with Tomato-Shallot Vinaigrette
Huîtres Tièdes á la Vinaigrette aux Tomates
It seems either you like oysters (huîtres) or you don't. Initially my children were horrified to see people slurping up the raw, nearly quivering plump morsels and savoring every bit of the salty brine in the shell. But they have been in France with me for those memorable New Year's Eve feasts celebrated with old friends, where platter after platter of oysters with mignonette sauce were carried to the table, eventually followed by foie gras. At home every winter a few weeks before Christmas, I buy a gross of oysters and host an oyster and champagne dinner. The children, now grown, always want to be part of the party. I'm happy to oblige because not only are they good company, but they have also become experts at opening the delectable bivalves.
The majority of French oysters are raised in the numerous oyster parcs in the coastal waters of Brittany and Normandy. As you pass through the seaside villages, signs point you to the parc, where you can buy-freshly harvested oysters of different varieties and sizes. For this dish, you must use the creuse, a deep-shelled oyster, or a similar type, rather than the flat belon variety, because the well of the shell is needed to hold the sauce. Placing the oysters on a hot bed of rock salt and baking them just long enough to open will warm them slightly but not cook them through.
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and minced
2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml) Champagne vinegar
2 shallots, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 dozen oysters in their shells
Preheat an oven to 500 degrees F. (260 degrees C).
Pour rock salt to a depth of 1 inch (2.5 cm) in 1 large or 2 smaller baking dishes. Place in the oven to heat for 15 minutes.
In a bowl, stir together the tomatoes, vinegar, shallots, chives, pepper, and salt to form a vinaigrette. Set aside.
Remove the baking dish(es) from the oven and place the oysters, rounded side down, on the salt. Return to the oven and bake until the oysters open, 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool until the shells can be handled, 3-4 minutes.
Discard any oysters that failed to open. Using a small, sharp knife, cut through the muscle near the hinge that attaches the shells together on each oyster, being careful not to spill any juices. Discard the flat upper shells and place the lower ones on a platter or 4 individual plates.
Spoon a tablespoon of the vinaigrette onto each oyster. Serve immediately.
By Georgeanne Brennan
Time Life Books
Cloth: $39.95, 1999
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created January 2000