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Opening to Oysters Monterey Fish Market

Oysters ~ The Local Flavor

Our west-coast oyster, C. gigas, is cultivated in various
bays and inlets from Canada to California, and like so
many other delicious gifts of nature, takes on a distinct
flavor in each location along with a new name.

Fortunately, exceptionally delicious west-coast oysters are
expertly farmed locally.

These gems are loaded with beneficial nutrients and flavors akin to the freshness of cucumber and melon, buttery richness, and the balancing mineral qualities of the sea.

In Tomales Bay, stiff pillow-shaped metal mesh bags
suspended in the water above the bay floor contain and house the oysters that filter the water of algae and other nutrients for food as they grow to maturity. This constant filtering is beneficial to the ecosystems in these bays, making aquaculture of oysters and other mollusks, like clams and mussels, a very good thing.

Continuous monitoring of the waters to ensure healthful conditions for consumption is ongoing, and the careful tending of the oyster beds, harvesting and selecting leave little if any negative impact on the bay environment.

Whether they'll be served up ice-cold or gently cooked,
oysters are best eaten when as fresh as possible.

Once you've brought your oysters home, store them in the refrigerator cup-side down and covered with a damp cloth
with some ice on top.

Tips: Before you shuck your oysters, put them into the freezer for ten minutes to get them nice and cold and to slightly relax them, making them easier to open.

Safety first! Much care goes into bringing us oysters that are safe to eat, so let's please shuck them with safety in mind. A dense rubberized canvas glove is ideal protection for the hand.  A nice thick absorbent cloth atop a solid, stable surface works as well, and using the proper tool, an oyster knife, is also a safety must.

Opening Oysters

opening oyster insert knife

1. Place the cup-side down oyster firmly into the palm of your gloved hand or onto a stable surface into a thick folded cloth. Carefully, with a controlled pressure, insert the knife tip into the hinged end of the oyster, no more than half an inch. Twist the knife as you gently pop the hinge and pry the oyster open.

pry open oyster

2. With the tip of the knife against the "ceiling" of the oyster, swing the knife to the side, as you continue to gently twist and pry the oyster open. Now smoothly slice along the "ceiling" surface of the top shell, thus cutting through the adductor muscle that holds the bottom shell to the top shell, and really opening the oyster.

scrape top of shell

3. Discard the top shell, clean away any shell fragments that may have spilled into the cup, and quickly wipe your knife if it's dirty.

clean shell fragments

4. Cut the adductor muscle from the "floor" surface of the bottom shell. Gently insert the blade's tip flatly below the adductor muscle and scrape the bottom shell, cutting the muscle and freeing the tender, plump oyster. 

Oysters are served so well in so many ways, from purely plain to accompanied by a range of enhancements from lemon juice to cocktail sauce. Enjoy!

One possible accompaniment is Mignonette:

  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 minced shallot
  • black pepper

Macerate the shallot in the champagne vinegar for 15 minutes, then combine the rest. A simple splash on an ice cold oyster will do beautifully.

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