Fred and I are oyster crazy. We had oysters on the half shell on our first date, grilled oysters on our first Valentine’s Day, and each one since. In our years together, we’ve consumed countless oysters raw. Thusly, Fred’s mignonettes are constantly morphing. This one adds fish sauce to the traditional vinegar in a classic mignonette. The round funk of the stuff pairs excellently with the oysters.
While we have met very few oysters we didn’t love, we generally prefer ones that are little briny and a little sweet. Ruby Salts fall into the brinier category, sometimes more subtle, but every so often they can fall into the ocean-wave-smacking-you-in-the-face category. The Rappahannocks are a bit milder and gently sweet, kissed with the salty water from which they come. Choose whichever local oyster variety appeals to you.
Rappahannock Oysters with Thai Chile Mignonette
Recipe by Elliott Shaffner
Total Cooking Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 20 minutes
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon seeded and minced jalapeño pepper
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- Juice of half a lime (approximately 1 tablespoon)
- Dash soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon fish sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 24 fresh oysters, such as Ruby Salts or Rappahannocks
- Rock salt or crushed ice, for serving
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
- Oyster knife
Make mignonette by whisking together the shallot, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro in the red wine vinegar with the lime juice, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mignonette sauce chill for at least an hour before serving.
Scrub the oysters under cold water with a stiff brush to remove any dirt. Prepare a serving platter or tray by lining it with rock salt or crushed ice.
Using a towel as a mitt, place an oyster, rounded side down, flat side up, in the palm of a towel-mitted hand, positioning the hinge closest to you. Insert the tip of an oyster knife as far into the hinge as it will go. Assertively, but gently, twist the knife back and forth to pry the shell open. Using the knife, cut the muscle of the oyster away from the top shell, bend that shell back against the hinge to remove it, and throw it away. Run the knife underneath the oyster to detach it completely, leaving it in its shell.
Set the oyster in the shell on the the prepared serving platter or tray. Repeat this process to shuck the remaining oysters.
Serve the oysters with wedges of lemon and chile mignonette sauce alongside.
Photo by Frederick Turko