Swords and Daggers

By: Doug Usher

Valentine’s Day is about splurging a bit, finally giving yourself a cheat from your New Year’s resolutions, and partaking in a little opulence. With that in mind, it’s hard to go wrong with oysters and bubbly. Synonymous with romance, these two delicacies not only pair perfectly together, but are also powerful aphrodisiacs. In other words, the classy version of Netflix and Chill.

People are often leery of doing oysters at home. They seem to think that shucking is some complicated process but the reality is, it’s relatively simple. Plus it tends to be less expensive to buy oysters at the market than order them in a restaurant. When selecting oysters, consider a few different varieties. Different coasts and regions produce vastly different flavors, sizes, and textures. Your fishmonger can guide you here, but one thing to consider, if this is your first time, ask which varieties are easiest to shuck. You only need one tool, an oyster knife. These are fairly easy to find and inexpensive. You could even ask your fishmonger if he has one you could borrow for the night (just make sure you bring it back).

The process of shucking is fairly straightforward. I use a couple of kitchen towels, one on the counter (so the oyster won’t slip around) and another in my left hand. This allows me to grip the bivalve securely, and also gives my hand some protection in case the knife slips. I also like to have a large plate with crushed ice ready for me to place the oysters on as I shuck them. Hold the oyster cup side down (with the flatter shell facing up) and find the hinge (the place where the two shells meet). Work your oyster knife carefully into this gap and then give it a sharp twist to separate the shells. Once you get your first one, you’ll find the process will go much easier. Once you pop it, run the knife along the top shell to separate the oyster meat then discard the top shell. Then use your knife to release the oyster from the bottom shell, so it’s easier for your guests to eat. Serve with a few slices of lemon, cocktail sauce, and grated horseradish. Now that your oysters are ready, you need to get the party started.

If you want to really impress, sabering open your bottle of bubbly is a fun trick. First select a quality bottle of sparkling. The cheap stuff uses cheap glass, which is more likely to shatter. Champagne is your best bet here, but for a cheaper alternative, try Crémant. It’s important you get the bottle very cold. Refrigerate it for several hours, and then put it neck down into a bowl of ice water 10 minutes before you’re going to serve it.

When you’re ready, dry the bottle off and remove the foil and the cage. Now most of us don’t have a saber lying around, but a large knife works just as well. Find the seam on the bottle and turn so it’s facing straight up. Holding the bottle at a 45-degree angle, run the flat side of your blade straight up the seam in a quick motion and hit the lip of the glass (not the cork). If you do it correctly, the glass will actually break off cleanly at the neck, taking the cork with it! Quickly grab a glass and start pouring. Cheers to your success, grab an oyster and savor the accolades sure to be pouring in.

For more detailed directions, check out my blog thisiswhywearefat.com.