Oysters are a delicacy all over the world, although there are different types. Pacific oysters have white to black shells and grow in a sandy environment. They are creamy and sweet with a slight mineral flavor, which Atlantic oysters have thicker, slightly greenish shells. They grow in a seaweed environment (hence the greenish shells) and have a salty, vegetative flavor. Although purists enjoy their raw oysters served by themselves, other people like to add some lemon, mignonette (a vinegar-based dressing), horseradish, or hot sauce.
Shucking oysters is not hard but if you prefer to buy the ones which have already been shucked, look out for ones which are almost odorless and which are in a clear (not milky) liquid. Keep them in the refrigerator and serve them the same day. These will be almost as good as the ones you shuck yourself but the flavor might be slightly less fresh.
So, how do you eat raw oysters? There is no set way to eat them, but the usual way is to move the oyster about in the shell using a small fork, to check it is detached. Pick the oyster up with your fingers and hold it to your mouth, with the widest part of the shell touching your bottom lip. Tip the oyster into your mouth, along with the accompanying juices, chew it once or twice, and then swallow. It is a myth that you are supposed to swallow the oyster without chewing. Chewing it means you can appreciate the texture and flavor better. An oyster is not ‘chewy’ so just put your teeth through it once or twice to gauge the flavor and consistency. Once you have tried your first oyster you will be hooked!
- 36 oysters
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Crushed ice or rock salt
- Make a bed of rock salt or crushed ice on 6 plates and put them in the freezer.
- Scrub the oyster shells under cold water using a stiff brush.
- Shuck them over a sieve set over a bowl.
- To do this, you will need a blunt butter knife or oyster knife and a thick glove or thick folded cloth.
- Holding the oyster curved shell down, and insert the tip blade into the hinge, giving it a firm twist.
- Once the seal is broken, wipe the blade clean, then put it back inside the oyster, and slide it along inside of the upper shell (the flat one) to cut the oyster out.
- Slide the blade underneath the oyster to sever it from the lower shell.
- Hold the shell level to keep as much liquid as possible in with the oyster.
- Discard the flat upper shells and balance the oysters in their bottom shells on the ice or rock salt beds.
- Pour any liquid from the bowl over them.
- Garnish each plate with lemon wedges.
Oysters are not the cheapest seafood available but consider them if you want to indulge yourself. You will only need six for a normal-sized portion anyway and that will cost under $10, so it is worth it as an occasional treat. Purists appreciate the pure, natural flavor of oysters, and will not pour a mignonette over it, and certainly not hot sauce either. If you are new to raw oysters, it is best to begin by eating the oyster plain, so you can experience the natural flavor. If you like, you can add a few drops of lemon juice or a little black pepper to the next one, to see what you think of the flavor then. How people eat oysters is down to personal preference, so serve the garnishes on the side.
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