I am a huge seafood fan, particularly crustaceans. Soft shell, hard shell, any little sea creature found in a shell is fine by me. If you can dip it in melted butter, even better I say. A few years ago, my family and I hopped into a rented minivan and cruised down the Pacific Coast highway for what was probably the 7 best food days of my life. Dungeness crab, craft beer, repeat. All this is to say I love seafood and tend to surround myself with people who do too.
Last weekend was a long weekend – and what better way to celebrate Sunday Funday than an Oyster Night? Turns out, there is no better way. An by the way, Oyster Night is now an official thing, so I’ve decided that title case is in order. Anyhoo, if you’re like me, you probably enjoy oysters in a restaurant, shucked by professionals, served with all the necessary accoutrements. The idea of home-shucking is a daunting one but can I just tell you? It’s easy and doable and a LOT of fun and I think you should try it for your next party. And invite me, please.
Over Christmas I got a brief oyster-shucking lesson from my brother and -lo and behold-, it is not nearly as difficult as it looks. Could I survive longer than 45 seconds in a professional setting, like…let’s say buck-a-shuck night at the pub down the street? Not a chance. But in the privacy of my own home, among friends who don’t (openly) judge me, I’m pretty much a pro.
The deal for Oyster Night (patent pending) was BYOS: bring your own shucker…because seriously, do I need 14 shuckers in my little condo cutlery drawer? Nope. We pre-ordered 5 dozen oysters from Hooked which I think is the only place in Toronto you should consider buying seafood. They are total pros…and really nice guys to boot. We got an assortment of East Coast oysters. A party pack, if you will.
A quick demo and we were off to the races. Normally, our parties consist of cheese plates, wine and beer and the best of intentions until the hilarity ensues, usually starting around 11pm. Having an “activity” portion of the night really added a new level of fun and gave people something to talk about, and even the non-seafood lovers got in there and shucked around.
To host a successful Oyster Night party, you’ll need:
1) Oysters! Get a variety if you can. It’s fun to taste test and compare, and pretend to know what you’re talking about
2) One or two large platters – I used stainless steel.
3) Ice. lots of ice. Both for cocktails and to keep your shucked oysters cold before you eat them.
4) A shucker! You can find these at any kitchen supply store and they’re not all that expensive.
5) Tabasco. Non negotiable.
6) A large lemon, cut into little wedges.
7) A mignonette. Which is a very fancy French word for a mixture of minced shallots and vinegar. The ratio is 1:1. I used Apple Cider vinegar which was delightful, but you can use Red Wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar for equally delicious results.
8)Tea towels. Or something to provide for your guests’ little digits, lest they slice their hands open on some of the more gnarly shells.
9) Side dishes: I suggest garlic bread or French fries, which go really well with oysters. Chips, cheese and crackers or anything else that says “party!” to you is also a great choice.
10) Gatorade for the morning after.