I've had a hankering for oysters for about 2-3 weeks now. Unfortunately I seem to be at a loss to actually get my hands on them. I'm either shopping after the fish dept has closed or when they're sold out and only offer pre-shucked bivalves. Same thing happened today, but they did have salsify! Salsify, sometimes called oyster plant or goatsbeard, looks like burdock root, but has a flavor similar to oysters. So we went with that.
I cooked salsify once before, but I think it was a bit old and didn't have much flavor. But I've been wanting to try it again, especially since seeing the recipe for pan-roasted salsify in Tom Colicchio's book, "Think Like a Chef." Today's salsify looked great -- thick, thumb-sized roots that felt very firm. Sauteed in a skillet with two tablespoons of butter and a good handful of hazelnuts (something else I've been craving), they came out slightly soft, slightly crunchy, with a nice brown sear around the edges. Interestingly enough, they did taste a lot like oysters early in the cooking process, but that faded the more they cooked (total cooking time was about 7 minutes).
Apparently some people do eat them raw, but like artichokes, salsify oxidizes quickly once peeled and cut. So dip it in a water and lemon juice bath to keep the flesh from turning a bruised-looking grey. I might try them like that next time, although I really enjoyed the way the toasted hazelnuts matched the nutty flavor (similar to parsnips) of the salsify. This preparation would probably work well as a side for a dominant meat flavor, like roasted lamb shoulder or duck legs.