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Raw oysters: Sauce or not?


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Although in this topic on recipes for oysters, there are a few mentions of mignonette and the like, it's mostly about recipes for cooked oysters.

When I started to eat raw oysters (not that long ago) I generally went for cocktail sauce, partly because it was what I was used to with shellfish, partly because I wasn't really sure I wanted to taste the oysters themselves. As I got more adventurous, though, I changed to mignonettes, then to just a squeeze of lemon. I'd generally try whatever sauce came with the oysters, but in most cases, found that I the sauces hid rather than highlighted their flavor.

But last week at Restaurant Eugene (in Atlanta) I had oysters topped with a granita made with pickled ginger and vodka. It was a revelation -- the flavors all went together so well that now I can't imagine eating oysters any other way.

So now I'm wondering if there are other toppings out there that are worth trying -- ones that complement the oyster flavor rather than mask it. Not that I need to find anything better, but I'm willing to try. Any ideas out there?

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It really depends on the type of oyster. Bluepoints, Malpeques, West Coast Olympias, etc., are usually fairly small, but possess distinctive flavors. These I like with just a squirt of lemon or simply in their own liquor. Apalachicola, which is the most common (and lest expensive) in AL, I eat in a variety of different ways. I tend to eat the small ones with just lemon or a tiny splash of hot sauce. The big ones are great with mignonette sauce, with horseradish, hot sauce, lemon juice, or any combination thereof.

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Lately I've been making a ponzu-style sauce that goes really well with canadian oysters we get here in Maine sometimes. They tend to arrive here out of their waters for a longer period then the local varieties and don't stand up alone or with lemon in my view.

1 part each (1/3 cup, say) of:

-Dark soy

-Fresh lemon juice

-Rice wine vinegar

-Mirin

-Bonito flakes

...and

a tablespoon of tamari,

two-inch bit of konbu

Let sit for at least three days, refrigerated. Strain. Lasts six months.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Assuming that John Donne was correct when he cried out "There is, there is, there is a God" and then going a step further, when God created the raw oyster she paused for one moment in eternity and realized that it was not complete, so she added a bit of lemon juice and saw that all was well and she popped down a dozen or so Belons.

Later on one of the angels came up with mignonette sauce and later even with horseradish and other sauces and even a cocktail or two in which whole raw oysters are found. God sent that angel straight to hell. If she had wanted more than lemon and a good class of crisp Chablis to go with her oysters, she would have done it that way in the beginning. And there was the eleventh commandment, that although it never quite made its way to Moses is still in force: Thou shalt not mess with my oysters!

On a more serious note (can one be more serious than the above?), one of the great delights of eating raw oysters is drinking their liquor, the liquids that remain in the shell. Why spoil those by adding anything other than that drop or two of lemon juice?

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I will eat raw oysters with mignonette and other relatively unobtrusive accompaniments (not cocktail sauce though - why bother?), but my favorite way, like Daniel is just with a squirt of lemon. Like Sheena, I like to chew them too.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I was served Oysters with a verjus granite as an amuse once and it's now become my favourite way of eating them. The texture contrast and the slow flavour release makes for an amazing flavour. It's as subtle as a dash of lemon but far more interesting IMHO.

PS: I am a guy.

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There are times I favor a  rowdy cocktail sauce. 

I'm with you on this, especially with strongly flavored or very large oysters. (But the cocktail sauce can't be sweet--it must have good doses of lemon, horseradish and worstershire sauce). And definitely with beer and oyster crackers.

Now, if the oysters are petite and/or more delicately flavored, a bit of lemon, a slice of buttered brown bread, and a Chablis or Muscadet are all that's required.

Jan

Seattle, WA

"But there's tacos, Randy. You know how I feel about tacos. It's the only food shaped like a smile....A beef smile."

--Earl (Jason Lee), from "My Name is Earl", Episode: South of the Border Part Uno, Season 2

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In the Philippines, we have a peculiar way of eating oysters. We blanch them for 5-10 seconds of boiling water before shucking them. Then the tasty morsels are dipped in a mixture of vinegar, soysauce and chopped chilis.

There are different types of oysters in the Philippines. The ones my family would always eat is the "kukong-kabayo" (horses' hooves - eeriely looks like a chopped horse's hoof) and the small, but delectable sisi (tiny thumb-sze oysters that are a murder to open but ooh so sweety and juicy).

I like oysters raw, blanched, topped, plain, with lemon, baked, etc. I just love oysters.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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a lot of the answer depends on the quality of the oysters. if you've got great oysters right out of the ocean, anything you add is an insult to god (don't think i'm overstating). on the other hand, appalachicolas, the most common oysters in the gulf, are rarely great and so you should feel free to doctor at will, or even roll in cornmeal and deep-fry.

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I take a great delight in offending purists by slapping my oysters with a good old-fashione d ketchup, horseradish, lemon and Worcestershire sauce. Sometime's, when I'm feeling swell, I'll make a granita by boiling together a little saki, some spiced Japanese rice vinegar and a little chopped ginger. This may offende the purists, too, but it's so darn cool, they're afraid to say anything. And sometimes I'll get all purist on myself and just eat them plain.

There's time to eat a lot of oysters in life.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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There is nothing like an ice cold freshly shucked oyster brimming with liquor. I like a squeeze of lemon juice and a dab of cocktail sauce every once in a while. If I have a mignonette handy I'll do little sips of it in between oysters. I like fairly large Blue Points best. Just writing this makes my mouth water!

Cheers,

HC

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Add me to the list of people who prefers them straight up. I find that even lemon juice can be overpowering, though it depends on how light a touch you use when squeezing the lemon.

As for oysters that have been out of the ocean long enough that you need some kind of strongly flavoured sauce, well, I think I'd rather just cook them at that point.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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With big, happy, healthy Gulf oysters, I kind of prefer either nothing, or coctail sauce.

With little, very expensive, but crazy delicious, oysters from the Pacific Northwest or the ones from the Northeast seaboard, I really have come to like mignonette ( a fine example of which can be found at the oyster bar at Johnny's Half Shell in DC), or, again, nothing at all.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Growing up just south of Boston and spending part of the summer in Maine, I was introduced to oysters early on with just a hint of lemon. My first trip to New Orleans and the Acme Oyster House and Hollywood changed all that. A drop or two of Tabasco fast became my favorite add on. Lately I have changed to Crystal because it is more mellow than Tabasco but my wife still prefers Tobasco. Since Katrina, Crystal is impossible to get in Wisconsin anymore.

Over the year i have tried various other add ons but Tabasco or Crystal is my favorite.

Sauce of any kind is out!-Dick

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I grew up on Chesapeake Bay oysters (not the ones barged down to Chincoteague and allowed to soak in the oceany brine first), which are kind of bland due to the brackish water in which they grow.

Still, I am one who chews the oyster and appreciates its flavors instead of treating it like a zinc pill and swallowing whole, and I always felt the ubiquitous cocktail sauce overpowered everything else and defeated the purpose of eating one in the first place. I do like a squeeze of lemon, and if it's not a briny oyster, a pinch of salt.

Nowadays I use the locals mainly for cooking and seek out better breeds for enjoying raw.

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With big, happy, healthy Gulf oysters, I kind of prefer either nothing, or coctail sauce.

With little, very expensive, but crazy delicious, oysters from the Pacific Northwest or the ones from the Northeast seaboard, I really have come to like mignonette ( a fine example of which can be found at the oyster bar at Johnny's Half Shell in DC), or, again, nothing at all.

You know, I love all things French, but mignonette sauce annoys me. I don't know why they bother...seems all thin and nasty.

Actually, the best thing to eat with oysters is oyster crackers. But not crumbled on top, or anthing.

Actually, if you did the crackers in a little 'Murken cocktail sauce and then hit oysters with straight lemon, you kind of make the the highbrow and the lowbrow folks happy and, I think, cover all major food groups. If you have a beer with it, that is.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I have always eaten oysters with just a kiss of lemon and maybe a half dash of hot sauce (louisana brand). If my only option was cocktail sauce, I would just eat them straight. And yes, I chew my oysters.

When we were at Acme a few months ago, they did not have Louisiana hot sauce, but did have Chipotle Tabasco. Wow. The hint of smokiness in the chipotle tabasco reminded me of charbroiled oysters. A bottle now resides in my frig.

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

Amanda Newton

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from a small bottle of vodka, pour out a shot.

now pour in black peppercorns until the bottle is full again.

let sit at room temp for about a week.

then store in the freezer and put a few drops on oysters (or boiled shrimps).

it's a pretty assertive condiment which overwhelms none of the oyster flavours. a little vodka to lift the brininess through your nose and a very smooth heat rides in afterwards.

"There never was an apple, according to Adam, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it"

-Neil Gaiman

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from a small bottle of vodka, pour out a shot.

now pour in black peppercorns until the bottle is full again.

let sit at room temp for about a week.

then store in the freezer and put a few drops on oysters (or boiled shrimps).

it's a pretty assertive condiment which overwhelms none of the oyster flavours. a little vodka to lift the brininess through your nose and a very smooth heat rides in afterwards.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....intoxilicious

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Briney plump oysters. Lemon, maybe. A grind of pepper, you bet . Crystal crackers for sure. Brown bread and butter.

I will happily eat raw oysters with any of the sauces or twists you've mentioned -- in fact I'll whack your wrist while I reach for another. But I really prefer them dead plain: oysters have a distinctive sexy sea taste on the tongue that I relish, whether they're the smaller briny Canadian Maritime oysters or their mild, plump voluptuous Gulf sisters. They just taste different, and feel different. I love that.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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You know, I love all things French, but  mignonette sauce annoys me.  I don't know why they bother...seems all thin and nasty.

I will do my best to try to get you out of your narrow, little rut when I am up there after Mardi Gras.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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