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Burnt Up

Broiled oysters with two cheffy twists, courtesy of Brendan McHale

Brendan McHale's scallion ash butter smells like the most heavenly sour cream and onion dip you could possibly imagine—although that wasn't his original intention.

"We weren't going for that, but who doesn't love sour cream and onion?" the chef at The Eddy in NYC says with a laugh.

McHale uses the scallion butter to dress his broiled oysters (see the recipe)—just one example of the playful touches he employs in all of the dishes at his tiny, impeccably stylish East Village restaurant.

"We were into the idea of burning and charring onion and how tobacco-y it is," McHale says. "We always want to do something a little interesting."

Interesting, indeed, but it's also a cheffy technique that couldn't be easier to replicate: To make the butter, he quite literally burns scallions in a cast-iron pan, putting a little weight on them, until they get completely blackened. ("Don't be afraid that you're going too far," McHale says). After letting the burnt onions dry out, he crumbles them into an ash and mixes it into softened butter along with a little salt and Aleppo chile.

RELATED   Ash Your Oysters »

McHale then places a smidge of the butter into freshly shucked Wellfleet petite oysters and pops them under the broiler for a minute until the edges of the oysters curl ever so slightly. And here's the second so-easy-it's-almost-stupid chef trick: Once they're out of the heat, the oysters are anointed with a drizzle of juice from the restaurant's house-made pickled okra (although McHale says any pickle juice works just fine).

It all comes together beautifully. "The roasted oysters have a toasty flavor, but you still get a bit of that brine and the caramelized onion flavor," McHale says.

Even if oysters aren't your thing, we recommend using the burnt scallion butter for dressing roasted or pan-fried potatoes, smearing onto steak, dolloping into broths and soups, or slathering onto corn bread.

We think you'll agree: The butter kicks ash.

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