03 January 2014

The whole world...

...is my oyster, someone said. Really, for me it's been more like this these days: "my whole world is oysters." We bought four dozen nice, big, fresh oysters from the man selling them out of his truck on the market square in Saint-Aignan on Monday. We ate the last of them yesterday — there were 20 left after we ate some on New Year's Eve and left a few with our friends when we drove back home on Wednesday.

It turned that out one of our friends had never eaten oysters before, and the other said he hadn't eaten an oyster in many many years. Because of that, I decided to "cook" them. Well, they really don't cook the way I do them, but they do warm through and the shells are much easier to get open as a result. They don't turn rubbery. They can be a little more appetizing to people who haven't ever eaten oysters than really raw ones are. I know, oyster purists will be scandalized.

An oven-roasted oyster

As I said, I bought large oysters. Normally, Walt and I like them smaller if they are going to be consumed raw. But when you put the oysters in a hot oven for a few minutes to open the shells, the oyster inside does shrink up a little. So starting with bigger oysters makes sense. My method of cooking the oyster comes from coastal North Carolina, where outdoor oyster roasts are an old autumn tradition.

Oysters washed and ready to be eaten... or roasted

In N.C. and the whole U.S. Southeast, I think, the way people roast oysters is this: you build a fire and you stand four concrete blocks upright at its four corners. You lay a big, heavy slab of steel or iron down on the concrete blocks to form a kind of table or plancha over the fire. You dump onto the plancha a basketful of oysters that you have washed well with the garden hose. You wet a few empty burlap bags or old towels and lay them over the top of the oysters. The resulting heat and steam "roasts" the oysters.

Some oysters open faster and wider than others when you roast them in the oven.

In the oven, it turns out, the best way to steam the oysters is to heat up a pan of water in a hot oven until it starts to steam. Arrange the oysters on a wire oven rack, arranging them carefully so that the deeper shell is on the bottom and the flatter shell is on the top. Set the rack over the pan of steaming water in the oven. The oven needs to be hot: 225ºC / 425ºF, or even hotter. The oysters stay in the oven just long enough for the shells to start to open — between 5 and 10 minutes, say. Take them out and let them cool for a couple of minutes.

I made a batch of corn muffins for us to have with the oysters.

Even the oysters that don't appear to be open will be easy to deal with. Hold them in one hand in a couple of thicknesses of paper toweling to protect yourself. All you need to do is get the point of a sharp knife into the edge of the oyster and twist it. The top shell will pop up. Run the knife along the inside surface of the top shell to cut the muscle that hold the oyster in place. Remove the top shell and then cut the muscle on the lower shell. Sprinkle on a few drops of lemon juice, vinegar, or hot pepper sauce. If all the liquid hasn't run out of the shell, drink it along with the oyster. With them, saltine crackers, English water crackers, or cornbread are good — not to mention a cold beer or a glass of cold, dry white wine.

P.S. I know that some people open oysters by putting them in the microwave oven for a couple of minutes. I haven't tried that yet.


  1. Now... those oysters I could probably eat!
    I have used them in "posh" steak and kidney pie before!!
    I just don't like raw meats of any sort...
    Now... raw veg...
    well, that's different...
    very different...
    I don't like over cooked veg!!
    "Au point" is perfect!!!

  2. Interesting post as I don't like oysters. I might enjoy them, your way. But definitively yes, to the corn bread!

  3. I love oysters, any way. You are familiar with Oysters Kilpatrick? Even people who don't like them can often eat these.

  4. Yes , I'm scandalised ! Comment peut on cuisiner des huitres ? Sans doute un problème de culture. My daughter in law ( belle-fille) is from Argentina ( Cordoba north east) it is impossible for her to eat oysters

  5. Moi j'aime beaucoup les huîtres à l'état cru, servie avec de la mignonnette ou du citron, du beurre et du pain de seigle. Mais je les apprécie aussi 'rôties' comme nous les mangions quand j'étais un enfant en Caroline du Nord. En partie, c'est une question de climat. Là-bas, où il fait souvent très chaud, les huîtres sont plus grosses et donc moins appétissantes servies crues. Merci du commentaire, Jean Laine.

    Andrew, I don't know Oysters Kilpatrick but I will google the term. Walt and I have made Oysters Rockefeller (with spinach) in the past. There are also oyster casseroles (gratins) and stewed oysters — both are good. And oyster stuffing for roasted poultry.

    Tim, and Nadège, :-)

  6. No comment! LOL and LOL

    I do agree with Jean Laine.

  7. Le fait de manger du poisson cru n'empêche pas d'apprécier le poisson cuit. Il faut varier les plaisirs. La variété est l'épice de la vie... Bonne Année !

  8. Does 'un problème de culture' mean that some peoples are cultured and others are not? Just asking...

  9. J'aime les huitres! But like you, I prefer the small ones, the so-called 'papillons'. In the nineties, when we were on vacation in Brittany, we bought some 'papillons' and some 'pétoncles', made a (illegal) fire on the beach, using a few rocks, dried seaweed and washed-up wood, and put the little babies on an improvised grill ... Just a few minutes till they opened up. They were delicious! Although putting ground pepper on them with a stiff sea breeze blowing, turned out to be real challenge ... resulting in a lot of sneezing :) Loved your post! Martine

  10. Is it the suggestion that if you're not keen on eating something that is still alive you are uncultured?

  11. When we buy a box of oysters we eat half raw and half cooked. By about the 3rd day I am cooking them for breakfast -- open them, sprinkle with a few slivers of saucisson, perhaps a few drops of lemon or worcestershire sauce and pop under the grill for a few minutes.

  12. You are teaching me a lot I never knew about oysters. They are the one shellfish my dad ate. He made a simple soup with milk and butter.

  13. Cornbread: 1 Huîtres: 0

    heh heh

    I know for certain that I don't care for raw ones, but, who knows... maybe if they were slightly cooked.

    David Lebovitz mentioned that he prefers the mignonette sauce with his oysters, and I thought of you.

  14. Should I say I agree with Jean Laine in that it is a cultural thing, not necessarily a problem. Chacun son goût! People are not culturally prepared to things they are not accustomed to. That's why you should try everything once. You might get hooked!

    In a way, I had the same reaction from friends in SoCal when I mentioned blood sausage or duck gizzards. Yuck! they said.

  15. There are many Americans who love oysters, raw or not. Walt and I used to go to Seattle to spend weekends gorging on them, raw, with bread, butter, and white wine. When I was a child, my father would pick up oysters or clams along the shore in North Carolina, open them with a pocket knife, and swallow them raw. He had grown up eating them that way. And many years later, a cousin of mine fed us raw scallops when we went out boating and discovered a sandy shoal where they were thriving. When I was in my early 20s, with friends we would catch fish, clean and skin them, and eat them raw with crackers and wine or beer. So cultural is strictly local. Much of it has to do with where you grew up. Near the coast and sea, or not? Most of France is only an hour or two from the ocean, so it's very different from the U.S. The English eat a lot of blood sausage, and in the U.S. South giblets, including gizzards, are a poultry delicacy.

  16. We always eat our oysters raw, with the exception of oyster stew on Christmas Eve. I suppose that's the one day of the year when our oysters are cultured, but we are not. :-)

  17. Does 'un problème de culture'
    Ken, it is not what I wanted to write. I mean que chaque culture a ses habitudes et qu'aucune ne vaut mieux que l'autre.

  18. Merci, Jean Laine, j'étais sûr que c'était ça. Autres temps, autres pays, autres mœurs... Beaucoup d'Américains pensent que c'est très étrange de manger des escargots... cuits ou crus... peu importe. Ou, comme l'a dit CHM, des gésiers de canard ou du boudin noir. Ont-ils raison ou ont-ils tort ? Tout est question de goût, qui ne se discûte pas. Bon, on est d'accord.

  19. Gosh, the thought of steamed oysters makes me homesick for North Carolina! Several people mentioned oyster stew. That was our family tradition for Christmas Eve. A stick of butter melted in a saucepan, a can of stewing (small) oysters, cooked in the butter until the edges curl, then a quart of milk and pepper. But my favorite way to eat oysters is still dredged in a mixture of flour, white corn meal, salt, and pepper and fried.

  20. I love steamed oysters. They were one of our favorite foods growing up. I haven't had any in a couple of years but have been wanting some. This post makes me want them even more. Whenever I eat them, I think of my dad.

  21. Those muffins look fantastic!


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