprika, opal basil, and fresh parsley.
Recipe by Ricky Moore, Chef and Owner of Saltbox Seafood Joint 2016
12 large oysters
Cantaloupe Mignonette Sauce, recipe follows
CANTALOUPE MIGNONETTE SAUCE
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 cup cantaloupe, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon sugar
Several turns freshly ground black pepper
For the Oysters:
Begin by shucking oysters. Find a durable, thick cloth and fold it over several times to create a square; this will steady the oysters as you shuck them and also protect your hand. Using the towel as a mitt, hold the oyster firmly on a flat surface. Insert the tip of your oyster knife between the shell halves, and work it around 1 side to the other as you pry it open. Using the knife, cut the muscles away from the top, flat shell, bend the shell back, and discard it. Run the knife underneath the oyster to detach it completely, but leave it in its shell (take care not to cut the meat itself). Nestle the oysters in a bed of crushed ice or wet rock salt to keep them steady. Serve immediately.
For the Cantaloupe Mignonette Sauce:
In a small bowl, combine the rice wine vinegar, shallots, ginger, cantaloupe, sugar and black pepper; mixing with a fork. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to the day before you plan to serve, to allow the flavors to come together. Serve with raw oysters.
Visit Ricky and his team at SALTBOX SEAFOOD JOINT Tuesday through Saturday 11 AM - 7PM, or until the fish runs out. For daily specials and seasonal features, give SALTBOX a follow on Facebook.
CHECK BACK NEXT WEEK FOR A BRAND NEW PIECE OF RICKY'S STORY ACCOMPANIED BY A DELICIOUS SEAFOOD DISH
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