Despite being one of the most simple, elemental foods to eat (just open up and slurp it down), oysters can be an intimidating prospect for the home cook. Or, at least, this home cook. Maybe (probably) you’re all far more intrepid than I am, but oysters always felt like something better eaten at restaurants, where I would run little risk of stabbing myself in the hand while clumsily wielding a stubby shucking knife. But, you know, life is all about facing our fears, so, with that in mind, I visited the North Brooklyn pescatarian oasis known as Greenpoint Fish & Lobster, and spoke with co-owner Adam Geringer-Dunn about what the home-oyster shucker needs to know. Luckily, it turns out there’s nothing to really be afraid of, and bivalve bliss can be yours by remembering a few essential points. First, make sure the oysters you’re buying are still alive. This won’t be a problem if you’re purchasing from a reputable source, but just to be sure, hold each oyster and check that it has real weight to it. Live oysters feel solid in the palm; dead oysters are light and hollow other than their hidden, dried-out oyster corpse-husks. Second, select a variety of oysters to bring home: East Coast oysters are brinier with a mineral tang, whereas West Coast varietals are more delicate—creamy with hints of melon and cucumber. And, finally, make sure you have the proper equipment at home. You’ll want a real shucking knife to get in between the oyster shell’s hinges without hurting yourself. Once you’ve finessed the knife inside, just twist it, like you’re revving up a motorcycle; use a towel to protect your hands, and you’ll have nothing to worry about. Soon enough, you’ll be able to serve—for yourself or a crowd—a perfect plate of oysters, which need only a squeeze of lemon and maybe a small spoonful of one of Geringer-Dunn’s recommended garnishes. Just one final note: Never store oysters on or underneath ice! Freshwater will drown them, and you’ll have ruined one of life’s most accessible pleasures.
Recipes for Three Oyster Garnishes
Courtesy of Adam Geringer-Dunn of Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co.
Champagne Vinegar Mignonette
½ cup champagne vinegar
2 tbsp of minced shallots
2 tbsp minced cucumber (peeled)
1 tbsp of coarsely ground pepper
2 tsp of kosher salt
Pinch of sugar
Mix all ingredients together; make ½ cup
1 cup chili sauce (ketchup-based sauce, such as Heinz)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
(of fresh grated horseradish if available)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
8 dashes hot pepper sauce
Coarsely ground black pepper
Evenly mix all ingredients together; makes 1 cup
1 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
½ cup very hot water
¼ cup sugar
Purée juice, sugar, and 1⁄3 cup water in a blender. Pour into a shallow pint sized tupperware container, cover with lid (or plastic wrap), and place in the freezer.
Using the tines of a fork, stir the mixture every 30 minutes, scraping edges and breaking up any ice chunks as the mixture freezes, until granita is slushy and frozen, about 3 hours.