seafood

Shucks! 6 great ways to savor oysters this season

Jan. 3, 2012 at 10:59 AM ET

PhamFatale /
Fresh oysters paired with a delicious, spicy chorizo topping.

If, among your many resolutions, you’ve decided you want to be a more interesting person, oysters may be the way to start. After all, you are what you eat!

"There’s something about the act of eating an oyster that heightens the senses and reduces inhibitions," says Rowan Jacobson, author of “A Geography of Oysters.” In fact, he says that simply eating them makes you more intriguing — the type of person who knows that the "best things in life are live, raw and slippery." 

These bivalve mollusks, which are living until they are shucked, are not high in cholesterol and are a good source of protein, according to oyster expert Julie Qiu. So budding Casanovas can relax — as long as you prepare them without high-fat condiments, you can feed plenty of oysters, which are thought to be aphrodisiacs, to your honey without giving her a coronary.

And right now is the perfect time to start romancing. Qiu says that oysters are at their peak in the winter, when they taste most creamy and fatty.

From a cocktail to candy, here are a few unique ways to eat these treats.

Tadich Grill /

Oysters for breakfast

The Hangtown Fry omelette became popular during the California Gold Rush. Legend has it that the omelette was invented when a prospector struck gold, went to a nearby hotel, and requested that the restaurant's chef make him the most expensive dish he could imagine. The omelette, which has bacon, three eggs, and, of course, Pacific Coast oysters, soon became a star at Tadich Grill in San Francisco.  

SippitySup /

Barbecued oysters

You might think of sausages and hamburgers when you think of a barbecue, but how about oysters? For his grilled oysters with Asian pepper relish, the blogger behind Sippity Sup takes freshly shucked oysters and grills them to bring out savory, smoky flavors. After they get a sweet and spicy topping of chutney, red pepper flakes and soy sauce, they are grilled just a bit more and then eaten hot. Light and smoky, these oysters kick the standard barbecue up a few notches.

Oysters and pork

PhamFatale pairs fresh oysters with chorizo for a multi-sensory experience. She mixes the spicy sausage with lemon zest, candied ginger and hazelnut oil for a topping that is meaty, sweet and bright to contrast with the oyster's delicate, briny flavor. This recipe comes together in a flash, and is impressive for a dinner party or brunch. Just don't bring it as your offering to a Bris, as breaking two kosher rules with one dish might not go over too well.

Oyster shooters

If you are a condiment addict (a badge I wear proudly), try an oyster shooter, which is a freshly shucked oyster served with a fast-drinking cocktail. To make this at home, just serve yourself an oyster with a shot glass of spicy Bloody Mary! If you prefer someone else do all the work, head to A.W. Shucks in Norfolk, Va., where the oysters come right in the shot glasses, ready for you to imbibe. Treat yourself to a Shogun, with sake and wasabi, the Saucy Oyster, with Absolut Peppar and cocktail sauce, or the A. W. Oyster shot with Bud Light and Tabasco Sauce. 

Pop rock oysters 

We all love candy, but could it really be good with oysters? It is, according to chef Jehangir Mehta of Metaphor in New York City, who serves his raw oysters with grapefruit granita, onion confit and a sprinkling of pop rocks. The combination might sound strange, but it has a strong fan following. Lauren Bloomberg of Metromix New York writes that "the play on cold and salty, and the whoosh of tongue-tingly, fruit-flavored candy, is a whimsical revelation." If that doesn't float your boat, you can always get the oysters au natural, but, really, where's the fun in that?

Steamed oysters with black bean sauce

Steamed oysters become plump, incredibly juicy and their saline flavors intensify while the texture stays silken. As an added bonus, their shells start to open and they are very easy to shuck. Wandering Chopsticks pairs steamed oysters with a salty, sharp sauce made of fermented black beans and fresh scallions. The recipe is quick, healthy and incredibly simple to prepare (all you need is black bean sauce and a few scallions).

And to drink...

Most people think of Champagne with oysters, but that needn't be the case. Jacobson prefers a gin martini, saying that the pairing is "wonderfully cold, salty and mineral.” Qiu favors a light beer, and mixologist Todd Richman, of Sidney Frank Imports, says that a hearty chilled sake goes well with heavier, creamier oysters, and that a light sparkling sake stands in well for Champagne against lighter, brinier options.

Sidney Frank Imports /

Here is a cocktail that goes particularly well with West Coast Oysters, courtesy of Richman:

Akiko’s Kiss (named after the Japanese Bond girl from "You Only Live Twice")

  • 2 parts Gekkeikan Horin Junmai Daigino Sake
  • ¾ parts Hendricks Gin
  • ½ part Lillet Blanc

Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Are you a fan of oysters? Tell us how you like 'em!

More from Bites:

Sarah Spigelman will eat anything that isn't moving too fast for her to catch. She believes that if the kimchi isn't spicy enough to make her eyes tear and her nose run, it really isn't a meal. 

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