The following recipe is beautiful served as an appetizer or as part of a shellfish platter. Oysters need very little done to them in terms of flavoring, and serving them pure is one of the most popular methods. Some people like to add a little lemon juice and others like to add hot sauce or a mignonette, which is a piquant dressing with vinegar. Other oyster fans prefer eating their oysters plain, savoring their natural flavor.
This is why it is best to serve the garnishes and dressings on the side, to allow people to add what they choose. Oysters come in different shapes, sizes and varieties, ranging from very small to extra-large, and the price changes too, depending on the variety. You might wish to use a selection of different oysters or you might prefer to stick to one variety.
The most important thing to learn about serving raw oysters is how to present them correctly. You will need to cover your hand in a folded towel or mitt, to protect your skin and also get a good grip on the oyster shells. Use a blunt knife for the best results and apply sufficient pressure to prize open the shell but not too much – the oyster is delicate. Ensure you scrub the oyster shells well before you start trying to open them. Getting grit from the shell in your oysters will spoil their texture.
- 24 oysters (maybe Belon, Malpeque, or Kumamoto)
- Crushed ice or rock salt
- Lemon wedges, to serve
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 minced shallot
- 1 inch peeled, grated fresh ginger
- ½ peeled, minced hothouse cucumber
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Handful fresh chopped cilantro leaves
- Combine the mignonette ingredients with a fork.
- Cover and chill for at least an hour, but preferably overnight, so the flavors can blend.
- Scrub the oysters under cold water using a stiff brush to get any dirt off, especially around the hinge where mud can get trapped.
- Fold a durable thick cloth over a few times to create a square.
- Using the folded towel as a mitt, have the oyster cup-side down in the palm of your towel-covered hand.
- The hinge should face you.
- Insert the tip of an oyster knife (or a dull butter knife) into the hinge as far as you can.
- Twist the knife back and forth until the shell opens.
- Have a sieve and small bowl underneath, to filter and catch the juices.
- Cut the muscle away from the shell, bend the top shell backwards, and discard it.
- Run the knife along the underside of the oyster to detach it but leave it in the shell.
- Tip the briny juices into the bowl and pour it back over the shucked oysters.
- Present the oysters on a bed of rock salt or crushed ice, to keep them steady.
- Serve the cucumber mignonette on the side, as well as some lemon wedges.
Eating oysters on the half shell is a sublime experience. Although some people shy away from eating raw oysters, there is a reason why they are such a delicacy, and that is their magnificent flavor and texture. The flavor is very delicate. Oysters simply taste of the sea with a mild hint of fishiness. The texture is soft and tender, not chewy at all. Lemon wedges are typically served with oysters, as well as white wine and perhaps some bread, like in the picture. You can drizzle the cucumber mignonette over the oysters if you want to, although it might be better to offer it on the side in case some people prefer their oysters ‘au naturel’ instead.
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