“What is an oyster, if not the perfect food?” Anthony Bourdain wrote in the second chapter of his book A Cook’s Tour. We couldn’t agree more—but how do you feel about oysters?
Do oysters conjure up a vacation, an outdoor table under an umbrella, glistening oysters on the half-shell, your worries far away? Or are they a memory of a visit to the grand old Oyster Bar in New York where you tasted oysters Rockefeller for the first time, creamy under a warm blanket of spinach and Hollandaise? Oysters imply celebration—even if you pulled them off a rock and slurped them with only waves for company.
The question with oysters is how to prepare them: Au naturel or all dressed up? The purist’s approach is delightful: Raw, with a wedge of lemon and a slice of buttered bread. Or try oysters on the half shell with mignonette, pictured above. The smaller you mince the pieces of shallot, the better the mignonette for your raw oysters will be. The sharp little onions add both sweetness and bite to the vinegar, balanced with the fragrance of pink peppercorns.
You could bake or fry them to tuck into rolls for po’ boys, or roast them over open coals. And there are the old-school dishes that deserve serious revival, like oyster stew (“a supper to sleep on” wrote American food writer MFK Fisher in Consider the Oyster), oysters casino, and oyster dressing.
Oyster Recipes to try at Home
Shucked oysters with three sauces
It’s not easy to choose between the classic mignonette with its shallot-y bite, the zing of horseradish, and the heat of jalapeño but luckily you don’t need to choose; with this oyster recipe, you can try all three dipping sauces.
Grilled oysters with compound brown butter
Cooking butter until the solids turn pale brown transforms it into a nutty sauce. With shallots and fresh herbs it is delicious spooned atop oysters hot from the grill. Dinner ready in 10 minutes!
Chesapeake blue crab cakes with fried oysters
You might think it’s hard to make crisp crab cakes even more delicious, but top them with crunchy-and-creamy fried oysters and they are downright decadent.
Oyster stew with Virginia ham
If you have never made an oyster stew, this comforting and incredibly flavourful dish will beguile you. Plump, tender oysters, savoury ham, and a cider reduction to balance the cream will have you licking your bowl.
Hot Crab-and-Oyster Dip
Sweet crabmeat tumbled with crème fraîche and good cheese makes a luxurious bed for shucked oysters, which are nestled into the dip just before the dish is broiled until bubbling hot.
Oysters on the half shell with vinegar sauce
Fragrant with allspice and hot with chillis, this spicy vinegar sauce is for heat-lovers‑and it’s wonderful with cold oysters.
Clams and oysters casino
Our clams and oysters casino are filled with savoury titbits: ciabatta, pancetta, parmesan, garlic, red pepper, oregano, all soused in vermouth. Butter makes them crisp as they sizzle under the broiler.
The Thanksgiving recipe of pairing smoky bacon with svelte oysters is too good to limit to one occasion. Fragrant with celery, onion, white wine and sage, we think it makes a superb supper. Just add a crisp-leafed salad.
Fried oyster Po’ Boys
When you do fry an oyster, do it the time-honoured, buttermilk-and-cornmeal way. It delivers a delectable crust. Slip the hot mollusks into hot dog buns and slather with tartare sauce.
Oyster and cracker dressing
Coarsely ground saltine crackers mixed with good butter is a foundation for fresh oysters in this rustic meal for a blustery day. Successive layers of crackers, thyme, and oysters follow, moistened with cream, before the dressing is baked until bubbling.
Roasting oysters is easy. Topping them with bacon-rich compound butter is the chef’s touch, and easily done if the butter is prepped well in advance and chilled.
Herbsaint (an anise liqueur loved in New Orleans), baby spinach, watercress, tarragon, and basil—oh my. This is a very fragrant spin on oysters Rockefeller that will make your guests swoon.
Aromatic, creamy, with a crunchy crust, scalloped oysters are an elegant and easy supper. Fragrant with aromatics and a dash of sherry, the assembled dish is cooked briefly in a searing-hot oven.
Chilled oysters with apple-ginger mignonette
The crunch of sweet apples and the heat of fresh ginger transform a stalwart mignonette, the two flavours flirting with the oyster’s famous seaside brine.
This story first appeared on www.marthastewart.com
(Main and Feature Image Credit: John Kernick)
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