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How to Shuck an Oyster

You either love them or hate them. Me? I just cannot get enough oysters, and I eat them every chance I get. You may remember the Skillet-Fried Oyster Po' Boys I created back in June — well with the cooler weather coming in, raw and roasted are definitely ways I like to enjoy oysters in the cooler months.

While I am at it, I thought I would clarify a myth about eating oysters only in months containing an "R." At one time this was true and made sense, due to the fact that oysters must stay refrigerated, which made it difficult to transport them in the dog days of summer (before refrigerated means of transportation). So I enjoy oysters every month of the year, but I'll say that raw and roasted certainly is more appetizing in cooler weather.

First things first — only shuck oysters that are completely closed, and discard any you find that may be open. A good, quality, sturdy oyster knife is a must for shucking, and you can generally pick these up where you purchase your oysters. I would recommend an oyster glove for beginners, but a dry towel is certainly acceptable for getting a hold of your oyster steady. With this weapon in hand you definitely don't want to slip up!

The secret to a good-tasting oyster is to retain as much of the juice as possible when you open it, and nature does give you a nice little hint on how to achieve this. Most varieties of oysters have a flat side and a cupped side. You want to start by placing the cupped side down on a table and the flat side up.

You will see a joint in the back of the oyster that connects the two shells. You'll want to pry and twist your oyster knife into this part of the shell until it releases. Now carefully slide the knife around the shell, scraping the top or flat side, until open. This will completely release the oyster from the top of the shell.

You then want to take your knife, and with the same scraping motion, release the oyster from the bottom of the shell. This will allow for ultimate slurping enjoyment. At this point you can simply toss the oyster back, enjoying its natural taste. Oysters will vary in flavor and some will carry a more salty or mineral taste depending mainly on where the oyster lived or was raised. These happen to be the ever-famous Blue Point Oysters from Long Island Great South Bay.

This go-round, I have decided to pair these oysters with a simple pomegranate mignonette:

Pomegranate Mignonette Recipe

  • 1 medium pomegranate,  juice and arils (seed casings)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste

The easiest way to remove the seeds from the pomegranate is to slice the fruit in half, and holding skin side up over a bowl, smack the skin firmly and the seeds and juice will accumulate in the bowl below. You want to remove any pulp from the bowl once you are finished. For a dozen oysters pour a 1/4 cup of the pomegranate juice into a bowl add two tablespoons of the seeds. Mix in shallots, red wine vinegar, and fresh ground pepper. Taste and adjust as needed. I like a nice bite of vinegar, but this can be cut with more of the juice from the pomegranate to your liking. Place in a refrigerator — the colder the better!

You can add teaspoon amounts of the mixture onto individually shucked oysters and serve for a different twist on a classic mignonette. I promise, if there are any oyster lovers around, your plate will be returned looking exactly the one below!

And last but not least, when having oysters, we can't forget the wine! A Sauvignon Blanc or lighter-style Pinot Noir should be a nice pairing for any oysters you may be serving.

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