Charred Oysters – Simplify Your Life

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AuthorGuest ChefCategoryDifficultyIntermediate

Born and raised in St. Pete, Chef David Benstock left the area to pursue an education in the culinary arts. He studied at Johnson and Wales University in Colorado and has cooked all over the world. He helped open Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Bachelor Gulch, Co., worked at Michelin Star Restaurant The Modern in NYC, trained in Venice, Italy, and cooked alongside Scott Conant at Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau, Miami.

After nearly a decade away, David came home to open his own restaurant in downtown St. Pete. Il Ritorno, “the return” in Italian, marks his homecoming and one of many restarts in his life. In just a few years, Il Ritorno has become a staple in Tampa Bay’s culinary scene, holding down the heart of a city in the midst of its own restart.

"We want to give our guests a new experience each time they come into our restaurant," said Chef David. "While training in Italy I picked up the practice of baking fresh bread daily, rolling fresh pasta daily and going to the market to get local produce and fish. Our menu changes constantly based on what is in season, and which high-quality, fresh ingredients are available."

Il Ritorno continues to run during the COVID-19 Pandemic, offering family meals and carryout options to St Petersburg locals. You can find their latest specials on their Il Ritorno Facebook page. Owners Chef David and Erica Benstock have also been providing meals to medical staff during this time and recently donated $1,000 in gift cards to St. Anthony's Hospital's emergency department. 

Charred Oysters - Simplify Your Life

Chef David Benstock shows how delicious and flavorful a charred oyster can be. With simple Italian touches, this flavor-packed oyster will become your favorite party appetizer or afternoon treat.

 This is a dish created for every palate - it's that good!

A few things first. There are a few words in this recipe that may seem foreign to you and a couple of ingredients that you might now recognize. So allow us to break it down for you.

Guanciale 

Guanciale is an Italian cured meat product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks. Its name is derived from guancia, the Italian word for 'cheek'. Although this is available in Italian markets, like Mazzaro's in St Petersburg, Florida, you can easily substitute guanciale with bacon. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on guanciale, however, you'll be in for a flavorful treat. If you're interested in ordering guanciale from the comfort of your home, you can order some here, or by clicking the image below.

Lardons

When Chef David says to render off lardons of guanciale (bacon) until crispy, he simply means to slice or dice the bacon and sauté until crispy. Since the strips are already about ¼-inch thick, all you need to do is to dice them. If a subtler smoky flavor is what you want, blanch the bits in boiling water before rendering. To render, cook the bacon in a skillet over low heat.

Calabrese (Calabrian) Chili

Calabrian Chili can be purchased as a paste or as whole chili peppers. The Calabrian Chili peppers are a variety of peppers that originates from the Calabrian region of Italy. The chili is small but oozes flavor, with a combination and variety of tastes that is simply unique. Although predominantly spicy, there is also a salty, smoky and even fruity taste to this delicious peppers. You can also swap the pepper for a drop of Calabrese Chili Oil

Osyters

Although Chef David hasn't made any recommendations for the type of oyster to use, we'll suggest our local Florida favorites - Alligator Harbor Oysters farmed by Oyster Boss and distributed by Benny B's Seafood Trading Company Inc.. Although Benny B's supplies both restaurants and larger supply companies with fresh oysters throughout the state of Florida, these days the company is going direct to consumer. You can contact Benny B to order your fresh oysters today!

Yields4 Servings
Prep Time10 minsCook Time5 minsTotal Time15 mins

 12 Oysters
 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
 2 tbsp Calabrese (Calabrian) Chili, diced
 1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
 2 tbsp Chives, Sliced
 4 Strips 1/4 inch thick guanciale (or bacon), sliced vertically into lardons

1

Shuck Oysters (or purchase pre-schucked from local market)

2

Sprinkle four drops of lemon juice on each oyster

3

Place small piece of Calabrian Chili on top of oyster.

4

Cover oyster with Parmesan cheese.

5

Bake in oven at 350 until melted OR place on grill until cheese is melted.

6

Render off lardons of guanciale (bacon) until crispy, use to garnish oyster.

7

Finish with sliced chives on top.

Chef David Benstock, Photo by the Hype Group

Ingredients

 12 Oysters
 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
 2 tbsp Calabrese (Calabrian) Chili, diced
 1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
 2 tbsp Chives, Sliced
 4 Strips 1/4 inch thick guanciale (or bacon), sliced vertically into lardons

Directions

1

Shuck Oysters (or purchase pre-schucked from local market)

2

Sprinkle four drops of lemon juice on each oyster

3

Place small piece of Calabrian Chili on top of oyster.

4

Cover oyster with Parmesan cheese.

5

Bake in oven at 350 until melted OR place on grill until cheese is melted.

6

Render off lardons of guanciale (bacon) until crispy, use to garnish oyster.

7

Finish with sliced chives on top.

Charred Oysters – Simplify Your Life

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