One of the things I looked most forward to in Paris was a visit to the fresh produce markets I had heard so much about. The markets in Paris seem to be mostly made up of small streets lined with different food stores that all specialise in stocking different types of produce. On one of my trips to the market in Montmartre I decided to splash out and buy 12 Gillardeau oysters to serve them as hors d’oeuvre when my travel buddy arrived that evening.
I was thinking we would enjoy them with a glass of crisp sauvignon blank or bubbly before heading out to enjoy a late evening stroll around the neighbourhood before sunset (which in summer is around 10pm so there are plenty of daylight hours to stroll and take in the sights!). Turns out oysters aren’t everybody’s cup of tea as she informed me on arrival. I must admit I was a little overwhelmed with what to do with the 12 oysters I had on hand, but as luck would have it oysters work well for both sundowners as well as breakfast with a glass of bubbly (and yes before you ask it’s totally acceptable to have champagne for breakfast in France)!
I firmly believe shucking oysters is a rite of passage to being able to claim yourself a chef… while I love oysters, and I’m the first to put up my hand when they are on offer, I’ve never actually shucked an oyster myself! I was a little nervous at first (hot tip: the sauvignon blank / bubbly helps surprisingly well with this) and holstered up the special oyster shucking knife I found in my apartment to shuck my first one. They were tough to open to start because I didn’t know what to expect, but a good knife and some practice had me well on my way. I actually found out the more difficult the oysters are to open, the fresher they are as the muscle-lock is tight, so fear not if your oysters are a little tough to open… it just means they are nice and fresh.
- 12 oysters (6 oysters each)
- sea salt (fleur de sel if you have)
- freshly ground black pepper
- lemon juice
- To open them, you'll need an oyster knife which is short, thick and quite blunt. Do not use a normal kitchen knife! It's dangerous and you'll probably snap the tip of the knife off. A screwdriver is probably a better bet if you don't have an oyster knife.
- Hold the oyster curved-side down on a chopping board with a folded kitchen cloth between the shell and your hand. This is to help you get a good grip and protect your hand.
- Look for the hinge between the top shell and the bottom shell, and poke the knife tip into the crack. You need to push quite hard and work it in there but eventually you should be able to prise the top shell off. It's not always that easy so it might be a good idea to try a few before dinner to get the hang of it. Wear an apron too in case you get a bit dirty.
- When you get the oyster open, throw away the top shell. If there is any seawater in the bottom shell with the oyster, try and keep it in there. Pick out any fragments of shell and place the oyster on a plate with a mound of crushed ice in the middle.
- Season it however you like with the salt, black pepper, lemon juice and tabasco and serve with an ice cold glass of sauvignon blanc. Enjoy!