Huddled under the shelter of The Boat Oyster Bar, rain pouring down the eaves of the open air cafe, stands farm chef, Mariko (Ko) Wilkinson. Working at the prep bar, she meticulously constructs a grain salad, dressing the grains with a tamari vinaigrette and topping the plate off with pickled wild mushrooms, microgreens, and crispy shallots. This is a typical day for Ko, working against the serene and quiet backdrop of Tomales Bay, the calm, salty waters gently lapping against the fence around the café, rain or shine.
Ko, who has been with Hog Island since 2014, grew up cooking locally sourced food at an early age. With the rolling hills of Marin County and the rugged coastline of Bolinas as her backyard, she grew up with an instilled sense of appreciation for the outdoors and the many tasty delicacies it has to offer. Whether it was cooking with her mom almost nightly, or foraging with her dad, gathering abalone, mussels and wild mushrooms, she was constantly surrounded by the local bounty Northern California has to offer. Despite having no experience in a commercial kitchen, she knew she wanted to cook, so she left her quiet Marin County home and headed to culinary school where her career blossomed.
Now, back home in Northern California, Ko cooks simple, locally sourced dishes at The Boat Oyster Bar at our farm in Marshall, CA. She finds inspiration for her dishes from her weekly farmers’ market visits, where she can chat with the farmers and see what’s in season. “It just makes sense to eat things seasonally”, she says, “things that grow at the same time naturally pair well with each other and everything tastes better when it’s at its prime.”
Here at Hog Island, we care deeply about the environment. Our commitment to the planet is equally as important as our desire to provide you with the best oysters possible. We grow, harvest and serve sustainable shellfish and serve it alongside locally sourced produce from farmers throughout the Bay Area, doing what we can to live and work as “green” as possible.
With St. Patty’s Day just around the corner, we knew we wanted to play off the “green theme” in our own way. The idea for grilled, green oysters seemed like the perfect fit! Inspired by a recipe from Ko, from our first Farm Dinner (read more about them here), we decided to have each oyster bar create their own “green” oyster. Her recipe, which showcases our beautiful Sweetwater oysters, boasts a vividly green sauce, chock-full of local produce. Ko, who spends a good amount of her free time foraging for wild mushrooms, knew she wanted to create a sauce with mushrooms. Drawing on inspiration from her farmers’ market visits, she decided on a cream based sauce with oyster mushrooms, leeks, kale, sherry vinegar and candied bacon. With the theme of locavore dining as the driving vision, most all ingredients were sourced from farmers in Marin county – cream from Straus Family Creamery, Devil’s Gulch bacon, wild mushrooms from Far West Fungi, and leeks and kale from Paradise Valley Produce in Bolinas. The combination was instantly a hit, with attendees from our Farm Dinner begging us for the recipe. Well, your prayers (and emails, phone calls, notes etc.) have been answered. Ko’s recipe for Grilled Green Oysters & Ham is below!
Grilled Green Oysters & Ham
For this recipe, you will need to plan ahead and make it either 4-6 hours before, or even a day ahead of grilling day, this is a crucial element to maintaining the bright green color that gives these oysters their festive appearance. It’s also important to note the lack of salt in the recipe, this is on purpose, all the salt you will need will come from the oysters and the bacon.
- 2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
- ½ pound wild mushrooms (any type of mushroom will do as long as they are light in color. Oyster mushrooms, chanterelles or hedgehog are my favorites)
- ¼ cup leeks, small diced
- 1 Tbsp. spring garlic, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. Sherry wine
- 1 pint half & half
- ½ cup kale puree
- 4 pieces bacon, thick cut
- 1 dozen small Hog Island Sweetwater oysters
*If you’re lucky enough to find a farmers market with all of the above ingredients available, I recommend purchasing from there to experience the magic that can be the “farm to plate” experience, it really does make a difference in so many ways.
Step 1: Making your mushroom base. (Use any type of mushroom you like as long as they are a light colored mushroom so that you don’t muddy up the color of your base). Sweat the mushrooms and leeks in the butter until all of the water has evaporated, add garlic and sweat for another minute, deglaze with sherry and cook for another minute, add half and half and reduce by half at a gentle simmer. You want it to thicken but not too much as it will thicken a little bit during the grilling process. Your mushroom base is done and should go into the fridge to chill COMPLETELY.
Step 2: Making your kale puree. Blanch 1 quart of packed kale leaves. (Restaurant secret here is to “blanch and shock” your kale to help maintain its bright green vibrancy.) Boil a large pot of water, clean the kale by removing the stems. Prepare an ice bath, you want this ready before you blanch your kale, and make sure it has plenty of ice. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the kale and “blanch” until just tender, you want to rid the kale of its raw flavor but also maintain its vitality. Next, you “shock” the kale by submerging it in the ice bath, give it a couple swishes to really get it cold.
Wait 5 minutes and then remove the kale, no need to squeeze out any water as you will need some to help make your puree. Puree kale until smooth, use a couple drops of the ice water if it needs a little help. The most crucial part is to wait until your mushroom base is completely chilled to the core, and then add your kale puree and whisk to combine. It will turn your base a pleasant pastel green, don’t worry it turns a bright kelly green once cooked. (Tip: avoid putting any vinegar or lemon juice into the sauce, it’s tempting I know but it will ruin all of your hard work and turn it gray!)
Step 3: Making your candied bacon. (I prefer thick cut bacon over thin and flabby, but don’t we all?) Dice your bacon into some nice sized pieces, between ¼-½ inch sized and render until crispy. You can also get creative and sprinkle a layer of brown sugar on the bacon just before it is fully crisped, let that sugar caramelize, and then sprinkle some fancy chili flakes such as Marash or Aleppo right at the end so that it doesn’t burn. Drain and set aside to cool, store in an airtight container to keep them crunchy.
Step 4: The oysters!! Shuck your oysters and leave them in the half shell, this will be your cooking and serving vessel, then pour enough of the kale sauce on to just cover the oyster meat. Grill on medium high heat until bubbling and all of the sauce has converted from pastel green to kelly green. Garnish with bacon and devour!
Celebrate spring green for St. Patrick’s Day with us! From 3/17 – 3/20 all Hog Island Oyster Bar locations in Marshall, San Francisco, and Napa will be featuring a chef’s special Green Grilled Oyster, inspired by Ko’s recipe, the green of spring and the bounty of our local farmers’ markets. Creamy leek & kale grilled oysters in Marshall; grilled green harissa oysters, oysters Rockefeller, and jalapeño grilled oysters in Napa and Chimichurri grilled oysters in San Francisco! Stop on by and get your green on at all three locations, share your visits on social media and you will be entered to win a $100 Hog card and a hog shirt or hat of your choice! Keep an eye out on Instagram and Facebook for more details!