In Season: Oysters

lemon butter Oysters are most celebrated during the festive season in France, when Christmas and New Years Eve dinner spreads are accented by all sorts of shellfish, with oysters playing a starring role.

As the holiday season goes dormant, it seems a shame that the eating of oysters should do the same. With a season that lasts from September/October all the way to April, these briny bivalves can be enjoyed throughout the colder months.

en vrac

In France oysters are eaten as naturally as they come, served with bread and butter and a slice of fresh lemon and accompanied with a glass of chilled white wine.

A Chablis from Burgundy or Muscadet from the Loire are the most common companions to oysters- but bubbles or, as any brazen American in Paris can attest, a pint of beer are also excellent additions to an oyster feast.

This year, Paris by Mouth published an excellent primer on oysters in Paris which includes a ton of information on not only where to find oysters in the capitol, but also how to choose and enjoy them, including a guide to understanding oyster vocab and classification.

sunshine early season

I was brave enough to shuck a few of my own oysters for our Christmas Eve dinner. Convinced the cost of admission into the world of oyster shucking was a mandatory trip to the ER or the loss of a digit, I approached the act with uncertainty.

Luckily, no blood was shed and I found my hand-shucked oysters tasted better than any I had eaten before. Having said that- oyster shells are some of nature's most well-designed lock boxes, designed to protect their precious cargo and determined to stay firmly shut.

Finding the sweet spot and prying open an oyster can be a trying task, and dangerous as well. Check out this amazing chain link glove worn by the most prudent shuckers.

shucked

If you're going to attempt oyster opening yourself, be sure to have a dishtowel and proper shucker, as well as an initiated individual who can oversee your early attempts.

Oysters are an acquired taste, and if a slice of lemon isn't enough to distract you from their slippery consistency, you may want to add an additional condiment to your arsenal.

This classic mignonette sauce recipe presents the sauce at its most basic. You can find all kinds of variations, but this simple mixture of vinegar and shallots will take the edge off early oyster adventures!

with sauce

Sauce Mignonette

For 12 oysters:

2 medium shallots

1/4 cup vinegar (white, red wine, or rice)

Pinch of unrefined cane sugar

Pinch of salt

Coarsely chop shallots. Whisk together vinegar, salt, and sugar, in a small bowl. Mix in shallots. Adjust salt and sugar to taste. Serve with a spoon and ladle a small amount onto each oyster before eating.