It’s the most wonderful time of the year — a.k.a. peak season for booze-soaked soirees, holiday cheer, and oysters. Though downing a half dozen on the half shell is no sweat, opening those briny bivalves is not as easy as it looks. Here, a lesson from Taylor Shellfish Farms’s Jon Rowley.
1. Your market- or store-bought oysters shouldn’t need more than a quick rinse in cold water, but check the notch at the hinge for mud and grit. Use a stiff-bristled brush to loosen.
2. Chill oysters in ice for at least an hour before opening so they will be ready to serve.
3. Using a thick glove or folded kitchen towel to cushion the oyster and protect your hand, hold the oyster cup-side down with the hinge toward you. Use the other hand to insert the knife (a straight, three-inch blade of good steel without a guard) into the hinge at a slight downward angle. Twist and rock the knife and oyster together while applying gentle pressure.
4. As soon as you feel the point of the knife penetrate the hinge, twist the blade to pop the shell. Run the point of the knife over the meat along the underside of the shell to sever the adductor muscle.
5. Discard the top shell. Slice under the meat to release it from the bottom shell, being careful to retain the liquid. (The desired result is an oyster unscathed by the knife, glistening in its own juices.)
6. Place the opened oysters on a bed of crushed ice. Serve with a cold, crisp white or sparkling wine.
Pick up oysters by the dozen (plus other fresh seafood specialties) at Taylor Shellfish Farms, 1521 Melrose Avenue (206-501-4321 or taylorshellfishfarms.com).
Photo: Peter Hince / Getty Images