It's time to talk about those strange yet luxurious bivalve mollusks we love - oysters! Marisa and I have been eagerly awaiting the right time to post about them. As we are not aficionados ourselves, our knowledge about oysters is limited to a few simple facts: first is the adage that one should only eat oysters in months that have the letter "r" in them...that is, all of them except for May-August. Finally SeptembeR is here! And so oysters it is. (For the record, according to Live Science and the NY Times, among many other sources, that adage, though once very pertinent, is now outdated. So if you've been enjoying oysters all summer long, as I have, fear not - modern refrigeration, importing, and commercial oyster farming have taken away the need to abstain from oyster eating during summer).
Another common tidbit we've heard about oysters is the alluring report that they are an aphrodisiac. Unfortunately, WebMD dispels that rumor as well, claiming that they cannot possibly stimulate sexual desire in either sex. But I have a theory as to why oysters might have such a sultry reputation (and no, it's not their squishy texture and suggestive shape)...oysters are about as romantic as food gets. As with any delicacy, they have the power to elevate an evening. Like a gorgeous woman in a pair of blue jeans, they are high-brow and low-brow at once, equally at home on an ice-filled silver platter or a barn wood bar. They are ugly and strange, but elegantly subtle, they carry the flavor and scent of the sea. And how lovely is a food that also brings you pearls?!
Something I love about oysters is their ability to make a festive event out of an ordinary evening. Nothing transports you to a Gatsby state of mind better than a platter of oysters and my other favorite luxury, champagne. Below are some instructions for shucking your own oysters (you can even purchase them online at places like this) and a recipe for classic mignonette, which is all you need to top them with, in my opinion. Pop open a bottle of bubbly or pair them with fries and beer (here are suggestions from experts for some beer and oyster pairings) and have yourself a party!
How to Shuck Oysters in Five Simple Steps:
- STEP 1. Set the oyster flat side up on a solid surface. Be sure to wear an oyster glove or protect your hand with a dishtowel, as we did (below).
- STEP 2. Insert the tip of an oyster knife at the hinge of the shell and gently twist the blade from horizontal to vertical until the shell pops open.
- STEP 3. Being careful not to puncture the meat of the oyster itself, slide the oyster knife in and scrape against the top shell to detach the oyster. Lift that half of the shell off.
- STEP 4. In a scooping motion, scrape the knife along the bottom shell in the same way, to release the oyster for easy slurping. Be careful not to spill the tasty liquid, called the liquor, from the shell.
- STEP 5. Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon and mignonette. Or try a dash of Tabasco, raw horseradish, cocktail sauce, or nothing at all.
- 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp finely minced shallot
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked white or black pepper
- sea salt to taste
Combine ingredients in a small bowl and chill. Serve with lemon wedges and raw oysters or clams on the half shell.