Let’s not take them for granted. How to open them, when to eat them and how to recognise them.
A legendary delight for the palate.
Oysters. Such refined flavour and yet such rudimentary etiquette for their consumption. To be eaten raw, opened by the eater, using a knife and hands. No culinary art or chef’s secret: two drops of lemon and that’s it. Oysters are a typical seafood from the Tyrrhenian, the Adriatic and French coasts.
Superior, even when farmed
It is by now relatively rare to find them wild in Italian seas. But even the farmed variety is nearly just as tasty. An interesting fact on this point: their peculiar flavour is without a doubt natural but it is cleverly enhanced by the skill of the farmer. Once harvested they must be stored in special marine parks and it is here that, left to the care of the oyster farmers for two or three years, they acquire their very own quality.
France is the country that produces the most and can boast top-quality farms.
From ‘Belon’, with its white flesh and softer more delicate flavour to ‘Marennes’ with their fatter green flesh and longer shape, but with a salty taste.
Not only are oysters very good, they are also nutritious and healthy. Rich in protein and mineral salts, as long as they are purchased and eaten fresh: they must still be alive at the fishmongers and brought to the table on a plate of ice. They are served au naturel, accompanied by a bowl containing a vinegar/parsley or lemon vinaigrette to pour over the oysters and are excellent with brown bread, spread with flakes of salted butter. Some prefer them marinated, au gratin or grilled, but this is a more complicated preparation and in fact destroys that specific flavour of the quality of oyster chosen in addition to the unique experience of opening the shell yourself.
But how do you open them?
The knife: must be thin but with a thick blade, the oyster must be held in a cloth in the palm of the hand with the concave part underneath. The tip of the knife must be poked between the two valves at the top and the shell forced open. Then the top must be lifted off and the mollusc pulled off the shell.
Do you want to watch skilled hands carry out this operation? Here is a video showing the proper way to do it.
When should you eat oysters?
Here is a final indispensable tip, from a French custom: you mustn’t eat oysters when there isn’t an “r” in the month. In the hotter months (from May to August) oysters are in their reproduction stage, and so they must not be harvested (thus respecting the laws of nature) or eaten (they are thinner, milky and not as tasty).