I tend to find that people either love them or loath them but for me oysters are an all time favourite and a perfect late brunch accompanied by a dash of Tabasco and a squeeze of lemon juice together with some slices of fresh bread (butter optional) and of course a glass or two of crisp white wine; a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is ideal or for a really special occasion a dry champagne! I suspect that oysters are more frequently eaten in restaurants than at home and there are certainly many great seafood bars and restaurants in Britain including Riddle & Finns in Brighton Randall & Aubin in Soho or for somewhere really special try the J Sheekey Oyster Bar in Covent Garden and off course there are the Loch Fyne Restaurants which are now found widely throughout the UK. Alternatively if you are flying there are always the Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bars which provide a tranquil oasis combined with a touch of luxury before you board your budget airline flight! In all of these place oysters perform a star role but they are so easy they should be not only for restaurants after all there is no cooking!
Oysters all too frequently have a bad reputation being associated with food poisoning but if you get them from a reputable supplier who has a high turn over and a reputation for quality and freshness the risks are no greater than for any other uncooked food. In Spain, Portugal and France finding top quality oysters is easy with even the large supermarkets such as Auchan having superb fish counters but in the UK you are best finding a specialist fish monger. The Pacific Rock Oyster is the most widely available oyster in the UK but it is possible to find the native oyster especially in the south of the UK; though I must confess that I actually prefer the rock oyster but my all time favourite are the French Fines de Claire. Whatever sort of oyster you end up getting you are always faced with one seeming “insurmountable problem” i.e. how to open them! There are countless tools and even chain mail gloves that you can buy to protect yourself during the process but the chances are that you already posses the best possible tool; namely a small screwdriver!
OYSTERS AU NATURALE
Prep time 15 minutes Cook time n/a Total time 15 minutes
- 6 Oysters per person
- 1 Lemon cut into large wedges
- Tabasco sauce (McIlhenny Co.)
- Bread – a French stick or Ciabatta loaf is ideal.
- Salted butter
- Crushed ice (optional)
- Oysters are best eaten the day they are bought but they can be kept for up to 24 hours in the fridge. As with mussels if any of the oysters are not tightly closed when you come to use them they should be discarded.
- Rinse the oysters under the cold tap and use a stiff brush to remove any loose pieces of shell, grit, etc then place in a colander to drain.
- To open the oysters place each oyster in turn on a wooden chopping board with the flat side facing uppermost. Holding the oyster firmly in one hand work the point of the screwdriver into the hinge at the pointed and of the shell and then lever the shell open. Once the shell has opened a little hold it open with your forefinger and thumb and slide the blade of a small sharp knife between the two shells so as to cut the abductor muscle that holds the two shells together.
- Remove the flat top shell and place on a serving plate (see photos), this will help stop the lower shells containing the oysters and the liquor from tipping over. Alternatively use crushed ice to form a bed upon which to arrange the oysters.
- Then use the tip of the knife to remove any broken flakes of shell which have fallen into the lower shell containing the oyster and arrange on the serving plate.
- Add a couple of lemon wedges to the plate, serve with Tabasco sauce, freshly cut bread and butter together with a glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc.
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