The most memorable words my culinary chef/instructor said to me was the evening we were introduced to shellfish; oysters to be exact.
With a shucked oyster in his hand, he said, “Beth this is nectar of the Gods.” He then brought the shell up to his lips, tilted his head back, sucked in and slurped it right down. Finished he looked me straight in the eye and said,
“It’s better than sex!”
I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas; which is North Central. You could only get oysters at a little place called J&J Oyster Bar. They served Gulf oysters (Texas Gulf) and my Dad loved eating them; and still does. I on the other hand watched my dad slurp those bad boys down thinking, gross! How can he eat those slimy, sandy and musky smelling globules? I couldn’t stomach it. Plus, there was always a lot of condiment action involved with eating the oysters; hot sauce, tarter sauce, horseradish and lemon. Seemed to me they were just a vehicle for the extras. That was my first introduction to the oyster.
So you could imagine my trepidation when I walked into my culinary class and oysters were on the menu. Even though Chef Pascal professed his undying love, I still didn’t try one; not in class anyway.
I finally had the courage to try an oyster in my first line cook job. We would occasionally have oysters on the menu. Since we were encouraged to try everything it was pretty much a given that I would have to suck it up and eat one. Well, the Executive Chef was very kind to me. She really gave me a lesson on the differences between cold and warm water shellfish; such as the level of brininess, size and texture.
To this day I will never forget the first time I tried an oyster while working at the restaurant. It came from the Atlantic Ocean. It was called a Moonstone; icy, sweet, briny and a little magical. I’ve tried many oysters since; mostly from cold waters (I just think they have a better flavor). Never do I have anything but a little mignonette splashed on my oyster - if that.
So, I’m not going to say if an oyster is better than sex or not. I will say that eating the right oyster, at the right time and with the right condiment (or not) lends itself to something quite remarkable - if not just delicious! Here’s your recipe.
1/4C of shallot, peeled & minced
1/2C seasoned Rice Vinegar
2tsp of fresh coarsely ground black pepper
6 shucked oysters - half-shell
Several hours before serving oysters, combine shallot, vinegar and pepper in a container with a lid. Tightly seal, shake vigorously and place in the refrigerator to store until ready to use.
Pour crushed ice into a 2” deep dish spreading around so that the ice comes up right below the top of the rim. Take the oysters on the half-shell and arrange them decoratively around the outer edge of the dish.
Take mignonette (vinegar mixture) out of the fridge and pour into a small ramekin. Place ramekin in the center of the pan with a small spoon. Serve.
Tips & Techniques
To store whole oysters buy fresh as possible, place in a stainless steel container and put them into your fridge.
Many fish markets will shuck the oysters for you. Although it may be a few extra dollars it’s worth it. If you are not familiar with shucking an oyster it’s the safest and simplest way to go. I recommend it.
Mignonette is a traditional French sauce used on oysters to compliment the brininess of the oyster.
For a comprehensive introduction to types of oysters check out Rowan Jacobsen’s blog The Oyster Guide