NOT YOUR AVERAGE OYSTERS
It used to be that you could only eat oysters in months that end in "R", but, now oyster farming (rather than harvesting from the wild) makes them safe year-round. And nothing says summer better than a bottle of wine and fresh oysters! I recently took a day trip out to Greenport, Long Island and had some super fresh oysters at Little Creek Oysters, along with a bottle of local wine from Bedell Cellars. I love this part of Long Island; there are so many vineyards to visit and have tastings as well as an abundance of local farm stands to get fresh produce, you can even pick your own at some spots! The oysters are straight out of the Peconic Bay, and you can have them shucked or you can shuck yourself with a little lesson from the waitstaff. I went for the shuck yourself, to get down and dirty, and to earn my dozen oysters for the day!
I don’t know about you, but I like to have my first few oysters “naked”, and then I start to experiment with various toppings. If I'm in a restaurant, I'll go for a mignonette, some fresh lemon juice or a few dashes of hot sauce, but, at home, it gives me the opportunity to use all of the crazy, multi-ethnic pantry items and sauces I have in the fridge. A few thoughts:
(1) HORSERADISH - Horseradish and lemon juice are a great combo too. You can buy store bought horseradish, or if you can find the fresh root make it yourself in a food processor. (1) peel the horseradish root and chop in to a small dice (2) process in the food processor with a little salt until finely chopped (3) let sit for 5-10 minutes so the flavor strengthens….the longer the better! (4) add vinegar to preserve and give it a little cook. Adding the vinegar stops the horseradish from blooming more flavor, so make sure it’s pungent enough to your liking before heading to this step. If you want to calm down the flavors add a little sugar for a nice balance.
(2) JALAPEÑO-BASED MIGNONETTE - A classic mignonette is made with finely diced shallots, pepper and vinegar. I like to take mine a step further with some diced fresh or pickled jalapeños, chopped cilantro, lime juice, and I use apple cider vinegar to give it more of a kick!
(3) GO JAPANESE! - I love ponzu sauce, which is a Japanese, citrus-based sauce that has yuzu, lemon, sudachi and other tangy flavors. I also always have ponzu shoyu, which is a blend of ponzu with soy sauce (which you can obv do yourself). A few drops of either of these are great on oysters and can be mixed with some chili sauce for heat. A little togarashi seasoning with ponzu is also a great touch.
(4) INDIAN PICKLES & CHUTNEYS - Indian pickles and chutneys also make for great toppings for oysters. A good Indian pickle is typically a mustard-oil cured fruit or vegetable - think green mango, lime, carrots. It has a really tart bite to it, so you using it sparingly is key here. Also, a good coriander or coconut chutney is AH-MAZING on oysters with heat, sweetness, tang as is a tiny drop of tamarind paste.
(5) KIMCHI - If you happen to buy or make your own kimchi, finely chopping up a bit and throwing it on an oyster is kind of life-changing. Just saying.
(6) OTHER CHILI SAUCES - Tabasco or Frank's aren't the only hot sauces out there that work on oysters. I love Sriracha, sambal oelek or a good, West Indian pepper sauce made from scotch bonnets. Salsa verde is perfect too.
(7) MOROCCAN-STYLE - Both harissa and preserved lemons are a fantastic topping for oysters.
There are so many different ways to play around with flavors for oysters - these are just a few (for the non-purist :))! Enjoy!