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Shucks, It's Oyster Day

Shuck oyster

Granted, the 4717 can be pretty grim some days, but this weekend marks the start of oyster season and the annual Oyster Day. The world as we know it may be collapsing, but it isn’t collapsing that fast, so… oysters…

The first thing you need to know is that despite the fact that oysters hold themselves together with about 20 pounds of pressure, opening them isn’t really a matter of force, but leverage… like those high-level negotiations with your wife. If you are really putting your back into opening the damn thing, then you are doing it wrong. And not the eating dessert with the salad fork sort of wrong, either, I mean a trip to the ER with stitches type of wrong. Those oyster knives are wide, flat and dull. You do not want to lose control of it.

You could use a screwdriver, but you won’t get any style points (or depending on the crowd, maybe you will). A decent oyster knife works better and they aren’t expensive. You’ll also need a heavy towel or a glove.

Now that you’ve got the proper kit, wash the thing in cold water and discard any that have opened. Hold the oyster in the gloved or covered hand with the cupped side facing down. At the tip there is a hinge or valve where the shells meet. Work the end of the knife in and just twist to pop the halves apart. Then slide the blade along the inside of the top shell to cut the adductor muscle and pitch the top shell. And you are done. The first couple won’t seem worth the effort, but you’ll get the hang of it.

I’ve heard of a technique for loosening the adductor muscle before shucking by throwing the oysters into boiling water and quickly transferring them to an ice bath before they start cooking. This seems fraught with danger: Not to your hand but to the oyster. First, the heat would cause the shell to open and you’d lose the liquor, and secondly a mishap with timing would cause you to have semi-boiled oysters. Third, the adductor muscle is very easy to sever. Again, like so much in life, the key to the exercise is leverage, not force. It’s how to shuck an oyster and why you’ve never won an argument with your wife.

What to drink: If you are beer fan, go with pilsner or something that won’t over power the little buggers. I’ve written about the oyster and martinis but really my go to is a Muscadet – the region is France that uses the melon grape to make a lean, minerally white that is crisp and dry. It goes famously well with seafood and even more so with oysters. If it has a drawback, it’s availability; the melon only has about 30,500 acres under cultivation and most of that is in Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine. If you can’t find that, the slightly less hard to find grechetto from the Orvieto region of Italy is a hell of a stand in. Neither is particularly expensive, there just isn’t a lot of it around. So, barring that, find a dry White Bordeaux or a Sancerre.

The point is a light crispness and, should you pronounce your French and Italian passably, to create the leverage with which to win the aforementioned marital negotiation. Or at least bring it to an honorable draw.


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