Our trip to the Ferry Building Farmers Market coincided with the day that Sarah and Evan got the keys for their new restaurant space, so we were in a celebratory mood. Never mind that Evan had one last night at his current restaurant, Susan, Sarah, and I were going to have a party.
And what better way to begin the celebration than champagne and oysters on the half shell. Two dozen oysters sounded just about right for the three of us, and the oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company were fresh and just the right size. We brought home a mesh bag iced down for the short journey home.
At dinner time, Sarah brought out her oyster knife and made short work of the shucking. Of course, she is a professional, so she knew what she was doing. She wrapped each shell in a kitchen towel and grabbed it firmly with one hand. Using an oyster knife, she slipped the point of the knife into the hinge of the shell, twisted the knife firmly, and popped open the innocent oyster. She cut the muscles holding the oyster in the shell, removed the top shell, and placed the fresh oyster on a bed of ice.
If you have never opened an oyster on your own. There are a few important pointers. First, be sure to use a good-quality oyster knife. Regular knives can bend and break, and you can wind up plunging the blade into your hand. Serious injuries to blood vessels and tendons can result. Second, the towel is supposed to provide some protection so it should not be flimsy. If you are a little nervous, Kevlar gloves are available and provide more safety. If you are still anxious, have your fish monger shuck the oysters before you bring them home.
You can eat raw oysters with no dressing. That’s the way real aficionados do it so they can taste the brine of the sea. For me, a little lemon juice brightens the taste. In Louisiana they douse with hot sauce. The classic accompaniment is a fresh mignonette sauce. The following recipe is for Sarah’s version based upon ingredients from the farmers market.
- ½ cup champagne vinegar
- 4 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
- 4 teaspoons finely diced cucumber
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fennel fronds
- 2 teaspoons finely minced dill weed
- 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- salt to taste
- In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients with a wire whisk
- Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve
We opened a bottle of California sparkling white wine, toasted the new restaurant, and enjoyed our raw oysters with cucumber-dill mignonette.