When someone is referred to as being a Louisiana-style chef, images of étouffées and gumbos with crawfish nearby usually come to mind. Well, Donald Link is such a chef, but the names of two of his restaurants – Cochon (located in New Orleans) and Cochon Lafayette – acknowledge that pork has always been an important part of the rural Louisiana diet. The two Cochons take basic pork dishes, including boudin and cracklins, and add his creative touch. Herbsaint, Link’s first restaurant, named after a popular New Orleans anise-flavored liqueur, adds the city’s Creole touch. Upstairs from the original Cochon, a space for private parties is called Calcasieu, the parish where Link was raised. (He was born in Roberts Cove near Rayne and grew up in Lake Charles.) The James Beard Foundation; Gourmet Magazine; and New Orleans Magazine, which once named him Chef of the Year, have honored Link and his restaurants. He says the Cajun and Southern cooking of his grandparents inspired him. Diners now have a chance to be inspired, too.
Grilled Oysters with Garlic-Chile Butter
Makes 1/2 pound compound butter
Compound butter for oysters:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
3 cloves garlic
2 anchovy fillets
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons Vietnamese garlic
2 teaspoons crushed red chile flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
16 oysters, in the shell
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes, and allow it to soften to room temperature. Mince the garlic, anchovy and lemon zest (or mash with a mortar and pestle), and then fold in the butter, lemon juice, garlic chile paste, red chile flakes, cayenne and salt. Roll the butter into a log, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate until needed. Open the oysters as you would for oysters on the half shell, discarding the top shells. Place 1 tablespoon of the chilled compound butter on each oyster, and place on a hot grill until the oysters begin to bubble and the oyster curls up around the edges, 6 to 10 minutes. (It’s good to melt a few tablespoons of butter to put on the oysters after they are grilled in case some of the butter spills out of the shells.) Serve immediately, with wedges of fresh lemon if desired.