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Oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette Sauce

Oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette Sauce
Folk wisdom holds that oysters may only be eaten safely during months with the letter "r" in their names. Although modern methods and standards for their cultivation now make them safe to eat year-round, the shellfish will be at their flavorful best in winter, when the coastal waters from which they are harvested are coldest and freshest.

Ingredients:

For the mignonette sauce:

  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet
      Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Pinot Noir
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

  • Crushed or shaved ice
  • 36 oysters in the shell
  • Lemon wedges for garnish
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs for garnish

Directions:

To make the mignonette sauce, in a small bowl, stir together the wine, 3 Tbs. of the vinegar, the shallots, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Taste and add more vinegar if needed.

Place the bowl of mignonette sauce on a platter and surround it with a bed of ice. Discard any oysters that do not close tightly to the touch. Scrub each oyster thoroughly with a stiff-bristled brush, rinsing it well under cold running water. Holding each oyster flat side up in a kitchen towel and using an oyster knife, slip the tip of the knife into the shell near the hinge and pry upward to open. Run the knife blade along the inside of the top shell to sever the muscle that joins the shells, then lift off the top shell. Run the knife underneath the oyster to free it from the rounded, bottom shell, being careful not to spill the liquor. Nest the oysters in their shells on the ice.

Garnish the platter with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs and serve immediately.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Winter, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).