Oysters on the Half Shell!
I love my job, I really do; but sometimes it interferes with fun. A few weeks ago, the Minnesota Food Bloggers had an evening event at Sea Change which involved networking with other food bloggers, oysters on the half shell, and learning how to shuck. I had to host clients for dinner that night, so I missed it. Julie and I love oysters on the half shell, and I really wanted to learn how to shuck them. I had never tried to prepare them at home. I decided it was finally time to give it a go!
Know what? It’s easy! You only need a couple of things:
- A really good local seafood supplier. Oysters need to be fresh and alive. Luckily, we have Coastal Seafoods in Minneapolis. They supply most of the local restaurants and they have truly fresh seafood, even here in Minneapolis.
- An oyster knife. I got mine at Coastal Seafoods when I picked up my oysters. $6.99 – you can afford it!
- A towel and some common sense. If you aren’t careful, you can really cut yourself opening the oyster. They don’t cooperate! An oyster glove or a rag towel are essential.
- Watch an oyster shucking video, or get an in person demo at your seafood shop. I watched the one from Hog Island Oysters. Hog Island supplies oysters at many of my favorite California wineries for their release parties. When I was at Coastal, the salesperson gave me a 1:1 tutorial – great!
For 3 people, I took 2 dozen oysters. It seemed like a lot, but we had no problem polishing them off. Coastal had 4 different types that day; 1 East Coast and 3 West Coast. It all looked so easy until I was faced with Oyster #1. The hinge seemed to be hidden, you really couldn’t tell where the top ended and the bottom began. Oh well, I just took my best guess and started prying. Pretty soon, I got the knack and was shucking away. Not fast enough to make a living of it, but just fine for home.
Pretty soon, I had two dozen oysters on a platter of ice, separated by lemon wedges. Unfortunately, I missed the fact that the Coastal Salesperson had marked each of the bags with the oyster type. Oh well, they were all great!
We had two wines to try with the oysters tonight:
- Muscadet Sevre et Maine – a classic French white wine known to be good with seafood
- Wind Gap James Berry Vineyard Chardonnay – from California, but unlike most California Chardonnays. This wine is aged in concrete and steel and is lean, stony, and very much like a nice Chablis.
Our goal wasn’t to pick a winner and a loser for the wines, but to see if one was a better match for the oysters on this day in June.
As far as the wine match, both were very nice. The Muscadet was nice and trim, light and worked well with the oysters. With a bit of spicy sauce on the oyster, however, the wine seemed to be a bit overpowered. The Wind Gap Chardonnay was still lean, racy, and full of limestone. It had a bit more oomph than the Muscadet, and was a great match for the oysters, especially when they had a bit of sauce to spice them up. If you are looking for a Chardonnay for this purpose, I would point you to a French Chablis, or an American “unoaked” or “naked” Chardonnay. Wind Gap isn’t distributed in Minnesota, but it’s easy enough to have the wines shipped. They are one of my favorite small wineries, and virtually all their wines are very well suited for food.
For the most part, we enjoy a squirt of lemon and a bit of a spicy sauce on our oysters. You should definitely taste each type all by itself, too. Even if you’re in Minnesota, you’ll taste the sea; just incredible.
For our first try, I relied on the old standby: Tabasco sauce and a couple other sauces we like. For future Oyster adventures, we’ll try some homemade sauces.
The Wind Gap James Berry Chardonnay was our favorite of the two wines with the oysters. It’s lean, crisp, stony, and goes great with the briny oysters. It’s clearly a Chardonnay, as it has a bit of richness that provides a bit more body than a lighter wine. This was a great starting course for dinner on a summer evening. One we’ll be repeating this summer!