A tray full of cold, salty oysters is a must at any dinner party for me, a quick and effortless way to impress guests and allow the host more quality time with their friends, rather than slaving away in the kitchen. Oysters are just one example of a quick and easy starter, but absolutely one of my favourites.
I’ve put together some tips for prepping and serving as well as some of my favourite accompaniments. Whether you’re an oyster-pro or a newcomer, hopefully this post provides you with some new ideas. After all, sharing is caring.
First, let’s discuss preparation. Don’t bother trying to shuck oysters yourself (unless you know how, in which case knock yourself out), ask your local seafood store to do it for you and always ask them to shuck them on the same day you plan to serve them, you want to retain that fantastic salty liquid inside. The fresher the better, check when those bad boys have come into the store.
The oyster itself should look wet once open and smell like the sea. If it looks dry or smells then you don’t want to be serving those to anyone. I always like to ask what region the oysters are from, if there are multiple varieties available, your fish monger may let you try before you buy. A healthy oyster fills out the sturdy shell with fat, firm meat.
Ice ice baby. I like to serve oysters over crushed ice for dual purposes. It keeps them lovely and cool and is cheaper and less wasteful than using rock salt.
Get on top. For me, an oyster without any additions is just fine, I could still go through an entire dozen without adding a drop of anything. That being said, these are some of my favourite things to add and having a few options available means you cater for everyone’s tastes. Think of the list below as a ‘starter-pack’ for condiments, there are so many other ideas and serving suggestions…the world is your oyster as they say.
- Wedges of fresh lemon, squeeze that juice over and ungraciously slurp, chew and get that slippery baby back
- Tabasco sauce, a couple of drops adds a fiery punch
- Japanese seaweed salad, those vibrant green threads of flavour packed seaweed makes for an epic flavour friendship
- Mignonette sauce, delicate sweet shallots combined with vinegar is a classic (and an essential serving suggestion in my mind). Combine half a finely diced shallot with a 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of cracked white pepper. Absolute heaven
- A tiny amount of freshly grated horseradish is also a real treat
- Make a sorbet using lime juice and chilli, cold but spicy
First you want to use that tiny fork to check the oyster is free from its shell, if so you’re ready to go. Don’t slurp-and-swallow, chew the oyster two or three times before swallowing and don’t feel like you need to drown it in dressing, a little goes a long way. The accompaniments should enhance the oyster’s natural flavour, not mask it. For your first oyster, I recommend you skip the condiments completely, so as to savour its naked and real flavour.
Questions? List them below, I would love to hear from you, likewise let me know how you do oysters, I’m always open to new ideas.