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Aw shucks: Learning to love oysters

Italian-style oysters bring the flavors of pizza to the half shell. | Photos by Melissa Elsmo
Japanese-inspired oysters topped with cucumber, shallots and pickled ginger. | Photos by Melissa Elsmo
Japanese-inspired oysters topped with cucumber, shallots and pickled ginger. | Photos by Melissa Elsmo

Oysters — the slippery suckers were once the stuff of my childhood nightmares.

Why would I eat one of those slimy bites when I could have a tater tot instead? But oysters are tricky little buggers; they sneak up on you.

Thanks in part to movies, I realized that oysters were seemingly a part of any really good date and my curiosity was peaked. After all, Aphrodite emerged from the ocean on an oyster shell and ever since then the briny mollusks have been associated with love and romance. So okay, I didn’t go on a lot of those kinds of date in my youth, but over time, I mustered a little culinary courage and shoved aside those tots in favor of oysters.

Somewhere between my dad opening a tin of smoked oysters on Thanksgiving and slurping down an impeccable raw kumomoto at Publican nearly 20 years later, I fell in love with oysters. Honestly, I can’t pinpoint the moment my openness turned into an infatuation, but I’m certain it was a gradual love affair. And I’ve been slugging them down ever since.

It may have taken me a long time to fall in love with oysters, but history has given folks plenty of time to fall under their spell. Oysters have actually been hanging around since dinosaurs roamed the Earth and they once sustained our forefathers on the East Coast for pennies a day.

National oyster day falls on Aug. 5 and everyone should be prepared to enjoy them in a way that matches up with their culinary comfort zone. For oyster novices, my Italian-inspired roasted mollusks offer all of the flavors of pizza on the half shell.

Cooking oysters eliminates all the slippery and slimy elements that put folks off, while serving them up raw with a robust array of Japanese flavors will entice longtime oyster lovers to indulge again and again.

Falling in love with oysters has never been easier or more delicious!

 

Warm Rockefeller Oysters

1 dozen Blue Point oysters, shucked and kept on the half shell

½ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 tablespoons basil, chopped

1 scallion, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

 

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Combine the bread crumbs, melted butter, and Parmesan in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Sprinkle the fennel, basil and red pepper flakes evenly among the shucked oysters and top with the bread crumb mixture.

4. Roast the oysters in the pre-heated oven for 8 minutes. The bread crumbs should be golden brown and crispy.

 

Cool Japanese Inspired Oysters

⅔ cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons cucumber, diced very small

2 tablespoons shallot, minced

1 tablespoon pickled ginger, chopped

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 dozen Blue Point oysters, shucked and kept on the half shell on ice

Wasabi, to taste

 

1. Combine the rice wine vinegar, cucumber, shallot, ginger and black pepper. Allow to sit covered in the refrigerator while you prep the oysters.

2. Serve the raw oysters garnished with the rice wine vinegar sauce and wasabi to taste.

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