Every time I can get my hands on fresh, plump oysters I immediately know exactly how I’m going to eat them. While many people like their oysters grilled, broiled or fried, for me, there is only one possible recipe: Fresh Oysters with Shallot Vinaigrette.
Briny, creamy, tangy.. heaven!
The contrast of creamy, briny oyster flesh with a tangy vinaigrette is a match made in culinary heaven. This is such a simple dish to prepare, but for a special occasion, this is seriously good stuff.
But… I’ve never eaten raw oysters… is it safe?
If you’ve never eaten raw oysters then you are in for a treat. First of all, as long as you buy your oysters from a reputable source, it is perfectly safe.
I know a lot of people are squeamish about eating these delicious morsels, but I find the addition of a simple homemade vinaigrette makes all the difference.
OK, so what goes in this vinaigrette?
This is a classic French way of serving oysters. I’ve called this wine vinegar and shallot dressing a vinaigrette, but if we are being absolutely accurate, it is really called ‘Mignonette’.
How many oysters should I serve per person?
I know plenty of people who can wolf down oysters by the dozen (hi Dad!), but for a starter, I find 6 large-ish oysters is just about right.
Paired with a glass or two of Champagne or a good, lightly-oaked Chardonnay, this is just the right amount of fresh oysters to whet the appetite.
Oysters are good for you!
Oysters are famously known as an aphrodisiac, which is why they are often served as part of a romantic dinner.
While it may just be all in our minds, the science behind this is that oysters are packed with healthy minerals and vitamins, including zinc, selenium, copper, iron and vitamin B12.
Is it the oysters that get us feeling amorous? Or just the Champagne!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I have to shuck fresh oysters myself?
No, a good fishmonger will be happy to do this for you, though the oysters then need to be eaten as soon as possible. For the freshest and most delicious oysters, shucking them yourself is a better option.
What equipment do I need to shuck oysters?
A good sturdy tea towel or dishcloth and a short knife. I’d recommend using a special oyster shucking knife, they are inexpensive and make the work a lot easier. If you are concerned about cutting your hands, a new pair of gardening gloves will protect your fingers. (You can find a link to a good knife in the recipe card).
How can I tell if my oysters are fresh?
To ensure your oysters are fresh and safe to eat, rely on three things:
SMELL: Fresh oysters smell faintly briny and like the ocean. If the oysters smell at all horrible (and bad ones DEFINITELY do), they are not good to eat.
LOOK: If the shells are gaping open and the oyster flesh inside is dry, it is likely that the oyster has died and is no longer good to eat. Fresh oysters should be plump and juicy .
TOUCH: Tap the shells gently. Fresh oysters will be tightly closed.
How do I store fresh oysters?
Oysters need to be kept cold from the moment that you buy them. If you are travelling a long way from where you purchase your oysters, keep them in a cool box with ice packs until you can get them into the fridge.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eOnce in the fridge, store your oysters with the flat part of the shell facing up. This keeps all of the liquid inside the shell. Covered with a damp paper towel, oysters can survive quite a long time in the fridge, however, I always consume them within 24-48 hours.
OYSTER BUYING TIPS
When I’m making Fresh Oysters with Shallot Vinaigrette I always stick to the following rules:
- GET THEM FRESH: Because oysters are often eaten raw, it’s important to make sure that you buy them as fresh as possible, from a reputable fishmonger. Fresh oysters should smell clean and faintly like the ocean, so steer clear of any that smell at all bad. Trust me, your nose is your best guide here.
- KEEP THEM COLD: When transporting and storing oysters, make sure that you keep them cold from the time you buy them to the time you get them in the fridge. I like to prepare and eat my oysters the same day I buy them, though they will last several days if stored correctly.
Fresh Oysters with Shallot Vinaigrette (Mignonette)
for the shallot vinaigrette (mignonette):
- 1 small French shallot, finely diced
- 75 ml red wine vinegar
- 2 stems of fresh parsley or a small bunch of chives, finely diced
- pinch of sugar
- pinch of salt
- few grinds of black pepper
for the oysters:
- 12 large fresh oysters in the shell
- crushed ice or rock salt
- fresh, crusty baguette
- PREPARE THE VINAIGRETTE: Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
- SHUCK THE OYSTERS: For best results use an oyster shucking knife (see below) or have the fishmonger do this for you.
- ARRANGE: Cover a serving plate with crushed ice or rock salt, arrange the oysters on top, spoon a little of the vinaigrette over each and serve immediately.
TO SHUCK OYSTERS:
- Cover one hand with a folded dishcloth and use this to hold the oyster with the flat side facing up.
- Insert the shucking knife into the pointed end of the oyster, this is the hinge where the two sides of the shell are joined. Wiggle the knife to separate the shell pieces, then run the knife along the inside of the shell to release the oyster.
- Remove and discard the top shell, then carefully run the knife underneath the oyster to release it from the shell – this makes it easier to eat later.
- Oysters are a known aphrodisiac, so if you are celebrating a romantic meal I’d definitely recommend a good quality Champagne. If you’re not a fan of bubbles, then a lightly-oaked Chardonnay will complement the creamy texture of the oysters wonderfully.
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