However, violation of the rules of the tea ceremony leads to aesthetic disappointment rather than to real consequences. But the shellfish can take much more serious revenge for such neglect - from reputational damage, if the embarrassment happened at a business dinner or a reception, to unpleasant poisoning. So eat your oysters right - we'll tell you how.
Show off your erudition
The oyster tasting begins long before you even take the first shell in your hand - with a conversation at the table. You have to know the basics if you don't want to sound like an ignoramus.
The first thing to do is to distinguish between wild and farmed oysters.
The first ones grow in the natural environment and are harvested by hand on the shoals or by diving if the shellfish live at depth. Growing under uncontrolled conditions results in a variable, more varied flavor. For this, wild oysters are prized by foodies.
Farmed oysters are raised in special nets in storm-proof places. And before the catch, they are seasoned for one to six months in water with decreased salinity, either in artificial ponds (clerks) or even in freshwater rivers. This process is called refining or ennoblement, and it makes the meat of farmed oysters more tender and predictable in taste.
Also, the taste of the oyster is highly dependent on the region in which it was grown. For example, Japanese clams are sweet, usually with creamy, milky notes in their flavor. Mediterranean oysters have a sweetness and a nutty flavor, while Russian oysters have a more mineral flavor.
Learn how to properly open an oyster.
It's not a waste, even if you plan to eat oysters only in restaurants - some of them serve the clams closed to emphasize their freshness. This is especially true in seaside French restaurants.
To open an oyster, you will need:
A knife with a wide, short and flexible blade;
A thick cotton towel or a special ring glove.
Before you open the shell oyster should be thoroughly rinsed with a stiff brush under running water. Then they take it in the left hand (left-handed people - in the right hand) with the flat flap upwards and hold it with the towel in order not to hurt your hand with the knife if it comes off. The knife is placed between the flaps in the place where they are connected by the mollusk muscle, and turned until it clicks. Then the blade is drawn along the flail, undercutting the muscle.
The first 5-10 oysters you will probably not be able to open beautifully and neatly. This is normal. The main thing is to keep the shell splinters from getting into the flesh of the oyster, because you cannot eat such an oyster.
Do not forget to check the freshness.
Oysters are a very capricious product. If you break even the slightest condition, and sometimes without it, the oyster will die. And if you eat such a shellfish, you can get serious poisoning.
Here are the signs of live, and therefore - delicious and safe shellfish:
The shell is tightly closed. In rare cases it can be slightly open, but the clam should immediately slam it, as soon as you touch it with the knife.
A drop of lemon juice on the mantle (the part of the oyster with the dark border) or a prick with a fork causes it to shrink. This is a well-known method, but it does not always work: the oyster could have been killed when the shell was opened, and the juice was not dripped, but poured over the entire flap with it. Besides, this reduction is subtle.
The oyster smells like the sea. A live clam should have an iodine mineral aroma. If it is adjacent to unpleasant notes, the product is spoiled.
It is necessary to check the freshness of each oyster.
Choose the right accompaniment
Traditionally, the oyster is flavored with just a few drops of lemon or lime juice. It is important that it is really just a few drops or the acid will interfere with the delicate flavor of the shellfish.
The main connoisseurs of oysters in the world, the French, often eat them "au naturel", which means they do not season the delicate clam meat. The same view is held by many gourmets, especially when it comes to oysters with a complex flavor: wild, premium varieties of farmed oysters.
Different sauces are also often used instead of lemon juice. There are the classics, such as Mignonette sauce based on wine vinegar and shallots, and some original ones, like ginger or chili sauce. In Asia, oysters are often doused in soy sauce.
There's no universal recipe: try and find the one that's right for you.
Pay attention to the choice of wine
Oysters and wine is a classic. The wine tones down the delicate flavor of the shellfish and helps to enhance their flavor.
With oysters, white or sparkling wines that are acidic or mineral are fine. They should not have a complex fruity aftertaste as it only emphasizes the taste of the clam.
Classic "oyster" wines are sauvignons, Muscadet and Chardonnay. Rieslings and gavi go well with them. Champagne is brut only. If you're interested in unusual combinations, you can focus on the wines that are chosen to accompany oysters in the regions from which they origin.