A Guide to Buying and Cooking Oysters
Although oysters were once the food of the poor, today you’re more likely to find oysters at the world’s great restaurants. Considered an aphrodisiac since ancient times, oysters add a touch of romance and class to any table.
Oysters are easy to cook, too – not to mention healthy. Oysters are much lower in calories, cholesterol, and fat than poultry.
How to Buy Fresh Oysters
Oysters vary in taste according to where they are harvested (because whatever nutrients and minerals are in the mud and water around the shellfish change the flavor of the oyster’s flesh). However, there are some good general guidelines for buying fresh oyster. For example, the shellfish should always be wet, with a sweet and mild scent.
If the oyster shell remains closed even after you tap it with your finger, if open shells don’t snap shut when you tap them, or if the oysters have a strong smell, they aren’t fit for eating.
The deeper the oyster’s shell, the more meat you’ll be buying, and the smaller the oyster, the more tender and flavorful the meat will be.
How to Store and Prepare Oysters
Bring fresh oysters home as soon as possible and lay them flat on a baking tray. Cover them with a damp towel and store the tray in the refrigerator. The oysters will keep for up to two days this way, but it’s better to cook them the same day you purchase them.
To “shuck” the oyster (or remove it from its shell), first wash it with a stiff brush under cold running tap water. Next, place the oyster on the countertop and hold it so the thin end is pointing toward you and the deepest part of the shell is on the counter.
With your dominant hand, use an oyster knife to pry between the shells at the thin end. Move the blade from side to side to cut the muscle that attaches the oyster to its shell. With a sharp twist, remove the shell, then repeat on the other end of the muscle. Remove the oyster with a fork. You may wish to wear heavy gloves when shucking oysters, to prevent cutting yourself.
Alternatively, you can microwave the oyster for about 20 seconds, which kills the shellfish and makes its shell easy to open. Other methods for making the shell easier to pry open include freezing the oyster in its shell for about 20 minutes, then letting it come to room temperature, or steaming the oysters for about 10 seconds.
How to Cook Oysters
Oyster aficionados often claim oyster is best eaten simply, with a little lemon juice or horseradish on the side. You can make a tasteful oyster sauce by mixing a half cup each of tarragon vinegar and red-wine vinegar, plus a tablespoon of minced shallots and a few pinches of pepper.
Or, try one of Our Deer’s oyster recipes.
Just remember not to overcook oysters, or they’ll turn rubbery. When the edges of the meat start curling, they are done.
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