the appetizer:

James Peterson explains Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making with recipes like Oysters with Champagne Sauce; Tournedos Rossini (Filet of Beef with Sauce Périgueux); and Sautéed Pigeon Breasts with Giblet Sauce.

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Oysters with Champagne Sauce

Oysters with Champagne Sauce

Yield: 3 to 4 First-Course Servings


These oysters can be served individually as hors d' oeuvres or in larger groupings as a fish course. A still Champagne is excellent for this sauce (see page 77 of the book), but if this is unavailable, a dry white wine with high acidity, such as a French Chablis, Sancerre, or Muscadet, can be substituted and the dish renamed accordingly.

1. Shuck the oysters into a bowl. Refrigerate. until needed. Discard the top shells and scrub the bottom shells under running water with a brush. Turn them upside down on a sheet pan to drain and dry.

2. Reduce 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) of the cream in a saucepan until it is on the verge of breaking. Heat the blanched spinach and the sorrel leaves in the cream. Season with pepper and a little salt (the sauce will be salty from later additions).

3. Heat the oyster shells in a 250°F (120°C) oven.

4. Poach the oysters in their own liquid in a small saucepan for about 1 minute. Do not let them boil, even for a second.

5. Remove the oysters from their cooking liquid, with a slotted spoon. Put them on a clean cloth napkin on a plate to remove specks of shell. Fold the napkin over them to keep them warm.

6. Strain the poaching liquid through a fine chinois into a saucepan and add the still Champagne. Reduce by two-thirds.

7. Add the remaining 2/3 cup (165 milliliters) of cream to the oyster liquid-Champagne reduction and reduce the sauce until it has the consistency of a beurre blanc. Add the chopped parsley and adjust the seasonings.

8. Spoon the spinach-sorrel mixture into the bottom of each oyster shell. Place a hot oyster on top and nap with the sauce.


Cooking Mollusks

Once a particular fish or shellfish has released flavorful liquid during cooking, the methods used for manipulating the liquid are the same. Some shellfish, however, lend themselves better to certain techniques.


The flavor of oysters varies considerably, depending on the variety and the region where they were harvested. Often the smallest oysters, such as Belons from Maine and Pigeon Points from California, will contribute a more intensely flavored cooking liquid than fatter, more impressive looking types.

Recipes and chefs often disagree as to whether the liquid contained in the oyster when it is first shucked should be used for sauce making. The best guide is to taste the liquid first, but since it often has only a salty taste with little of the sea-like character of the oyster, it is usually discarded.

The most flavorful component of the oyster is released when it is very gently stewed in almost no liquid. Oysters should never be allowed to boil, only to warm.


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This page created November 2008