4 or 5 oysters per person, shucked just before serving
Lemon wedges, for serving
For the classic mignonette sauce:
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. finely chopped shallots
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar
For the Muscadet-fennel mignonette sauce:
2 tbsp. Muscadet wine or other dry white wine
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. finely chopped fennel fronds
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1. Make the classic mignonette sauce: In a small bowl, combine the red wine vinegar, shallots, black pepper, and sugar. Stir to combine and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
2. Make the Muscadet-fennel mignonette sauce: In another small bowl, combine the wine, vinegar, fennel fronds, and white pepper.
3. Fill a serving dish with crushed ice – your rocks here! To crush, double up two large freezer bags, fill halfway with ice cubes, and seal. Then take a rolling pin or cast-iron skillet or whatever other hard, heavy object you have nearby, and smash on a stable surface (say, the floor) until the ice is the size of beans. Transfer to a shallow serving plate, platter, or quarter baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes.
4. In the meantime, scrub the oysters well under cold running water, checking for and discarding any opened shells.
5. Proceed to open the oysters: Place an oyster, round side down, in a folded kitchen towel so the hinge is exposed. Steady the oyster with the palm of your hand, bunching up the towel around your hand. Wiggle the blade of an oyster knife into the hinge, working the knife up and down and twisting gently until you feel the seal pop. Separate the top shell from the bottom, clean the knife, then work around the perimeter of the shell to sever the muscle that attaches the top of the shell to the meat. Discard the top shell. Wipe your knife clean again, then sever the muscle from the bottom shell. Repeat until all the oysters are shucked.
6. Serve with the mignonette sauces and lemon wedges.
Advice from the Chef
“Every time I’ve eaten oysters in France, they came with sliced bread and salted butter. Not exactly a mandate, but if you’re feeling traditional, I highly recommend!”