Some people like their oysters served plain and others like a splash of tabasco or lemon juice with them. Some oyster fans even smother their oysters in cocktail sauce but this tends to mask their natural aroma and flavor quite a bit. A mignonette is the traditional oyster dressing and this is served on the side so people can choose whether or not to have it, and how much to have. Most people, if they are having mignonette, will use about 1/8 teaspoon of it per oyster.
You need to make this oyster dressing a minimum of four hours before serving it. In fact, it is best if you make it a couple of days beforehand, so the shallots can mellow and the other flavors can blend. The recipe calls for unseasoned rice vinegar. If you only have seasoned rice vinegar that is fine but you will need to leave out the sugar and salt because seasoned rice vinegar contains those already. You need to use crushed peppercorns for the best flavor. Pre-ground or powdered pepper would work at a pinch but is not as good.
‘Mignonette’ is French for small, cute, and tasty, and that is a pretty good description. It has quite a sharp flavor and makes a change from lemon juice. This oyster dressing contrasts nicely with the creaminess of the oysters.
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup clear unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1¼ teaspoons finely crushed white peppercorns
- ⅛ teaspoon white sugar
- ½ cup peeled, coarsely chopped shallots
- Put the shallots in a food processor and pulse until they are finely minced but not mushy.
- If you do not have a food processor, you can finely chop them by hand.
- Add the minced shallots and any liquid which came out of them in a nonreactive (glass or Pyrex is best) dish.
- Add the rice vinegar, white vinegar, salt, and sugar, and stir using a fork.
- Stir in the crushed peppercorns.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to a few days, but at least 4 hours.
- Serve the mignonette in a small bowl with a tiny spoon, alongside fresh raw oysters.
Oyster dressing is a personal preference. Some oyster fans choose to eat their oysters without any kind of dressing, whereas others might like one of the two creamy dressings in the photo or the mignonette oyster dressing in the light yellow dish. Although the green herbs shown do not feature in our recipe, you can add some slivers of fresh cilantro or parsley if you like. Oysters used to be cheap street food in another era but today they are a more expensive option. This is why it is worth serving a top quality oyster dressing alongside them.
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