There are few food-related experiences more blissful than slurping a clean, ice-cold oyster.
Oysters have that mysterious, pearl-producing, hand-collected by island-dwelling natives who dive to the ocean floor holding their breath for 1 hour underwater-thing going on. All the best foods are the ones that play hard-to-get, or make you wait literally years for them. Think about it.
This led me to confirm whether or not there are people who still pearl dive, and yes there are, but it’s less risky nowadays. Lame. I guess not everyone can be as badass as that guy Kino from The Pearl. Remember that book?
Speaking of badass, let’s learn how to properly shuck an oyster together, which you will need to do for this recipe. I found this video helpful as a shucking amateur. You will need to buy an oyster knife too, so add one to your cart in your next Amazon order.
In terms of sourcing the oysters, you either 1) have a dedicated fish market that you know supplies superbly fresh oysters on a regular basis 2) only have access to a hit-or-miss market that may or may not stock satisfactory shellfish 3) are willing, financially or otherwise, to order oysters online.
I fall somewhere between camps 1 and 2 – so I elected to buy them at a good local seafood market. One note on ordering oysters online. It’s unexpectedly highly recommended over taking a risk of purchasing or storing the sub-par stuff.
I will not pretend to preach expertise on different varietals of oysters, ever.
There are upwards of 150 distinct types harvested in North America alone distinguished by where they are sourced on a highly local level. This recipe calls for the variety or varieties you prefer, with a huge emphasis on whatever is freshest available to you.
And of course, get a bunch of types too, if you’d like. If you’re limited to U.S. varieties, on average, West coast oysters tend to be smaller and sweeter, while East coast oysters tend to be larger and slightly brinier (and dare I say, funkier).
So here’s a homage to the sinisterly delicious oyster.
Us devotees thank you for existing.
I N G R E D I E N T S
Serves 2 – 4 as an appetizer, depending on appetites.
- 1 – 2 dozen fresh oysters in their shell, variety of your choosing *
- 3 fresh sea scallops, or 6 fresh bay scallops
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium-sized shallot, minced
- 10-12 sprigs of fresh dill, minced
- 2-3 large lemons (enough to produce 4 tablespoons of juice, saving enough lemon fruit to squeeze 1 – 2 tablespoons of juice for finishing)
- 1 / 4 cup high-quality, very dry Champagne or Pinot Grigio
- 1 / 4 tsp sugar
- 1 teaspoon red, white wine or champagne vinegar
- Pinch of Kosher salt
- Pinch of Maldon salt or another good-quality finishing salt
*Adjust according to the size of the oysters – the oyster estimate is based off of a “medium” sized oyster, or an oyster with a shell approximately 2 and ½ inches in diameter.
O p t i o n a l
- 1 / 2 lb cup uncooked pearl couscous
- 2 tablespoons unsalted or salted butter
D I R E C T I O N S
- Shuck the oysters carefully, and place the meat in a small bowl. Pour any excess liquid from the oysters into a separate small bowl. Reserve half the oyster shells for plating the final dish.
- Cut each oyster in half crosswise. Small dice the fresh scallops in a similar size to the fresh oysters and add to the bowl with the oysters. Put the shellfish meat in the fridge.
- In a small sauté pan, heat the oil, and add the minced shallot, sautéing on medium-low heat for 5 or so minutes until heavily reduced and the shallot is transparent, making sure that the shallot does not brown.
- Add 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice to the pan, the 1 / 4 cup Champagne or Pinot Grigio, the reserved liquid from the oysters, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon vinegar and 1 / 4 teaspoon of sugar.
- Simmer for 7-9 minutes longer on low heat, allowing the liquid to reduce by about half.
- Off the heat, take half of the minced dill and add it to the vinaigrette.
- Allow the vinaigrette to cool, about 10 minutes.
- Once cooled, pour the vinaigrette over the raw oysters and scallops. Mix well.
- Place the mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes to chill. After ten minutes, remove the shellfish mixture, stir, and return to the fridge to chill for an additional 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, take the reserved oyster shells and place them on a bed of crushed ice, preferably in a wide, shallow metal pan, such as a paella serving dish.
- Take 1 tablespoon of the combined shellfish mixture and place in each of the reserved oyster shells. Sprinkle the shells with the remaining dill, lemon juice, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
- Serve with cooked pearl couscous mixed with melted butter on the side, if desired as a palate cleanser.