With the reputation of being an aphrodisiac, the oyster has long had an air of mystery about it and with it a long history of being enjoyed around the world as a seafood delicacy. Although the careful handling they require when buying and eating them raw keeps some people away, there are many different ways to enjoy oysters. From raw to deep fried, whether you are an adventurous eater or not, there is a way to prepare oysters to satisfy any seafood lover.
On the half shell
The quintessential oyster dish, oysters on the half shell are served raw. They are shucked just prior to serving on a bed of ice. To eat them, use a seafood fork to loosen the oyster from the shell and slurp up the oyster and the liquid together. Purists may eat the oyster alone, but commonly people add a squeeze of lemon, a shot of Tabasco sauce, cocktail sauce or a mignonette sauce of shallots and vinegar, to go along with it.
Oyster bars and restaurants have added a twist to oysters with oyster shooters. Each establishment has their own version, but the shooters are generally are a mixture of Tabasco or hot sauce, a squeeze of lemon and an oyster served in a shot glass with vodka or tequila. Try it with tomato or vegetable juice added.
The dish originated at the storied Antoine's in New Orleans, created by Jules Alciatore. It earned its name because the sauce was said to be as rich as the Rockefeller family. The exact recipe and ingredients from the original are a guarded Antoine's secret, but different versions can be found in restaurants across the United States and around the world. The oysters are prepared on the half shell with a combination that may include spinach, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and Pernod. Ingredients differ with each individual recipe and have evolved over time.
Cooked in the Shell
Whether steamed, baked, barbecued or grilled, oysters can be made at home in any number of ways. Buy the freshest oysters possible from a source you trust. Only buy oysters whose shells are tightly closed or close when touched. Baked oysters can be cooked in their shells over a bed of coarse or rock salt in an oven-safe dish. Barbecued and grilled oysters can go straight on the grill. Cook the oysters with bottoms on top to keep them as juicy as possible. Look for the shells to start opening as a signal the oysters are cooked. Steam oysters in a covered pot or steamer. Once they are done they can be eaten on their own with butter or lemon or combined in whatever recipe you choose.
Most commonly you will find smoked oysters in tins on grocery store shelves. They can be eaten alone or are an ingredient to use for cooking dishes such as spreads, stews or sauces. You can also buy fresh smoked oysters.
Use freshly shucked and dried oysters for pan frying or breading and deep frying. Serve breaded oysters hot and crispy with seafood or cocktail sauce for dipping and a lemon wedge.