In many ways, oysters remind me of truffles: they're less of a taste and more of an experience, something almost otherworldly. It's hard to put into words why oysters are so delicious, but, like truffles, it's almost like they affect the brain differently. I'm clearly not a scientist, but anecdotally speaking, it feels like we'll be chasing the feeling of the first oyster or the first truffle for the rest of our lives.
This is all to say that I love oysters more than words can adequately express, but I do think, no matter how fresh and delicious, there's something lost when you eat them at a restaurant: shucking is half the fun.
So, have fun with this method & recipe developed from shucking thousands of oysters over the years–it's genuinely brought me so many good memories. That said, please shuck responsibly! I've seen many an oyster knife injury. Always point the knife down (never towards your hand) and take your time.
To me, oysters are a festive and fun way to show people you care. Serve on special occasions, with the people you love most!
P.S. For a PDF version of this recipe, click here.
Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette
1 small shallot
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Oysters (9 per person is typically a good rule of thumb)
To make the Mignonette
Peel and haché, or finely mince, enough shallot to yield 1 tablespoon hachéd shallot.
Add to a small bowl, along with the Champagne vinegar and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
How to Shuck
Rinse the oyster’s shell with cold water to remove any grit.
Fill your serving bowl or platter with ice (crushed ice is preferred as it’s a bit easier to lay the oyster flat and you don’t want to lose any of that delicious water!).
The oyster will have one round side, almost like a “bowl,” and one flat shell, both of which taper to a point. Set the oyster’s bowl-like side on a thick towel (that you don’t mind getting dirty) with the flat shell facing up and the point angled towards your dominant hand. Fold the towel over the oyster to prevent slipping, leaving the point exposed.
Using your nondominant hand on top of the towel, hold the oyster in place. Work the oyster knife into the point of the oyster, always pointing the knife down to avoid slipping towards your nondominant hand.
When you can let go of the knife and it stays in place, twist your hand like you’re unlocking a door. Continue twisting until you feel the oyster “pop,” and you can more freely move the top shell.
Wipe off your oyster knife and run it across the top of the flat shell, separating the oyster from its “foot,” ideally without cutting the oyster itself.
Now, you’ll have the bottom bowl with the oyster and its water. Wipe your oyster knife once more and cut along the bottom, in the identical spot as the top foot. This will fully free the oyster for the eating!
Smell the oyster to ensure it smells fresh (you’ll know–the smell of a bad oyster is pretty intense).
Set the oyster in the ice, being careful not to lose any water, and continue shucking away. Serve with lemon, horseradish, and/or mignonette.