lundi 27 décembre 2010

Huîtres plates


Elles est plus rare et onéreuse, mais il faut en avoir goûté une fois dans sa vie.  Un seul risque : celui de ne pouvoir s'en passer.

Oestra edulis ne représente plus que 2% de la production d'huîtres en France. Pourtant elle fréquente nos côtes depuis les Romains, contrairement à sa cousine creuse crassoestrea gigas, arrivée du Portugal en 1868, presque éteinte en 1971 en raison de l'horrible maladie des branchies, et réimplantée à partir d'une bourriche japonaise (mais nous y reviendrons). 
Depuis deux siècles donc, l'huître plate se cueille sur des bancs sauvages le long des côtes d'Atlantique et de Méditerranée. Et cette pêche à pied l'aurait épuisée rapidement si l'élevage ne s'était développé à partir de 1855 sous l'impulsion de Victor Coste, savant envoyé par Napoléon III sur les côtes françaises pour sauver Paris d'une tragédie : la pénurie d'huître, délice par lequel les gastronomes entamaient toujours un bon gueuleton à raison d'un cent par personne (le sens des proportions se perd).
L'huître plate est essentiellement produite en Bretagne, car c'est à l'embouchure des avens (ces petits fjords où l'eau de mer remonte vers l'estuaire des rivières) qu'elle se plaît particulièrement. C'est donc en premier lieu à Riec, sur l'un des ces avens appelé Belon, que l'on éleva l'huître plate dès 1864, ce qui lui valut d'ailleurs le nom de belon, généralisé depuis à toutes les huîtres plates bretonnes. 
Nées et captées à Quiberon, elles n'arrivent qu'à l'âge de 3 ans dans les bassins de Riec-sur Belon, où elles passent leur dernière année, baignées au gré des marées par ce mélange d'eaux douces et salées qui leur confère un goût très particulier, assez sauvage, que l'on rapproche de la noisette (mais qu'est-ce qui n'a pas goût de noisette, de nos jours, je vous le demande ?).

Dans les autres zones de production (baies de Cancale, de Morlaix ou de Quiberon), elles sont élevées en eaux profondes (à plus de 16 mètres) et récoltées par bateaux-dragueurs. Elles sont ensuite calibrées et triées à la main. Les plus grosses sont les plus recherchées. Voici les principaux calibres à connaître :
-  N°0 = 80 g
-  N°1 = 70 g
-  N°2 = 60 g
-  N°3 = 50 g
-  N°4 = 40 g
Il existe aussi de la 00, de la 000 et même de la 0000, appelée pied de cheval, et qui suffit à nourrir un homme. Comme la plate est moins charnue que la creuse, il faut essayer de se procurer de la 0 (photo) pour en avoir suffisamment en bouche.
Il faut la déguster crue, et c'est alors un coup de fouet dont le palais se souvient longtemps. Mangez-les en dernier sur un plateau de fruits de mer, car tout le reste paraîtra fade, et contentez-vous d'un Muscadet car un vin blanc trop fin serait écrasé par l'astringence du belon.

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