Don't worry. Our expert is here to help.
Island Creek Oysters president Shore "Bug" Gregory guesstimates he's shucked 30,000 bivalves during his six years with the company. And he's adding to that tally daily: fall is oyster prime time, so we caught up with Gregory at Kenmore's Island Creek Oyster Bar, where he's a co-owner, to get some pearls of wisdom.
ON SHUCKING "It's easier than you think. With the right tool and the right know-how, opening an oyster should be as commonplace as opening a bottle of wine or starting a fire. Always shuck cup side down. It's going to be very difficult if you don't."
ON SLURPING "Chew three times. You're not going to release all of the flavors of the oyster unless you chew. If you just slurp it down, it's all salt water. When you bite down, texturally it's more interesting."
ON GARNISHES "A purist would go with a squeeze of lemon," he says. "Mignonette is number one. The acidity of the mignonette is a great complement and not a masker. I shy away from cocktail sauce." Other go-tos? Gregory suggests freshly grated horseradish or even a splash of vodka.
ON WHEN OYSTERS ARE AT THEIR BEST "This time of year, definitely. As the oysters begin to go dormant in the wintertime and the water gets colder, what they exist on is glycogen, which is a glucose. So that sweetness comes through as the water chills. The oysters tend to be most full-flavored the last three or four months of the year."
ON OYSTER ETIQUETTE "I always flip my shells face down on the ice, because I think it's part of the fun of it. Say you're trying five different varieties: flipping the shells over highlights just how different each oyster is. The shells tell a great story. Cup down for me."
Island Creek Oyster Bar is located at 500 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. For more information, call 617.532.5300 or islandcreekoysterbar.com.
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