Oyster

Oyster

By
From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

Oysters appear on menus throughout the world, their unique flavour and texture is unlike any other mollusc or seafood. Many varieties are extensively cultivated, one of the most highly regarded being the Sydney rock oyster. The best European oysters include the English Whitstable, and the Belon and green Marenne from France. Most of these are sold raw or sometimes frozen in the half-shell; some are bottled in fresh water without preservatives while others can be purchased unopened.

Live rock oysters can survive unopened in the shell for up to 2 weeks if they are stored in a clean damp hessian bag and kept in a cool place. If stored in a plastic bag or in the refrigerator, they will soon die. Always discard oysters with shells that have started to open, or those with an offensive odour.

Select oysters on the half-shell from reliable suppliers. They should be plump, creamy and smell of the sea. Opened oysters should always have a fresh sea smell and be eaten on the day of purchase.

Buy fresh bottled oysters only when refrigerated and in clear liquid with no trace of cloudiness. These are excellent for soups and sauces.

Oysters can also be bought tinned, smoked, barbecued or natural, either whole or chopped.

Basic preparation: To open oysters, a special flat‑bladed knife with a tough triangular point is used. Insert the knife point under the smooth lip of the joined shells where there is a gap in the corrugated shell edge. Push the knife between the upper and lower shells and lever them apart. Gently detach the oyster from the hinge on the upper shell and serve in the deep bottom shell. It is best to protect your hand with a cloth before grasping the oyster.

Ways to use oysters: They are best eaten raw – au naturel, on the half-shell, served with lemon wedges and brown bread and butter. There are, however, many other delicious ways to use them.

Use oysters in beautiful soups and soup stews (see Gumbo): serve them hot or cold, baked, grilled (broiled) or fried.

In many dishes oysters are traditionally served on rock salt, which can be purchased from health food shops and re-used if stored in a covered container.

Add 5 or 6 oysters to Steak and Kidney Pie after mixture is cooked.

Serve oysters au naturel accompanied with hot chipolata or bratwurst sausages.

Serve tinned smoked oysters on crackers or Croûtes, with a sliver of lemon peel and ground black pepper.

Place a smoked oyster in a hot mini puff pastry case, top with sour cream and snipped chives or hot crumbled bacon, lemon juice and chopped parsley.

Fill hot vol-au-vent cases or tartlet shells with whole oysters and top with Béchamel or Mornay Sauce.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
see method for ingredients

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