Beginning with a search for oysters in the news, I learned the basics of the key regions oysters come from, the basic history of the oyster from the Jurassic age to now, the culture of shucking and catching the creatures, and even the aphrodisiac qualities associated with eating oysters.
Next stop, the public library, where I proceeded to check out every book on oysters they had. These ranged from cookbooks, to scientific documentation of the North West Olympic oyster, to classics like The Oysters of Lochariaquer written by Elinor Clark in 1959. The range of books served several purposes. I wanted to not only learn about the need for sustainable practices related to the growing and farming of oysters, but the culture that surrounds the industry.
This led me to the conclusion that cooking my own oysters was an essential part of my oyster education. I asked the fish man at my farmers market if he had any locally harvested oysters I could try. He had bags of the little creatures, one of which I was happy to take home with me, along with with dreams of the most decadent Oysters Rockefeller dancing in my head.
Plopping open a promising looking cookbook from my library trip, I realized I had forgotten one little detail… oysters have to be shucked. As a native Northwesterner I was embarrassed I had overlooked this part of my task. (also that I had never actually had to shuck an oyster myself!)
Flipping quickly to the beginning of the oyster chapter in my cookbook there was a short guide on how to shuck oysters for amateurs. Suggesting against using an oyster knife, the author prompted his readers to use a flat head screw driver instead. So I did. The results were not pretty and a pair of needle nose pliers was involved. Between myself and my father, we were able to shuck all six oysters without losing ALL of their acclaimed liquor! Not a small feat in my opinion! The final result, of pan-roasted oysters with barbeque sauce, was not too shabby either.
–Morgan Houk, Summer research and writing intern
Posted by: Chefs Collaborative