Saturday, January 13, 2007

Oysters on the Half Shell

I know, I know, it's much too late for New Years Eve fancy food, but here's my oyster post anyway. When we spent January and Febrary, 2003 in Paris, I realized that oysters are not considered as chic or schmancy as they are where I come from. Winter is their season, and you can find them in the most average of resuaurants all over Paris. They are, after all a national product in France, so maybe that's why. Even though Gabriel is from Geneva, he grew up eating them in the cold months and they remain a personal favorite. If you can find them at the supermarket and you have a very sturdy knife (or, dare I dream? an oyster schucker?), give them a try.
If you have the luxury of choosing these guys at the store, pick the heaviest ones since those will be chock-full of the liquor (basically just salt water, I think) and so will be plump and juicy. You might want to crush some ice and lay it out on a platter to keep the oysters chilled and to hold the bottom shells straight so they won't lose the liquor before you serve them. You will see that of the two shells, one is flatter and the other more concave, like a bowl. Make sure to hold the oyster with the concave shell down so as not to loose that precious liquor.
Then find the part of the oyster with the "foot" (pictured here). That's the part of the oyster where the meat is attached to the shell. If you open the oyster there, you will be well on your way to easy serving and eating. If you pry open the oyster elsewhere, you could be in for some difficulties. The good thing is that oyster shells are often curved and the foot is found at the instep, or the inner curve. Hold the oyster with a clean but disposable rag. Pictured here, you see a section of an old pair of jeans, nice and sturdy to protect your hands. Take a very sturdy, broad-bladed knife (or if you're lucky, an oyster schucker as pictured above) and place it at the instep and insert. Slide the blade back and forth to sever the foot. Then twist the blade to begin prying the oyster open. All this is done slowly and carefully so you don't spill that liquor. (If you haven't guessed by now, it's ALL about the liquor.) This can take some practice to do well without getting tiny bits of shell in your oyster. If do you get bits of shell, though they are easy to see so you can just clean them out with a bit of paper towel. Arrange on a platter with crushed ice and serve with lemon wedges (my favorite) or tabasco.

After all that work, you're almost there! To eat, you need to separate the foot from the meat. This is easily done with any knife, just scrape around the cyllindrical foot and the meat will come free. Then, squeeze the lemon or sprinkle the tabasco and down the hatch! So fresh and delicious, they taste like the sea. Bon apetit!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it true that you eat oysters in months that end in er: december, november, october, september?

11:16 PM  
Blogger Asha said...

Never ate an Oyster in my life Susan!!:)) I know, I know but I grew up as vegetarian in a Hindu household but tried non-veg when I was in college,didn't experiment much!Got to try this once atleast though!Thanks for the info.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

Like Asha said...have never eaten an oyster in my life, but I wouldn't mind trying!

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm very fortunate to have fresh oysters basically at my back door anytime I wish - other than during the dreaded red tide! I once went to a fancy dinner buffet which served various delicacies (including frog legs) but I went straight for the oysters. I ate so many I got extremely bloated from the salt intake. Yet, it was pure heaven.
My first experience was being 18 and in Australia (Gold Coast) and eating raw oysters and sipping a fine dry white wine.
Very fine living!

9:20 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Anonymous, you might be right. I only know they were everywhere in Paris in Jan. and Feb.

Asha, As you're a practicing vegetarian, I would suggest you NOT begin forays into meat eating with raw oysters! Try chicken and move forward from there! (LOL)

Hi Lotus, are you a vegetarian?

Hi Moon, Wow! Bloating from all the salt water. That sounds like a lot of oysters. Gabriel once ordered a plateau of 36 as a main dish while I ordered the moderate 6 as an appetizer. Guess who found the pearl?

11:25 AM  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

Hi again, Susan!

No, I am not a vegetarian, but am a non-adventurous carnivore, I only eat chicken, lamb (very rarely) and fish(snapper, tuna, salmon,pomfret) and that's it! :)

3:14 PM  
Blogger Beenzzz said...

I have tried oysters before and I liked them. I haven't had them in years though. I used to like them as a kid. I wonder if I still will as an adult. :)

6:04 PM  
Blogger Tracie P. said...

champagne! i would need lots and lots of very good champagne to stomach a raw oyster...i just don't get it :)

10:59 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Lotus, I just LOVE pomfret!

Hi Beenzzz, You probably would like them now; I like way more things as an adult than I did as a kid.

Hi Tracie, I hear you, but how much booze did it take you to eat pig trachea pasta? ;)

7:43 PM  
Blogger Tracie P. said...

lots and lots

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Susan, those oysters are beautiful. One of my most harrowing days in restaurant work was shucking for a gigantic buffet, sack after sack after sack, something like 1100 oysters. But I got good at it pretty quick.

There is a great oyster house a couple of hours east of me that serves nothing but oysters, shrimp and ice cold beer. You sit down at the bar, order by the peck, and dig in. Mmmmm...

4:06 PM  
Blogger Lea said...

omg gimme gimme

6:54 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Tracie, I'd probably have loved me some pig trachea after many red wines, myself.

Hi Scott, Whoa! And you didn't sue for the workplace-induced carpal-tunnel?

Hi Lea, Do you get these a lot in Florida?

7:37 PM  
Blogger Cherry said...


But I will say that when I worked in the kitchen, I groaned very audibly when I got a ticket for a dozen or more in the middle of a rush.

10:04 PM  
Blogger J at said...

I used to love the apalachacola (sp) oysters we would get at the Elite Cafe in San Francisco. Then I heard that warm water oysters are the most dangerous, tummy wise, so now we stick to cold water oysters. Sigh. And Elite doesn't have an oyster bar anymore, so really, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. ;)

I always heard that oysters and crab (maybe all shellfish?) are any month with an R in them. So, Sept - Apr. Seems kind of like a long season, and maybe it varies, regionally.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

HI Cherry, I can imagine the stress to open oysters with all the rush and bustle of a professional kitchen

Hi J, I think you're right, the cool-weather months. Gabriel did a bit of online research and he found the same answer. Elite Cafe sounds really great, even without the oyster bar.

10:57 PM  

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